Ego Drop Soup
The Lineup Card (1969)
Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar) also of Cream, Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominoes
Steve Winwood (keyboards, guitar, vocals) also of the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic
Rick Grech (bass) also of Family
Ginger Baker (drums) also of Cream and others
Eric Clapton quit Cream in 1968, not long after a faithful night onstage when, in the middle of one of their numerous indigestible extended jams, he simply stopped playing for a few minutes and listened to his rhythm section flail away like inverted turtles. His realization that they, in fact, sucked like a 747 air intake was the final straw for that band of egomaniacal acidheads. Eric wanted something cleaner, something more melodic and controlled, wanted a band that listened to each other rather than just clamoring to see who could play the most notes in a fucking set. He knew that Stevie Winwood had recently dissolved Traffic after finishing the nun raping obscenity that was the Dave Mason-less Last Exit live album, so he grabbed him, drummer Ginger Baker of Cream and Public Image Limited fame, and Family bassist Rich Grech to form an all-star-and-who-the-fuck-was-Rich-Grech-again? lineup, called it Blind Faith, toured to riotous crowds who wanted to suck more blood out of God Clapton, and recorded a shockingly undernourished album with a nipply picture of a prepubescent girl on it just to make sure the people knew that they were safe for children. The band ended up selling like McMuffins but left Clapton feeling like his career'd left the slums of Newark for a vacation in downtown Detroit, so to speak. The egos were as massive as Baker's Abraham Lincoln-esque jaw, the band was not particularly well rehearsed or tight, and it seemed like the audience were just a bunch of vacant-eyed disciples come to worship at the altar of Clap. The whole thing lasted about six months before Clapton dropped them like a handful of maggots on the eve of the European leg of their tour to run off and join the Delaney and Bonnie band, which he would swipe out from under them not too much later. So you can see, Eric Clapton wasn't always this reverent, quiet little English Lit professor guy you see on all those benefit performances - he used to be a Major League Asshole with a capital Hole.
Not that the rest of the band was a bunch of Ned Flanders either. Clapton may have thought separating Ginger Baker from Jack Bruce may have been the solution to a lot of the strife that had surrounded Cream, but it sure as hell didn't do anything to separate Baker from his astoundingly huge ego. Needless to say, Ginger got more than his fair share of drum solos, though luckily we were spared any of his 'Pressed Rat and Warthog' vocal idiocies on the Blind Faith album. Steve Winwood was a bit of a control freak himself with Traffic, and I'm sure he was no different in his dealings with Blind Faith. And I'm sure Grech would probably get his jollies beating up on elderly homeless people or something, but no one knows because he fell off the face of the earth in 1971 and nobody noticed for three or four years.
But Blind Faith did make a pretty decent album full of prime pre-Tulsa sound Eric Clapton, one that you probably oughta hear sometime, so here's their review, Bonanzafreaks!
Blind Faith - Polydor 1969
For a regular-dude album from Traffic or Cream, Blind Faith has to be considered at least equal to their best releases - I'd much rather listen to this one than have to endure the Puerto Rican wire hanger torture that is Goodbye Cream, and I even think it's more consistent than Disraeli Gears, Mr. Fantasy, or Traffic, as good as those albums are. The problem with this record, besides barely ticking the odometer over 40 minutes despite featuring a 15-minute jam track at the end, is that it comes from a supergroup, and for a supergroup it's kinda lacking. See, supergroups are defined by the technical ecstasy of their players, and these kinds of albums should just bust your skull right off your shoulders with a massive blast of pure rock energy coming from their virtuostic fingers. The problem is that they almost never do. Go ahead - run down your list of ELP's, G3's, GTR's, Firms, Damn Yankees, and whomever you care to name. I'll bet you dollars to death metallers that you'll find less than one or two A+-worthy albums from these types of conglomerations, and that you'll find a whole crapload of C's and D's to boot. Blind Faith isn't as bad any of those dickcheese spam-rock bands I just mentioned, but I wouldn't say anybody really has a standout performance here in terms of career-defining moments. Stevie Winwood's voice is pleasant, and I love the way he sings 'Can't Find My Way Home' in that alto register, but he also tends to make almost anything he touches sound blander than if someone with more true grit were to have tackled the vocals on it. TakeEven Eric himself could probably have nailed 'Can't Find My Way' and made it sound ballsier than Winwood does with his beige soul-folkie lilt. Eric's guitar is far more controlled and efficient than it ever was on those convoluted Cream albums, but his solos still manage to underwhelm somewhat. His best work was still to come with his Derek and the Dominoes, where he had Duane Allman to press him to godly heights. On here, Winwood simply doesn't seem to cut it as a sparring partner - the exchanges between him and Clap seem to work on a level somewhat less inspired than what you'd expect from a band surrounded by such massive globs of hype. His organ playing is decent but, like it was on Traffic, not particularly interesting on its own. Winwood needed a more charismatic foil to counteract his crushing blandness (like Dave Mason on the first two Traffic records), and Eric Clapton is just barely adequate in making Blind Faith something compelling and multi-colored to listen to when they go spinning off on their instrumental tangents. Because of this, Ginger Baker's 15-minute swingtime closer drags horrendously when it's not focused on Clapton's noodling, and doesn't really charge the ol' love battery when it does, if you 'tweak' my 'internal trim pot', and I think you do.
End shellacking. Blind Faith is really a pretty great record if you lower your expectations from 'this is all these guys playing at their absolute peak' to 'wouldn't it be nice to hear some folkie hard rock with soulful vocals?'. The songwriting, for one thing, is universally quite strong. Each song seems to contain one or more colors to its pallate, like how 'Had To Cry Today' is a hard-charging Cream-y riff rocker with a melancholic chorus , or how the gospelly 'Presence of the Lord' is one of the most affecting tunes in Clapton's songbook (this being his first solo-composed tune to get recorded, by the way), one that breaks down into a wild boogaloo crawfish fry for about a minute or so in the middle. Still, the highlight is 'Can't Find My Way Home', which is really just a druggie rewrite of 'Dear Mr. Fantasy' with better acoustic guitar pickin' courtesy of Clap, but manages to sound like the breath of God making little ripples across the surface of the waters. There's just somethin' about the way those chords descend and Winwood slides across the top that brings little shivers to the back of the neck. If there was one song that points to a lost possible future of Blind Faith as a major musical force, it's this one. They also cover Buddy Holly's 'Well All Right', albeit so uniquely and with such a decidedly Traffic-y swing I didn't identify it as a cover for quite some time. Count me as deficient on my Buddy Holly listening if you want. It really is time I review someone from the Fifties, isn't it? Man, this site is a shambles if I really look into it. I seriously wonder why so many people stop by to read it all the time. Is it really the fact that if you read it aloud backwards on the second Thursday following each new moon, it's the voice of Wesley Willis speaking from beyond the grave, demanding McDonald's and telling us how Coke is the Choice of a New Generation? Christ, I hope not.
So here 'tis. As a mind-blowing musical experience made possible by three of the most well-respected musicians of their time playing at their best, Blind Faith is pretty dang pale. As a fine short album of fine folkie rock songs by some unmistakably talented dudes essentially taking a short break from their respective career arcs (or, in the case of Baker, the career plummet), it's a nice break from the ordinary. Plus, I think it beats the living Mr. Furley out of any of the Cream albums that everyone always 'creams' themselves over, so join the ranks of the Contrarians and pick this one up today.
Capn's Final Word: As to what you might expect from a Traffic/Cream merger, it's kinda disappointing, but then again weren't Cream and Traffic as well?
Back to the Index