Blind Faith

Blind Faith [2000 Deluxe Edition]

(CD - Polydor #5495292)

Review by

Blind Faith's lone album is often considered vivid proof as to why superstar collaborations simply don't work, but that is a little unfair -- in contrast to, say, Chess Records' various Super Blues releases, which stuck top musicians such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf together in awkward combos that they didn't really want to be part of, the guys in Blind Faith really were trying to work together on a long-term basis, and had an affinity for each other's work; the group just never had the time to evolve properly. And in retrospect, the album does have something to offer, including two songs that are touchstones of classic late-'60s rock: "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Presence of the Lord," not to mention the bracing "Sea of Joy." "Had to Cry Today" is also pretty effective, as is the Buddy Holly cover "Well All Right." Still, for those who subscribe to conventional rock critic doctrine, it may seem a little strange that an album as muddied as Blind Faith was given this lavish Deluxe Edition, containing basically everything capable of being released that the group cut during these sessions. This expanded edition will not change any minds; just on principle, it may even sour some open-minded listeners who have a distaste for extended, seemingly endless jams; in the latter regard, anyone so inclined should probably skip all but the third track on the second disc entirely, since three of the four jams that comprise the nearly hourlong platter are the least interesting of the bonus materials, even if some moments work well -- Eric Clapton's electric guitar playing is always interesting, and when Steve Winwood's organ kicks in there's a fair degree of excitement, though not without a lot of meandering before and after.

But the bonus tracks appended to the basic album on the first disc -- which runs a whopping 75 minutes -- are a different matter. These include two previously unreleased versions of "Sleeping in the Ground" (the one on Crossroads is missing), an electric version of "Can't Find My Way Home" that's just about worth the price of admission, and "Time Winds." If one compares this double-disc set to, say, The Layla Sessions triple-CD box, there's more here, if only because this group still had so many rough edges to work out that are worth a listen, whereas the completed Derek & the Dominos Layla album did, indeed, distill down the best of that band's work. With Blind Faith, there was still a lot of ground to cover musically, although "Acoustic Jam" will probably not be on too many listeners' playlists more than once or twice, except for some aspects of Eric Clapton's and Rick Grech's playing -- this track may be the earliest instance (albeit an unintended one, as it wasn't ever supposed to see the light of day) justifying the criticism that sometimes gets hung on Steve Winwood's multi-instrumentalist status, that he is a jack of all trades and master of none, because his piano playing here just isn't very interesting. The fact remains that -- even with these new tracks and the lavish presentation -- this is a muddled album, but like The Layla Sessions it's still a hell of a set for the dedicated, filled with unheard music, good liners, and beautiful packaging. Those who do love the album or the work of the musicians involved will not be disappointed by this, and may well find new moments of fascination in the best of the jams. [The two bonus tracks that appeared on the original late-'80s CD release of Blind Faith are not here, as it was subsequently discovered that they were Rick Grech demos that didn't involve the rest of the band.]

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