Once again your crusty chronicler felt the need to resurrect his old “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another perhaps did not receive the attention/acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was that the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit Blind Faith’s Blind Faith.
For those who missed out on this brief moment in rock history, Blind Faith was a blues rock band from the UK. Their roster included: Eric Clapton (Cream, The Yardbirds), Ginger Baker Cream), Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic) and Ric Grech (Family). This forcibly-formed supergroup was meant to be the rage of 1969.
The artists entered the studio and set about their work in early that year (1969). Winwood handled lead vocals, organ, piano, guitar and bass. Clapton was responsible for guitar and vocals, Ginger Baker played drums and percussion and Grech added his violin, bass and vocals.
Oddly, the band at first didn’t even have a name. They would not choose a name until after the album cover artwork had been commissioned. Bob Seidermann, the photographer, assigned to the job named the image he submitted to the band “Blind Faith”.
The name so inspired the musicians they chose it for their band name. They would stop working on their upcoming album long enough to play some live gigs. They toured Scandinavia and then the US supported by the bands Free, Taste and the L.A.-born Delaney & Bonnie and Friends before returning to the studio.
The final product would be less than 3 minutes of material on a 7 track album of progressive blues rock. Side 1 opens with a Winwood composition titled “Had to Cry Today”. At a running time of almost nine minutes this would be the longest cut on this side and the second-longest on the LP.
The second serving on their premiere platter is “Can’t Find My Way Home”. This is another Winwood tune that is highlighted by Baker’s innovative drumming and Winwood’s creative lyrics. This song in particular was praised by Rolling Stone critics. (Clapton would cover the song without Winwood years later.)
The next number, ”Well All Right”, is the only adaptation on the recording. It’s a comparatively quieter cover of a song by Buddy Holly, Norman Petty, Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin. The side’s closing cut is Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord”. To this day, this song is considered a high point of the work largely due to how well Clapton and Winwood work here.
The flip side consists of but two tracks. The first piece is yet another Winwood number, “Sea of Joy”, and the remainder of this side is “Do What You Like”. This is a Baker composition that runs for over 15 minutes. They managed to release the recording in record time and Blind Faith hit the record racks in August of that same year (1969).
A controversy immediately sprang to life due to the topless girl on the album cover. She was holding a 1956 Chevy hood ornament which some people thought to be phallic. Seidermann, the photographer, had a specific idea in mind: “To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology . . . To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl . . .”
He would eventually decide on an 11 year-old girl to avoid turning the picture into “cheesecake”. The model’s name was Mariora Goschen. Many missed the message in the artwork and record rack jobbers everywhere and banned the album.
In the US an alternate cover featuring the band on the front was issued in addition to the original. The original also did not include the name of the band on the actual cover. Instead, it was printed on the wrapper like had been done for The Rolling Stones’ 1964 premiere platter and The Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul.
Despite the album being banned (or perhaps in part because of it) the album climbed to the top of Billboard‘s Pop Albums chart in the US and rose to the number one slot in the UK and Canada as well. It even scraped into the top forty on the Black Albums chart. It was also a critical success in that although it was only given a three-star rating by Rolling Stone, three different critics for the magazine including the late, California-native Lester Bangs wrote about it in the same issue.
Despite the rush to record it, the work gave birth to a couple of hits: Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord”. Interestingly, Clapton’s cut contains the same riff as in the Kinks 1965 more obscure song “I am Free”. Despite any shortcomings, the album would not fade away.
In 1986 Polydor, a label owned by the California-based Universal Music Group, would release a CD version. This time, however, the work would include two unreleased tracks: “Exchange and Mart” and “Spending All My Days”. These cuts, however, were actually recorded for a “never released” Grech solo LP and to date no one has ascertained as to whether or not any other artists from Blind Faith actually played on the songs.
2001 would witness yet another incarnation of this memorable music as a two-disc, expanded, deluxe edition was released. It included 8 bonus tracks from which Grech is absent. Specifically, this edition included a cover of Sam Myers’ “Sleeping in the Ground”, the electric version of “Can’t Find My Way Home”, the previously unreleased “Acoustic Jam”, “Time Winds” and a slow blues version of “Sleeping in the Ground”.
Also included on a separate disc are 4 additional tracks: “Jam No.1: Very Long & Good Jam”, “Jam No.2: Slow Jam #1″, “Jam No.3: Change of Address Jam” and “Jam No.4: Slow Jam #2” which are all previously unreleased. Unfortunately, even though people are still enjoying the album to this day the supergroup known as Blind Faith was short-lived. The truth is there were two reasons.
One: the band was engineered by businessmen from the outside attempting to cash in on reputations. Two: The performers’ volatility ensured there would be no follow-up release. While this was disappointing at the time, today music fans at least still have a quality album that has what even the group’s harshest critics consider considerable appeal for music fans. This album may still be found in such record stores as Amoeba Music located in L.A. and elsewhere. If you’ve never listened to Blind Faith’s Blind Faith, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.