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A true classic album

As I wrote in my last installment, the term classic is often bandied about in what I consider to be relative terms far too often. The reason is very simple. Just because an album sells millions of copies or even contains a fistful of hit songs, that doesn't necessarily make it a classic. It won't preclude such a nomenclature of course. But hit songs and the word classic are not synonymous.

Within music circles, the idea of producing a great album is always on the minds of everyone who steps into a recording studio. They don't go in there to record a loser. I know that's difficult to imagine given some of the stuff we are forced to endure within this world, especially today. But to me a classic album is one that just seems to work on all levels. The flow of the songs is just right. The combination of sounds and songs builds properly throughout. Every detail seems to have been attended to. It is never simply a miss-mash of tunes hastily thrown together because an artist had a surprise hit and they need to fill up an album with songs to surround it in an effort to make money.

So today I want to talk about one such album. Over the past fifty years of rock and roll, it is debatable of course but there is no bigger name in the industry than Eric Clapton. I will admit that I am a fan of his work and his string of hits is perhaps in many ways unmatched. But within his career which began with the Yardbirds in the mid-1960's, passed through Cream for a few years later in the decade and wound up becoming a peerless guitar icon and solo artist in the 1970's, there was a very brief stopover within a band that has since become seemingly more legend than fact.

Blind Faith as they dubbed themselves, was a band that feature not only Eric Clapton but a very young Steve Winwood, an already established drummer named Ginger Baker and an incredible and highly underrated bass player, Rick Grech. Their initial, and as it came to pass only, offering was recorded in 1969 at a time when music was really in a huge state of transition. It consists of a grand total of six songs which by today's standards would hardly be of interest to anyone. And yet the solo virtuosity of each musician on the elongated tracks like the opener, "Had To Cry Today" and the closing 15 minute vamp, "Do What You Like" and then the four incredible numbers in between which includes a cover of a wonderful yet under-appreciated Buddy Holly song, "Well, All Right" makes the album a must have for any lover of great music. At the time of it's release, as many of you may remember, it was probably more famous for everything other than the music. The album cover, for example, featured a 12 year old girl nude. The musicians, as well, garnered most of the publicity. And so through the years, the music seems to have simply become something you occasionally hear on the radio and wonder who the heck it is playing that song.

The remaining three songs, the haunting "Sea Of Joy", the wonderfully pointed "Presence Of The Lord" and what is I guess the single that may have at one time charted, "Can't Find My Way Home" seem so perfected suited to fill in the spaces between the opener and closer that no one who listens to the album can help but be completely caught up in every piece. It's definitely one for the ages and yet I suspect one that very few even to this day listen to regularly. It just doesn't have a niche and the group as a whole didn't really take the world by storm as they may well have had they not imploded shortly after they began. It is debatable that they could well have been the biggest act of the 1970's had they managed to set aside their differences. Look at the work that followed for each of the members. Since these were some of the greatest talents musically in the world of the day, could they have not produced the best music. This one, six song offering does make us all wonder what could have been. It is and will forever be a classic. Oh, and lest we forget, one of the few public appearances the band actually made was in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in the summer of 1969. The live performances were but a handful. But we here in the City by the Bay were blessed to have been among the chosen few to see this incredible band.

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