London Hyde Park 1969
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9
Written by John Metzger
The four members of Blind Faith — Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech — had been together for only a month when the ensemble made its public debut before a crowd of 100,000 fans at a festival that was held in London’s Hyde Park on June 7, 1969. Running through a nine-song set that was barely 45 minutes in length, it’s clear that the group had yet to define its identity, but considering that Winwood’s personality dominated the performance and that the band tackled Traffic’s Means to an End as opposed to anything from Cream, it’s equally obvious that Clapton was searching for a way out of the spotlight. Nevertheless, the outfit’s chemistry remained a work in progress.
Mixing material from its then-forthcoming, self-titled effort with covers of Sam Myers’ blues classic Sleeping in the Ground and the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb, Blind Faith was, at its worst, sloppily entertaining. Promising jams ended abruptly; vocals occasionally stepped off-key — Do What You Like was particularly egregious — tempos shifted midstream; and Winwood, Baker, and Clapton frequently bumped into one another during their improvisational forays. At its best, however, the music that the band delivered was utterly sublime. Hints of the ensemble’s potential, for example, peaked through the prismatic interplay that burst from the center of Can’t Find My Way Home, where the notes from Clapton’s acid-drenched guitar coiled around Winwood’s serpentine organ runs. In a similar fashion, the galvanic blues refrains of Presence of the Lord, which contained allusions to Procol Harum’s White Shade of Pale, were illuminated by the uplifting light of its gospel-soaked core.
Yet, it was Had to Cry Today and Sea of Joy that felt the most fully realized. On the former, Blind Faith locked onto Grech’s riveting bass line in order to concoct a churning, thrashing groove, and with its shifts in dynamics, the latter echoed the dark beauty of the Grateful Dead’s interpretation of Morning Dew. Magnifying the historical significance of the performance, the DVD debut of the concert, which simply has been dubbed London Hyde Park 1969, includes a documentary-style introduction to the event — featuring an all-too-brief snippet of Cream tearing into Sunshine of Your Love with a vengeance — as well as a trio of promotional videos from the Spencer Davis Group (I’m a Man), Traffic (Hole in My Shoe), and Cream (I’m So Glad). The cinematography, with its incursions of pseudo-psychedelic effects and footage of the surrounding scene, is fairly typical of the era, but considering the age of the material, the sound is remarkably pristine.
Blind Faith never did achieve its potential, and by October, it imploded under the weight of external expectations. The beginning of the band’s flight, however, was filled with promise, and London Hyde Park 1969 is a rare artifact that documents the proceedings while highlighting the various aspects, both good and bad, of life within a supergroup. ½
London Hyde Park 1969 is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box