Sadly, not many Blind Faith bootlegs exist (there are nine in total) and those that do don’t have the best sound quality. Thankfully this one recorded at the Earl Warren Showground in Santa Barbara, California on the 16th August 1969 is pretty good. Sourced directly from the original master reels, it could actually make a good live album if anyone official decided to remaster it properly. The band sound great on these tracks and much tighter than their debut performance in Hyde Park, London, over two months earlier. By then the band had played a brief Scandinavian tour before making their way to North America. This show was their sixth to last as a band.
After the long (and painful) stage announcement by someone at the venue, the band open with a great rendition of the Buddy Holly song Well All Right which clocks in at over 7 minutes. It’s a great version and features both Clapton and Winwood performing extensive solos over the solid foundation of the rhythm section that are Rich Grech and Ginger Baker. Next up is Can’t Find My Way Home, one of the bands most successful and well known songs. The band performed longer versions (Gothenberg, Sweden performance went on for nearly 9 minutes) but this is closer to the album version. That’s personally disappointing to me considering the greatness of this song and how great Clapton solos on it. This is followed by Had To Cry Today and Sleeping In The Ground, two more originals from the Blind Faith album. The former is a 10 minute version which is the highlight of the show so far with the listener getting to hear the first real extended Clapton solo of the night. The latter sadly has the start of the song missing but unfortunately from what you do hear, the band don’t seem to be in-sync at all which is surprising considering the pedigree of the musicians. But it’s no secret that at this point of the tour tensions were high in the band and they were going through the motions.
- Stage Announcement
- Well All Right
- Can’t Find My Way Home
- Had To Cry Today
- Sleeping In The Ground
- Presence Of The Lord
- Means To An End
- Do What You Like
Crossroads and Presence Of The Lord come next. Both are energetic renditions, Crossroads being a song the band added to their sets to please the many Cream fans in the audiences on the US tour. It’s slower than the Cream version and features a different riff but still gets the crowd going. Winwood and Clapton exchange solos before finishing the song and moving on to a Clapton original from the album, Presence Of The Lord. This is one of the highlights of the show by far with the band sounding tighter than they had previously all night.
Means To An End is a song Winwood wrote in Traffic. It was originally included in the Hyde Park setlist to bulk up the repertoire but ended up being kept all the way through the bands life time. I’m glad for this because it’s a great song and and the Blind Faith version is arguably the standard version of the song. Do What You Like is the last song on the bill and it’s one of the worst songs Blind Faith released and played. The solos are nice enough but it never goes anywhere and is more a showcase for Ginger Baker’s drum solo than anything else. This is exactly what Clapton wanted to get away from when he left Cream so it’s surprising that Baker was allowed to do this. It is of course a Baker song though.
Blind Faith are one of many bands I would have loved to see live. I saw Clapton and Winwood perform together a few years ago at the Royal Albert Hall which is the closest I (and anyone) will ever get to a Blind Faith performance, unless Ginger Baker ever decides to come out of a partial musical exile. But that seems unlikely. Overall this is a fantastic bootleg and probably one of the best you’ll hear of Blind Faith. My only criticism is that the drums are buried quite low in the mix (especially when Winwood is singing) so you never get to fully experience Ginger Baker’s incredible drumming. That said, it’s well worth a listen.