Supergroup Showcase: Blind Faith

THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals (The Yardbirds, Cream), Ginger Baker on drums (Cream), Steve Winwood on guitar (Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group) and Ric Grech on bass (Family).
THE STORY: Clapton and Winwood started jamming while Winwood was on a break from Traffic. One day Baker stopped by, but Clapton wasn’t sure about starting a new band with him a few months after officially disbanding Cream. He also had made a deal with Cream’s Jack Bruce that, if two of them got back together, all three of them would reunite. Grech left Family to join the band, they recorded an album, toured and broke up within a year. (via Wiki)

When I started really getting into Supergroup Showcase, Blind Faith was definitely a band and record I wanted to check out. Not only is it yet another Eric Clapton supergroup, but I also have almost zero experience with Winwood, so I was excited to get a taste of his talent. It’s kind of handy that they only recorded one album, because it makes the whole thing a little easier write about. The record has six tracks and I’m split right down the middle on liking and not liking them.

The album kicks off with “Had To Cry Today” which has a fun riff, but it got to be really repetitive and boring in the song’s nearly nine minute length. The vocals also have a high-pitched wail on this song which I’m not really down with. With Winwood, Clapton and Grech all singing, I’m not sure who to blame. “Can’t Find My Way Home” takes a more mellow approach which I like, but again, the vocals didn’t appeal to me. This song’s the shortest on the whole record at just over three minutes, but still feels repetitive. The thing I noticed two tracks into this record is that it doesn’t really feel like a cohesive record and these two songs don’t feel very well thought out. I like the idea of experimentation but they don’t sound like they’re doing anything different. Maybe that’s because I’m listening to this thing in 2011 and it was recorded in 1969 and a LOT of music has come out in between.

Things get a little more cohesive with “Well…All Right” which has a great riff, more integrated vocals and results in a song that feels like an actual song instead of a recorded jam session. “Presence Of The Lord” continues on that same track and includes an excellent wah wah fueled solo. But then things go downhill with “Sea Of Joy” for me. It sounds like the the vocals were sung in an echo chamber or something, that really makes the voice akin to a caterwaul. The album ends with “Do What You Like” which I didn’t think I would like because it’s just over 15 minutes long. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of long jams, but I do appreciate good ones. And luckily, this turns out to be a pretty good one because it’s not only based on a solid riff, but also has a pretty bitching organ solo followed by a great guitar one. There’s even some repetitive chanting type stuff, but even that didn’t get on my nerves. It reminded me of a Santana instrumental.

Ever since iTunes came along I wind up judging an album by the $0.99/song rule. Essentially, if an album has enough tracks that I like and add up to what I paid for it, it’s worth keeping. I’m not quite sure where Blind Faith winds up on the scale, partially because I don’t remember how much I paid for this used disc online, though I’m guessing it was more than $3. Those first two tracks really don’t work for me. I mean, they’re not “so bad I have to skip it” bad, but I also didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes I can ignore vocals I’m not into and just dig the music, but not always. I’ll probably keep this one around for now at least kind of like my copy of The Firm’s Mean Business which I don’t listen to very often. Or, listening to Derrick And The Dominoes might bump it out of the ol’ collection.

Supergroup Showcase: Cream

THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar (The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Jack Bruce on bass and vocals (Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann) and Ginger Baker on drums (Graham Bond Organisation).
THE STORY: The three guys all knew each other and got together, forming the preeminent blues trio in England. Baker and Bruce had played together in a band and hated each other, so it was tough going. The band was together for just a few years and recorded four albums between 1966 and 1968. (via Wiki)

I was actually pretty surprised when I discovered that Cream was a supergroup. I always just thought of them as an awesome blues-based classic rock band. Sure, I knew that Clapton was a big deal even back then, but it took some reading up on Bruce and Baker to really understand why they’re considered one of the first supergroups of rock. Though they weren’t quite famous in the States at the time, these guys were a huge deal in the UK.

I have to admit, I’m not completely immersed in Cream. I have one of those 20th Century Masters greatest hits records that I’ve had for ever and haven’t really listened to a lot in recent years, but I used to borrow my dad’s copy of their second and most critically acclaimed record Disraeli Gears (pictured above). Even without having a lot of experience with the band’s catalog, though, I know a good thing when I hear it. These guys really were the best of the best when it came to blues rock at the time. Their songs are tight and pack quite a punch, though I hear their live shows tended to go on and on with jams. I haven’t heard any of their live shows, but I’d definitely be interested in tracking some live shows or bootlegs down. They apparently jammed with Jimi Hendrix in London. Does anyone know if recordings of that event exist? I’d love to get my hands on that. The mix of psychedelia and blues had a huge influence on what was going on in the rock scene of the late 60s and early 70s. The guys just couldn’t stay together and Clapton had already established himself as a kind of wandering minstrel losing interest in groups and moving on to others. Pretty much everything that dude joined after that is considered a supergroup. I’ve been listening to some of his 70s records lately like 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand and am not only impressed with the guy’s skill, but also with how easily he creates awesome rock songs. I just picked Disraeli Gears up today but haven’t had a chance to listen to it again, but I’m really looking forward to doing so soon.