London Hyde Park 1969 (DVD)

Blind Faith

Sanctuary, 2006

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Faith

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/29/2006

Blind Faith was one of the first supergroups and probably the shortest-lived.

But in that near-year they existed, they created a lasting legacy and entrenched a few songs firmly in the rock canon. Composed of two-thirds of the disbanded Cream (Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker), Steve Winwood late of Traffic, and bassist Rich Grech, the band's inaugural performance at London's Hyde Park turned out to be huge.

This was likely because before the band had recorded a single note or even formed the final lineup of the band, the world was abuzz with the news of this collaboration. Yet according to the band, they went into this show under-rhearsed and unprepared, having only played together for a few weeks. On top of that, the crowd for the event numbered well over 100,000, unheard of outside of the largest music festivals of the period.

The nine-song, 50-minute set was filmed and now is available in its entirety, and as it turns out this show could be the holy grail for Blind Faith enthusiasts. For a less devoted fan of the one-off wonders, it’s still an amazing document of some of the era’s most talented artists. Any fan of Clapton or Winwood -- or even Baker -- will get a thrill out of this show.

Ostensibly an amalgamation of  Cream and Traffic, the band takes the route closer to Traffic’s tripped out jazzy style, throwing in some bluesy licks and managing the two nicely, toning down Clapton’s incendiary playing to a more melodic level and emphasizing Winwood’s soulful voice and laid-back keys. One might think that the barely controlled mayhem of Ginger Baker would be grossly out of place, but he manages to stay well within reach of the rest of the band while still playing with fire and passion. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The performance on the whole is very breezy and laid back, with the emphasis on mid-tempo songs and an obvious lack of ego-soloing. One could easily see Clapton monopolizing the action but he seems actually a little detached, taking a backseat to Winwood for the bulk of the performance. Granted, this isn’t the best performance these guys could pull off, but it’s understandable given the lack of time to prepare. Plus, they sound damn good, especially because Clapton gets the chance to step out of the psychedelic blues he had played in Cream for so long.

However, the video production and camera work are sketchy, but fortunately not annoying enough to distract from enjoying the show. It’s apparent that the cameraman was enjoying the newfound and readily available illicit substances that permeated London in 1969. Many bizarre close-up shots and quick camera moves make it difficult to watch a few segments, but fortunately the high seems to wear down somewhere around the 30-minute mark and things get less visually disoriented.

The sound is amazing, given that this was a live, outdoor performance recorded in ’69. It shows on the opening Buddy Holly cover “Well Alright,” a signature song from the band’s only album, which precedes a nice rendition of the folksy “Sea Of  Joy” and a more traditional blues number, “Sleeping In The Ground.” The highlight is the classic “Can’t Find My Way Home;” by far the tightest song of the set, Winwood’s vocal gives me chills every time I hear it. Another standout is Clapton’s only songwriting contribution to the project, the gospel-inspired “Presence Of The Lord.”

A big bonus is the introductory documentary about the band, with a nice profile of each member (with emphasis on Clapton and Winwood), each jammed full of vintage performance footage and interviews. Just for fun, some ancient promotional footage of Cream, Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group is included.

If you’re looking for groundbreaking filmography or the pinnacle of live performances, this is not it, but it’s a great performance that fans of the band or of classic rock in general will enjoy. Just to see a document of these icons of early rock is worth the hour and change it takes to watch this.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2006 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary, and is used for informational purposes only.