Test of Faith

"I meet, very rarely, musicians who take what they do as seriously as I do. … Steve (Winwood) is one of the first people I met with that type of commitment — and there’s not that many,"

Eric Clapton on his Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood, from the duo’s recently released "Live From Madison Square Garden" DVD.

Visually, they’re a study in contrasts, right down to the shirts on their backs.

There Eric Clapton stands, clad in black, eyes clamped shut, mouth agape, fingers dancing across the fret board, bending the strings until the notes scream like a B-movie actress.

Next to him, Steve Winwood, wearing light-colored garb, looks focused and studious, locked in concentration with a professorial look on his face as he matches Clapton’s six-string fireworks with some of his own.

The scene is from Clapton and Winwood’s new concert DVD, which was recorded last year and issued this past May.

The two first joined voices 40 years ago in Blind Faith, the short-lived blues rock combo whose tenure was akin to a bolt of lighting: bright and brief.

Fast-forward to today, and the two are back out on the road together, excavating Blind Faith chestnuts in addition to powering through their many solo hits.

With Clapton and Winwood set to hit town this weekend, let’s take a by-the-numbers look at the band that first united the duo to begin with.

1 Album. "Blind Faith." That’s the band’s entire recorded output.

2 Record Companies. It was Blind Faith’s spot on Atlantic Records that ultimately convinced the owners of Warner Bros. Records to go ahead and buy Atlantic and create the mammoth Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Records conglomerate, which would quickly become one of the pillars of the music industry.

3 Legends of rock ‘n’ roll. Joining Winwood and Clapton in Blind Faith was powerhouse drummer Ginger Baker (the band was rounded out by lesser heralded bassist Ric Grech). Together, they comprised what was perhaps the world’s second supergroup — a tag that Clapton in particular loathed — after the storied Cream, which Clapton and Baker were also in.

4 Decades. That’s how long it’s been since Blind Faith debuted in 1969. The band played its first U.S. show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on July 12, 1969.

5 Entries. That’s what Clapton has on Guitar World magazine’s list of "100 Greatest Guitar Solos."

6 Songs. That’s the total number of tracks on the band’s self-titled 42-minute debut, a blend of bluesy hellfire and hard rock wallop with Winwood and Clapton practically playing circles around each other.

7 Months. That’s all the time that Blind Faith managed to stay together. Clapton, who chafed at the band’s near-instantaneous fame and questioned whether it was really deserved, left the group and would later form Derek and the Dominoes. Winwood went back to Traffic, with Baker joining him.

8 Days. That’s how long Blind Faith’s first tour lasted, in Scandinavia, in the early summer of ’69.

9 Weeks. That’s all the time that lapsed before Clapton and Baker reunited in Blind Faith after Cream’s final show.

10 Minutes. That’s how long Baker’s drum solo lasts on "Do What You Like," a climactic jam that ended the band’s debut.

11 Years. That’s the age of the topless girl clutching a silver airplane on the "Blind Faith" album cover. The image caused great controversy, and it would be hard to imagine it ever getting released these days. In the U.S., the album also was issued with an alternative cover featuring a group shot of the band. As for the young lady in question, the hot rumor of the day was that she was Baker’s illegitimate daughter. She wasn’t, but rather a paid model that cover photographer Bob Seidemann discovered one day on the streets of London.

12. That was the peak position of Winwood’s most recent solo disc, 2008’s "Nine Lives," on the Billboard album chart. The disc was driven by the hit single "Dirty City," which featured a guest appearance by Clapton and spent three weeks atop the Adult Album Alternative radio chart. It was the first time the two had recorded together in some time.

13 Years. That was the amount of time that Grech was active in the music business before retiring in 1977 to sell carpets. He died from a brain hemorrhage in 1990 after having developed a drinking problem.

14 Shows. That’s all that Clapton and Winwood are playing on their current North American tour. See ’em now, because you’ll probably never get another chance to see ’em again.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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