Super Giants (Tarantura TCDBF-1, 2)
Blind Faith are one of the miraculous anomalies in the history of rock and roll. One of the early “super groups,” it’s tempting to view it as another Eric Clapton band, or even (since Ginger Baker was involved), as a side project of Cream. But the band was much more than that.
With the considerable talents of Steve Winwood, it was a superb synthesis of styles and attitudes unheard before or since. Of course the blues is a basis (Clapton never strayed too far from that), but there is much deeper meaning expressed by their music. Perhaps the comfort of a new musical project convinced them to be confessional, but there is a strange serenity to their hymn like arrangements.
They released their only studio LP Blind Faith, toured briefly in the UK, Scandinavia and the US and dissolved less than a year after formation. Such is the power of this combo that forty years later Clapton and Winwood are touring together, playing a setlist which includes the best Blind Faith songs. Their legacy can be heard on the album and the few live documents in circulation which are all worth having.
Madison Square Garden, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – July 12th, 1969
Disc 1 (65:17): Opening, 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
The first disc is the very first Blind Faith North American show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. They were booked for Newport, R.I. the previous evening but the show was cancelled. This tape was featured on the second disc of the massive six disc set Compensation For Betrayal (Paddington Records PADD 019/020/021/022/023/024 PADDS-01), a collection of all known live tapes (except for Hyde Park).
The New York tape was released again on the second disc of Hyde Park Concert on E.C. Is Here (DJ Copy 141/142) in similar sound quality but with the addition of annoying digital clicks scattered throughout the performance that are not present on the Paddington.
Super Giants is the third release in as many years and is a dramatic improvement over the other two. The recording is distant, distorted and plagued with people close to the microphone speaking and shouting. It is a challenging tape to begin with, but Tarantura sounds so much brighter, louder and more clear than the other two and raises it from being a good document of an important show to something that stands up under repeated listens.
This version of the tape is also longer, debuting a minute and a half of audience noise before the first song “Had To Cry Today.” The opening is the audience’s loud reaction to the house lights going down and the band coming onstage and it sets the mood perfectly for what is a highly anticipated show by the new super group.
The New York show is most known for the rioting that occurs at the very end of the show. The details have been lost in the almost forty years, but it has something to do with drummer Ginger Baker’s reaction to the police’s handling of the crowd at the front of the stage. The band played on a small stage in the middle of the Garden and was very close to the audience and the band were able to see everything that was going on.
Throughout the tape there are numerous times when loud booing and scuffling can be heard, but the tapers were far away from the stage and the specifics are not picked up. The only hint of trouble is a two-minute gap of audience restlessness after the final song “Means To An End.” No on close to the tape is able to say what they see so the details should always remain sketchy. The review of the show in the New York Times doesn’t make any mention of the incident. “Had To Cry Today” works very well as an opener for this show.
The powerful descending riff sounds grandiose echoing throughout the Garden and is sufficient to grab people’s attention. “Can’t Find My Way Home” is introduced as a “new tune” and is a restful contrast to the opener. There is some commotion afterwards and someone by the taper shouts, “c’mon fuzz, do you stuff.” Winwood says, “Can you hear the piano? Can you hear the voice? You’re lucky…if you can’t give us a shout” before a short delay.
The taper turns off the recording and turns it on again in time for the beginning of the next song “Sleeping In The Ground.” The big set piece of Blind Faith’s set is Baker’s “Do What You Like.” Tarantura track the opening, the bass solo, the drum solo, and the closing verse separately.
The taper accidentally turns the machine off in the middle but remembers to turn it back on again and records thirteen minutes of the piece. The old Traffic tune “Means To An End” is the final song played of the evening and the tape concludes with two minute of audience noise.
Konserthallen Liseberg, Liseberg Nöjespark, Göteborg, Sweden – June 18th, 1969
Disc 2 (7619): Well All Right, Sleeping In The Ground, Sea Of Joy, 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
The second disc contains the complete Göteborg, Sweden tape. This has been released many times in the past, most recently by Mid Valley on The Undertaker (MVR388). Some debate exits as to whether this is a very good audience recording or a soundboard. Tarantura list is as a soundboard on their edition of this tape does make a strong case. Just like with the New York tape, Tarantura obtained a source very close to the master and, although some distortion is still present, it is more clear than Mid Valley’s edition placing it as an upgrade.
An interesting show, this occurred during a short tour of Scandinavia before their huge North American tour, and this is the only extant tape in circulation. It is in a small venue and there is one person by the stage who keeps shouting out for Led Zeppelin and heckles the band throughout the performance. Why he is begging for Zeppelin, who played this place the previous September, is an unexplained mystery.
It makes one question why someone would pay for a ticket and then beg for another band. Besides, Blind Faith was short lived and seeing them was a real rarity. The band’s limited repertoire means the songs are the same as in New York, but the order is different with “Well All Right” serving as the opener. “Do What You Like” again has the bass and drum solos tracked separately and the band become lost in the return to the second verse.
The set list is identical to the debut except for the second and third numbers; “Sleeping In The Ground” and “Sea Of Joy” are reversed. The concert itself begins a bit slow. “Sleeping In The Ground”, which was a highlight in Hyde Park, sounds uninspired. Winwood introduces “Sea Of Joy” as a new song and the band deliver a great performance augmented by Rick Grech’s melodic violin in the middle.
The cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” was dropped after these dates in favor of more original material. Winwood’s organ arrangement in the song gives it a very dated 1960′s bubble gum pop flavor that is really at odds with the rest of the set. The middle section is the strongest with the brilliant “Can’t Find My Way Home” followed by the twenty minute Ginger Baker jam session “Do What You Like.”
After a small cut in the tape the band play the sublime “Presence Of The Lord.” The Traffic song “Means To An End” is the set closer and “Had To Cry Today” is played as the encore.
Super Giants is limited to one hundred unnumbered copies and is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with the same paper stock used for the old TDOLZ releases. The front package has charactures of the band members and the inside has a strange shot of the band on stage. This is a fantastic release by Tarantura and is worth seeking out.