Posts Tagged ‘Eric Clapton

22
Mar
09

Hidden treasure

For years, the album Fiends & Angels has been one of the best kept secrets from the late 1960s blues-rock scene. Finally in 2008, the independent CD label Wounded Bird, which specializes in albums that the majors refuse to reissue, released this Martha Velez gem.

mvelez-1Until then, it had fetched rather pricey numbers on auction sites despite not having been a big seller at the time of its release in 1968. Still it was one of the defining blues-rock albums of the times, bringing together an almost perfect combination of singer, players and producer for a raw blues outing with unbridled energy. And some of the best playing by some of England’s best musicians.

Not available in the album credits and still not known completely, the personnel included, Eric Clapton, guitar; Jack Bruce (Cream), bass; Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix) and Jim Capaldi (Traffic), drums; Brian Auger (Oblivion Express), organ; Christine McVie (Chicken Shack, later Fleetwood Mac), piano; Keef Hartley, drums, and Chris Mercer, sax (Keef Hartley Band, John Mayall); Chris Wood (Traffic), sax and flute; and Duster Bennett, harmonica. That’s just a portion of the list.

Velez is a New Yorker, who studied opera at a young age and later attended the High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. She also joined a touring folk group, the Gaslight Singers, in college (Long Island University) and later had several lead roles on Broadway, including Hair. So how did she wind up recording her first solo album in England with all these prominent blues-rock musicians?

While recording a demo in New York with producer Richard Gottehrer, Seymour Stein of Sire Records was in the studio by coincidence. They immediately wanted to sign Velez and when it was revealed she loved the blues and particularly the material Cream was doing, they hooked her up with Mike Vernon, an English blues producer who had worked with the early Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall and later Ten Years After, among many others. He was also the founder of the blues label, Blue Horizon.

Vernon gathered together the elite group of musicians and a torrent of hot, inspired performances was unleashed on the material, matched perfectly to Velez’s voice, which has a trained quality but can be raunchy when needed.

mvelez-2The guitar solos are ferocious on most cuts and although Clapton is said to have played on only four, he is extremely recognizable on  the heavy groove of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Feel So Bad, I’m Gonna Leave You (perhaps the album’s best two tracks), It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry and In My Girlish Days. This was confirmed on a Velez compilation, Angels Of The Future Past, released on CD in the late ’80s. The other solos are just as powerful and inventive, perhaps attributable to the only listed guitarist on the session, Rick Hayward, although Spit James (Keef Hartley) and Paul Cossof (Free) are said to have also participated.

Jack Bruce is equally recognizable for his driving bass lines, all tight, punchy and restrained. Bennett blows heavy duty harp on both I’m Gonna Leave You and Feel So Bad, and Vernon also made liberal use of horns, giving the sessions yet another dimension.

The album contains so many other jewels: Velez’s funky composition Swamp Man, which holds the album’s title in the lyrics; the Joplin-esque slow blues A Fool For You; a cover of Etta James’ Tell Mama; the moderate shuffle of a smouldering Drive Me Daddy, over which Velez wails; Come Here Sweet Man, a delicate Velez original; and Let The Good Times Roll, the suitable rollicking closer. A great selection of songs.

Velez went on to record four other albums in the ’70s, including a reggae release, Escape To Babylon, produced by Bob Marley. She never fully returned to an album of all blues, although she did work with Vernon one more time on Matinee Weepers. Married to Keith Johnson, noted trumpet player with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Van Morrison, she also sang with Morrison’s band for a while. All her records, with the exception of her second, Hypnotized, are available from Wounded Bird.

You are unlikely to find Wounded Bird releases in a big music or electronics store at the mall. They are readily available at places such as Amazon. But a trip to the label’s web site is preferred because perusing its catalogue, you’ll find so many other long lost albums that haven’t seen the light of day on a major label.

My vinyl version of Fiends & Angels is still one of my most treasured from that time period. Even one in funky condition is fetching as much as $50 on eBay, despite the CD release. You have to love that album cover, too. The second image is from the UK release. For the record, Velez’s full name is Martha Carmen Josephine Hernandéz Rosario de Veléz. That’s an earful and so is this classic album.

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06
Mar
09

The story behind the Blind Faith cover

In response to a previous post about Blind Faith, a friend expressed interest in the genesis of the infamous 1969 album cover, how it all came about.

mariora-goschenBelow is a rather long excerpt from an even longer note about the creation of the Blind Faith cover by Bob Seidemann, the photographer who came up with the concept and shot the model holding the “spaceship.” To read the entire note you can go here. It’s interesting to observe that the name of the photograph was Blind Faith and that was then taken by Eric Clapton as the name of the band. Also the model was actually 11 years old at the time, Mariora Goschen. The cover is here juxtaposed with a recent photo of Gorschen, who is now in her 50s, and is a massage therapist and shiatsu practitioner.

