The First (Best) Rock Supergroup
Nobody in rock ever petitioned the heavens quite the way Steve Winwood did during the brief flicker that was Blind Faith. An agile singer as a teenager, Winwood had demonstrated deep appreciation of soul and R&B on several hits with the Spencer Davis Group ("I'm a Man," "Gimme Some Lovin'") and his own Traffic. But in this setting, surrounded by Eric Clapton's questioning lead guitar, the herculean drumming of Ginger Baker, and oceans of reverb, his voice became almost celestial.
Winwood sings like he's got one last chance to redeem himself. His performance on "Sea of Joy," one of several originals he wrote for Blind Faith, is a marvel of optimism—at once perfectly formed and utterly spontaneous. His ecstatic vocals connect the rhythm section's galloping roar to moments of placid, lakeside-at-sunset calm.
Blind Faith began after Cream—Clapton's massively popular blues-rock power trio—soured in the fall of 1968. Looking for a different sound and less discord, Clapton sought out Winwood for some informal jamming in early spring 1969. The two hit it off immediately, and when former Cream drummer Baker turned up uninvited, the nucleus of rock's first supergroup was in place.
Refined through jamming, Blind Faith's music was less dense and more transparent than that of Cream; its open spaces showcased Clapton's sonic discoveries (often here he's playing through the rotating Leslie speaker used for organ) as well as surging, gloriously apt guitar counterlines.
News of the collaboration sparked out-sized anticipation, and as Blind Faith was released in July 1969, extensive tours of Europe and the U.S. were booked. The supergroup's first gig was in front of 100,000 people in London's Hyde Park, and the first U.S. show, at Madison Square Garden in New York, was marred by rioting. The band never lived up to expectations in live performance and called it quits in October 1969. The 2001 Deluxe Edition's added material (which includes four intermittently diabolical extended jams) suggests that had it somehow managed to survive the hype, Blind Faith might have taken rock down even more radical roads.
Released: 1969, Polydor/Universal (Delux Edition issued 2001)
Key Tracks: "Sea of Joy," "Can't Find My Way Home," "Presence of the Lord."
Next Stop: Derek and the Dominos: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
After That: Traffic: The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys
Book Pages: 98–99
#1 from Bob Gowan, Portland, Oregon - 07/09/2009 4:22
Your unwillingness to list the obvious and instead to list the fabulous is commendable. (although you should have used the other album cover 8-^0)
#2 from Eric - 07/15/2012 10:12
If Blind Faith were rock’s first supergroup, what was Cream?