Blind Faith
Band Rating: 2

  • Blind Faith

    Blind Faith (1969)
    Page Rating: 10
    Overall Rating: 12

    Blind Faith weren't the first 'super group,' as Cream can lay claim to that particular distinction, but they were the first band to be referred to as such, as the term was invented to describe this venerable congregation of rock and roll luminaries.

    The band included two thirds of Cream, namely Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, a fact that invariably resulted in even more comparisons with that renowned and recently disbanded rock outfit. The remaining two positions were filled by Steve Winwood of Traffic fame and Rick Grech, bassist for the excellent and unjustly obscure art rock ensemble Family. Clapton had still not reached the point where he felt comfortable singing, so all of the band's vocals are handled by Winwood (in addition to piano and organ responsibilities, not to mention the occasional guitar and bass passages).

    Clapton's limitations aren't confined to his vocal insecurities, but also extend to his songwriting acumen. Prior to the inception of Blind Faith Clapton had never penned a song by himself, so naturally his creative involvement in the band is relegated to a single track. For a solo songwriting debut the track, called Presence Of The Lord, is rather impressive, and manages to be genuinely moving despite its theological implications (religious overtones in rock music have always been anathema to me). The track boasts a solid if basic melody, a wise decision given that Clapton's novice status as a songwriter would have made an attempt at musical complexity rather inadvisable for the time being. What really makes the song, however, is one of Clapton's signature guitar solos; it may be a tad incongruous in the context of the track, but it does reinforce the notion that he's at his best wielding his axe rather than composing spiritually uplifting, proselytizing message songs.

    The bulk of the tracks on the album are composed by the far more experienced Winwood, who receives sole credit for three out of the six songs on the LP. Had To Cry Today features a stellar riff, and while it's repeated endlessly for the duration of the song it manages to never become grating or wearisome. Clapton contributes some more incredible guitarwork, and as is the case with every track on the album the instrumentation is hyper-professional and immaculate.

    Sea Of Love sports another superb riff, and while its melody isn't quite on par with Had To Cry Today it remains another strong addition to the band's incredibly diminutive canon.

    The true highlight, however, arrives in the form of Can't Find My Way Home, a simply gorgeous, catharsis-inducing ballad featuring achingly tender vocals from Winwood and a profoundly moving arrangement. Rather than coming across as an exploitive tearjerker or seeming artificial and forced, the song feels completely sincere and emotionally organic, and if any Blind Faith songs stand the test of time it will certainly be this one.

    As far as the other remaining non-Winwood tracks are concerned, Well All Right is a solid and entertaining Buddy Holly cover, but Baker's contribution doesn't fare quite as well. Entitled Do What You Like, Baker's composition is the one egregious blemish on the album, with a nearly unendurable, self-indulgent runtime of fifteen minutes. Parts of the track are decent enough, and Clapton inserts his obligatory impressive solos, but after a certain point the song degenerates into a desultory jam that comes to a careening halt well before the runtime's expired. There's a protracted period where virtually nothing happens, making the listener long for the inevitable endless drum solo that will surely ensue. Once said drum solo starts, however, one will simply wish for the album to come to a merciful end.

    It can certainly be said that Blind Faith is a far more predictable, conservative album than Fresh Cream. Whereas the legendary trio's poppy debut confounded critics and fans alike who were anticipating a hardcore blues marathon from three of the more revered figures in the genre, Blind Faith's first and only LP is largely what one would expect from its four players. There are the expected blues overtones, some jazz/folk rock fusion a la Traffic and the latest reinvention of Toad courtesy of the masturbatory excesses of Ginger Baker.

    This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as the four members of Blind Faith do what they do quite well. It's apparent that they feel comfortable with these styles, and while the final product is hardly revelatory it's still extremely tasteful (save for the drum solo), professional and extremely well made. The band make no attempts to expand their horizons, but there's no shame in avoiding huge risks, particularly when this cautious approach leads to music of this caliber.

    Thus Blind Faith isn't a classic, but rather merely a very respectable, well put-together collection of solid tracks from four masters of their craft. Admittedly Do What You Like is a debacle that badly mars the proceedings, but the remainder of the album is what you would wish for, and what you would expect, from the musicians involved. Clapton is in top form, Baker is his usual reliable self when he abstains from seizing the spotlight, Grech is a stellar bassist who also contributes some fine violin-work and Winwood, in addition to his multi-instrumentalist exploits, delivers some superb vocals that manage to adeptly capture the emotion of every song, including the ones he didn't compose himself.

    Sadly Blind Faith disbanded shortly after the release of this album, as Clapton is apt to do whenever he remains in close proximity to a fellow musician for more than a few seconds. This is a pity, as the album was an auspicious debut and the band-members demonstrated some true rock and roll chemistry. Blind Faith would never have reached the level of Cream, as they simply lacked the necessary ambition and drive to push their boundaries and go beyond their comfort zone, but they would surely have provided more accomplished, professional and enjoyable rock music, and there's always room for material of that nature. Not every group needs to aspire to greatness, as sometimes it's enough just to play the music that you want to play, especially when you play that music very, very well.