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Our critics' picks in new releases


Legend has it that Blind Faith was an enterprise doomed to fail. Take two-thirds of Cream (Eric Clapton, guitar, and Ginger Baker, drums), the prime mover of Traffic (Steve Winwood, keyboards, guitar, bass and vocals), and a who-is-he-anyway? bassist (Rick Grech of Family, something of a cult band even in the United Kingdom), mix them in a studio, and demand results. Results we got: one landmark LP with signature tunes, including Winwood's "Had to Cry Today," "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Sea of Joy," Clapton's angst-ridden "Presence of the Lord," and Baker's obligatory drum workout "Do What You Like," with a rave-up take of Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" tossed in for good measure.

One of the most eagerly anticipated offerings of 1969, the band collapsed in a heap midway through their U.S. tour. But Polydor's deluxe reissue of Blind Faith's eponymous album, complete with the legendarily risqué cover--a blonde nubile hefting a chrome aircraft (subliminal images, anyone?) and extensive liner notes by John McDermott, also features an extra disc of previously unrelated studio jams and unreleased material, revealing that the quartet had a potent jazz/blues/rock blend to serve up.

Winwood's soulful R&B rasp, Clapton's blues/funk licks, and Baker's impeccable drumming was an inspired mix. Winwood's keyboards brought a dimension missing from Cream. Grech provided utilitarian bass, but--as the jam disc proves--Blind Faith was essentially a trio. Clapton (looking his most "Clapton Is God"-esque from the period photos), lays down some absolutely blistering runs. According to the chronology, the jams were cut in March of '69, before the studio sessions that resulted in the final LP. So you have Baker, Clapton and Winwood (bass on the first two jams, organ on the others) sort of feeling each other out on extended sets. "Very Long & Good Jam" is just that, but for my money, "Change of Address Jam" is worth the price of admission.

Other unreleased tracks include two versions of Sam Myers' "Sleeping in the Ground" and an electric version of "Can't Find My Way Home" that, to my mind, cooks the acoustic version. And Winwood's "Time Winds" is a great groove in search of lyrics and a bridge-it could have been another "Badge." A little more faith, and a little less pressure, and Blind Faith could have resulted in more than a one-off. Highly recommended.

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