Blind Faith – Hyde Park Concert (E.C. Is Here DJ Copy 141/142)

Hyde Park Concert (E.C. Is Here DJ Copy 141/142)

Disc 1 Hyde Park, London, England – June 7th, 1969:  Well All Right, Sea Of Joy, Sleeping In The Ground, Under My Thumb, Can’t Find My Way Home, Do What You Like, Presence Of The Lord, Means To An End, Had To Cry Today

Disc 2 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – July 12th, 1969:  Had To Cry Today, Can’t Find My Way Home, Sleeping In The Ground, Well All Right, Presence Of The Lord, Sea Of Joy, Do What You Like, Means To An End

Hyde Park Concert is a release on the Eric Clapton dedicated Japanese label EC Is Here.  It features the audience recording of their famous debut on June 7th, 1969 on the first disc.  The previous releases of this concert before the official DVD was released focused upon the soundboard recording.  Titles like Blind Dominoes (KOKO-003-4), Genuine Crossroads (CD 3139/40) on Stonewall, Sea Of Blues (RSC CD 055) on Oil Well and We’ll All Right (CR-2020) on Capricorn contain four songs, “Well All Right”, “Sea Of Joy”, “Sleeping in the ground”, and “Under My Thumb.”   God Is Good (ARMS 24) contain three.  Live In Hyde Park 1969 (MVR 319/320) is the first release of the audience recording coupled with an almost complete soundboard recording.  This new release is thus the second one to have the audience recording. 

The label claims on the artwork this is from the master tapes.  The music is clear enough, but compared to the Mid Valley release this newer one runs about 5% slower and off pitch and is clearly inferior.  What’s worse there are mastering ticks, pops, and scratches that run throughout the entire performance that are not on the Mid Valley.  Theoretically it is a good idea for a label to release this tape in a more affordable edition since the other is quite pricey.  For a tape this age, and despite the airplanes flying overhead, it is a listenable document of an important concert, but there is no rhyme or reason behind how hideous this tape sounds and is serious miscalculation by an otherwise solid label.

Regarding this historic gig, one person writes, “Blind Faith’s Hyde Park concert was performed on a pleasant Saturday, 7 June 1969. It was a free concert weekend, where people of the ‘counter-culture’ generation congregated to celebrate a fine springtime in the most beautiful semi-wooded park in central London. Blind Faith was one of several performing groups that weekend; Several performers made the scene on Friday afternoon without fanfare, including Julie Driscoll, Long John Baldry, and LuLu. The opening acts that Sunday were regular free concert performers from London, The Third Ear Band, and Edgar Broughton, followed by an acoustic set by Richie Havens, and a solo performance from Donovan.

All this happening in the park, yet Blind Faith was the talk of the city that weekend, with anticipation rising for the newly formed group to succeed. Rumors of a unique new sound performed by four virtuoso musicians was an intriguing prospect to the progressive music world. The fans were looking for an awesome performance.  That, together with the reputation and appeal of being pop stars, placed them upon a pedestal of near-godliness. Blind Faith’s debut concert was met with mixed reaction from fans and curious congregants at Hyde Park that day. The group was clearly unprepared to perform confidently before the throng of more than 100,000 in the audience. Yet, the atmosphere was said to be magical, because of the circumstances and the general harmony of most individuals who came to have a good time listening to the music.” 

There are cuts between almost all of the numbers and a small cut at 4: 58 in “Well All Right”.  Its chief virtue is having a complete “Do What You Like”.  It is hard to judge the concert from this version of the audience tape since it runs so slow.  It makes the band sound bored out of their skulls!  But this is a famous gig and the best way to experience it is either watching the official DVD released several months ago or listening to the Mid Valley release Live In Hyde Park 1969 (MVR-319/320).  Despite the shortcoming of the Mid Valley, it is more accurate and enjoyable than this.  Steve Winwood’s voice cracks several times throughout, but there are plenty of highlights including the opening “Well All Right” getting the show off to a jolly start. 

Clapton plays an interesting solo in “Sleeping In The Ground”.  This show is one of two where they play the Rolling Stones cover “Under My Thumb”.  It isn’t obvious why this song was chosen and Winwood’s bubbly organ carrying the melody sounds out of place and very dated.  “Can’t Find My Way Home” sounds great played by the original band preserving its pristine glory.  “Do What You Like”, unlike the soundboard recording, is complete on this one.  It lasts almost fourteen minutes and is an interesting, albeit frustratingly restraint, band jam.  Baker does play an interesting drum solo by the song’s end with a police siren in the background.  “Can’t Find My Way” sounds great.  The band do deliver a sublime version of “Presence Of The Lord” with Winwood’s church organ underlying the plaintive lyrics. 

The second disc contains the audience recording that made its silver debut on the Compensation For Betrayal box set.  Compared to the Paddington, this version sounds almost identical.  It runs at the same speed but suffers from the same digital ticks as the first disc of this set and are present on Paddington.  The sound quality is fair but listenable.  The tapers seem to be walking around the Garden for the entire set but once they settle down this is a listenable document.   Madison Square Garden was Blind Faith’s first gig on the North American tour after their cancellation of the July 11th Newport show.  The performance was given on a revolving stage in the middle of the venue with opening acts Free and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, which Eric Clapton would join at the tour’s conclusion.  Some claim that a minor riot occurred at the finish of the final encore of the evening.

Ginger Baker was involved in swatting a security person, who was roughing-up a BF fan at the edge of the stage.  Curiously, the review in the New York Times “Blind Faith Group Sings” by Mike Jahn makes no mention of the altercations.  He does point out that, despite the poor PA in the Garden, the band sounded pretty good and Baker’s drum solo being the “emotional high point of the evening”.  The set list is shorter than Hyde Park but they play with more confidence and sound much tighter.  “Had To Cry Today”, with its driving riff, is an excellent opener followed by “Can’t Find My Way Home”.  “Do What You Like” is cut but is still more than eighteen minutes long and is much better than earlier versions.  If EC Is Here contained only this tape this release would have been worth seeking out since its only release so far has been in the expensive Paddington set.  As it is this is a terrible release and should be avoided.

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