I had been driving for what felt like a hundred years. My buddy Treebeard and I had been trading off behind the wheel for three days. Our destination was finally in sight, but we had to make a long detour around the flooded wastelands of Iowa.
The detour took us further and further north until finally we saw the orange detour sign that pointed eastward. It had been a long day’s drive through the dark heart of nothing, and even after we knocked back strong coffee and found decent veggie burritos somewhere in Ohio, our day’s driving quota was far from met. I had many miles to go before I could collapse on another sketchy Motel 6 full-size. Somewhere near West Virginia we stopped for gas. I was tired, and I watched as yet another $60 was leeched from my bank card and into the bowels of the great blue beast we drove. It was the first time during the trip that I began to feel serious burnout. I just wanted to park on a roadside, sleep, and take my chances with whatever the morning brought.
And there was Treebeard, walking — no, skipping — out of the minimart with a six-pack of beer held over his head. That’s how I discovered Magic Hat.
Treebeard was familiar with this magical elixir from his days in New England. Magic Hat comes from Vermont, and it is so very Vermont that the six-pack even came with a contest entry to win tickets to a stop on Mike Gordon’s summer tour. We loaded up on the stuff and headed into the darkness.
Anyway, Magic Hat beer was one of the few great discoveries on that trip, and it’s been a comfort to a wide-eyed California boy on the chaotic east coast. (Why is it 100 degrees out when it’s raining?) Another discovery that night, equally as well-hopped, refreshing, and flavorful, was this:
Okay, I know what you’re saying: “Um, yeah … Blind Faith … whatever, man.” But hear me out. We had listened to a lot of music on that epic drive, and when you’re driving past your tenth hour of endless prairie and plain, surviving on nothing but sloppily made five-dollar footlongs and Clif Bars, something as obvious and shrugworthy as Blind Faith can sound totally fresh and exciting. Not to mention Ã¢â‚¬Å“Can’t Find My Way HomeÃ¢â‚¬Â is a brilliant, summery classic.
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I won’t bore you with the historical details — Hyde Park, the controversial album cover, the first “supergroup,” et cetera. Dave Marsh or Greil Marcus or my dad or Slowhand4Prez on the Eric Clapton forums can tell you better than I ever could. I’ve never been a big fan of Clapton, or Steve Winwood for that matter. I dug my dad’s Cream records. Traffic was cool, but I never would’ve called myself a fan. But what Brother Treebeard threw on that night, driving through the darkness, was the superdeluxe edition of Blind Faith’s one and only album. Packing in a whole bunch of extras, alternate versions, outtakes, and some gnarly live-in-the-studio jams that each clock in around the 15-minute mark, this was a far cry from the taped-off-my- dad’s-scratchy-record-onto-a-Radio-Shack-C90 copy that I had many years ago. On Amazon.com, BHarold77 calls this extra material “a waste,” but SalviaDream74 praises the “super-heady jams brah.”
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I have to agree with SalviaDream74: these are some superheady jams. Taken from early studio sessions, these are sonic meditations on some familiar rock and roll grooves. “Jam Number 1” sounds like Bo Diddley is about to break out into “The Other One,” and “Acoustic Jam” is an absolute killer trip through a moody pianoscape, with some very evocative Spanish guitar. The “Change of Address Jam” is a long electric blooze trip that almost reaches “White Light/White Heat” levels of intensity.
While folks head to Bonnaroo, Rothbury, All Good, 10K Lakes, and other music festivals this summer to see and hear bands jam out, driving in that strange, dark night, these jams from almost 40 years earlier still sound fresh and exciting. Just as they probably sounded to those hippies who gathered that day in Hyde Park.
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(Check out Emo Phillips losing his shit at the 0:07 mark.)
With a little Internet legwork, many of Blind Faith’s jams and outtakes can be found online. Seek them out, for they are not just, as Mike McGonigal put it, “for wank aficionados and completists only.” They provide a tantalizing glimpse at the genesis of a band that lasted just six months and then burned out like a star.