Blind Faith

Presence of the Lord

Composed by Eric Clapton

Song Review by

Eric Clapton was in the midst of a period of turmoil in 1969: his superstar band, Cream, was falling apart, he was struggling with substance abuse, and he was entering a new project that he felt was betraying its original design, as reflected in the short-lived supergroup's name, Blind Faith. This turbulence reached its apex, apparently, during the recording for his artistic high-watermark, the classic Derek & the Dominos record Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, the project that was more like what he had in mind when leaving Cream. In fact, Derek & the Dominos performed "Presence of the Lord" as part of their 1970 tour, recorded for In Concert (1973) and Live at the Filmore (1994). Clearly, the musician was expressing his pain via his music and searching for solace with songs like "Presence of the Lord." Clapton claims, via the great R&B-influenced lead vocals of Steve Winwood, "I have finally found a way to live/Just like I never could before/I know that I don't have that much to give/But I can open any door/Everybody knows the secret/Oh, everybody knows the score/I have finally found a way to give/In the color of the Lord." The song is a gospel/soul arrangement -- a style in which producer Jimmy Miller was well-schooled -- with Winwood's vocals and his electric piano playing clearly influenced by American R&B; Clapton's guitars modulating through a revolving Leslie speaker, like a church organ; Rik Grech's Donald "Duck" Dunn-like bass playing; and Ginger Baker's grooving backbeat and cymbal triplets. The song comes to an abrupt stop and changes gears for a psychedelic hard rock section, replete with Clapton's wah-wah blues guitar soloing before it somehow seamlessly integrates back into the main body of the song."Presence of the Lord" drips with the music of the American South. Miller's dense production is swampy, with Winwood's vocals swimming in reverb, but the mix is guitar and drum-heavy, accenting the rhythm, a characteristic of his production style that drew the top British bands to working with him. The passion of the performances indicates where Clapton was heading on his next album, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. Though he does not sing "Presence of the Lord," the only song he wrote for the classic 1969 Blind Faith album, it seems that he emulated Winwood's intense style, absorbing some of it for his own vocals on the live version of the song and throughout the album Layla, though oddly, he abandoned it just as quickly, falling back to the laid-back vocal stylings for which he is better-known. Like his mate, George Harrison, and other rock musicians of the time, Clapton finds deep inspiration in his restless spiritual search on "Presence of the Lord." Ironically, it was his unrequited love for Harrison's wife that either contributed to or was a manifestation of Clapton's own inner-tumult, a specific that came to the fore on Layla, directly on the title cut of that album. But with "Presence of the Lord," the artist seems to have, at least temporarily, found a moment of peace.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Blind Faith 1969 Def Jam / Island / Polydor / Universal 4:48
Classic Rock: Rock Renaissance, Vol. 3 1990
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:46
Rock 'N' Roll Gospel: Built on Solid Rock 1998
Various Artists
Rebound Records 4:49
London Hyde Park 1969 2006 Sanctuary
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