Seidemann mentions this is the first time the name of the band was not on the album cover. That’s not exactly correct. The first Stones album in England had no name on the cover and the second Traffic album also has no name. There were probably others.

blind-faith-returnsIf you think the cover was an alarming image, check out this cover to the band’s tour program with a nude covered by her long hair in all the vital places blind-folded and on a crucifix.

Another interesting tidbit is that the poster commisioned for the three Clapton-Winwood Madison Square Garden concerts in 2008 shows the spaceship, which has been likened to a hood ornament of either a 1953 Oldsmobile or 1956 Chevrolet.

The relevant portions of Seidemann’s note about the actual circumstances and how it all came about follow.

 

 

 

By Bob Seidemann (excerpt)

Detroit was burning. The police were rioting in Chicago, cultural icons were dropping like flies, the love generation had been kicked to death by CBS, NBC, Life, Look and Newsweek and I wanted out. I called Eric Clapton in London to ask if he would put me up for while. He did. I stayed at his flat in Chelsea with a wild crowd of ravers. The party had been going on for some time when I arrived. Other residences of the never-ending, day-for-night, multi-colored fling were Martin Sharp, a graphic artist and poet with an uncanny resemblance to Peter O’Toole, and the wildest of ravers, Philippe Mora a young film maker who looked like a cheery Peter Lorre and their handsome girl friends. I bunked on a ledge under a skylight in the living room. All of the London scene came through. It was wild and wooly.

         A year passed and I had my own room in a basement flat in the same part of town with another bunch of ravers. The phone rang. It was Robert Stigwood’s office, Clapton’s manager. Cream was over and Eric was putting a new band together. The fellow on the phone asked if I would make a cover for the new unnamed group. This was big time. It seems as though the western world had for lack of a more substantial icon, settled on the rock and roll star as the golden calf of the moment. The record cover had become the place to be seen as an artist.

         I had sold my cameras in San Francisco after the Pieta poster  (A controversial 1967 photo that reversed roles of the famous Michelangelo painting – editor’s note) because it scared me so much, vowing never to pick up a camera again. The picture gave me the heebee jeebees and the willies all at the same time. If you pinned it to the wall, the wall would smoke. It was a picture of death alright. If I was going take up a camera again to make a cover for Eric’s new band it would have be the antidote to the Pieta image, a picture of life.

         It was nineteen sixty nine and man was landing on the moon. Our species was making its first steps into limitless space and I had a shot at immortality. That’s what every artist hopes to achieve, a stab at greatness, to make something that will last for a little while. To scratch an image on a wall and hope the wall outlives him. The lights were on, the curtain was going up, and I was coming down. Down from San Francisco. Down from the height of blinding insight. Down from the top of the mountain. Down from that lofty battlefield. Down from Dr. Strangelove and 2001. The pop world was awaiting the new pop idols, and I had been asked to create their emblem.

         Technology and innocence crashed through the tatters of my mind. Only a thread of an idea, something I couldn’t see, something out there just beyond my vision, an impulse rippling through the interstellar plasma. I stumbled through the streets of London for weeks, bumping into things, gibbering like a mad man. I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a space ship was the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The space ship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life.

         The space ship could be made by Mick Milligan, a jeweler at the Royal College or Art. The girl was another matter. If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after. That temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence. Where is that girl?

         I was riding the London Tube on the way to Stigwood’s office to expose Clapton’s management to this revelation when the tube doors opened and she stepped into the car. She was wearing a school uniform, plaid skirt, blue blazer, white socks and ball point pen drawings on her hands. It was as though the air began to crackle with an electrostatic charge. She was buoyant and fresh as the morning air.

         I must have looked like something out of Dickens. Somewhere between Fagan, Quasimodo, Albert Einstein and John the Baptist. The car was full of passengers. I approached her and said that I would like her to pose for a record cover for Eric Clapton’s new band. Everyone in the car tensed up.

         She said, do I have to take off my clothes?   My answer was yes, I gave her my card and begged her to call. I would have to ask her parent’s consent if she agreed. When I got to Stigwood’s office I called the flat and said that if this girl called not to let her off the phone without getting her phone number. When I returned she had called and left her number.

         Stanley Mouse, my close friend and one of the five originators of psychedelic art in San Francisco, was holed up at the flat. He helped me make a layout and we headed out to meet with the girl’s parents.

         It was a Mayfair address. This is a swank part of town, class in the English sense of the word. The parents were charming and worldly with a bohemian air. He was large and robust, she was demure. They knew the poet Alan Ginsberg, owned a tenth century manor house outside of London and were distantly related to two royal families, one English, the other German. The odds against this circumstance were astronomical and unsurprising.

         Mouse and I made our presentation, I told my story, the parents agreed. The girl on the tube train would not be the one, she was shy, she had just past the point of complete innocence and could not pose. Her younger sister had been saying the whole time, “Oh Mommy, Mommy, I want to do it, I want to do it”. She was glorious sunshine. Botticelli’s angel, the picture of innocence, a face which in a brief time could launch a thousand space ships.

         claptonwinwood-posterWe asked her what her fee should be for modeling, she said a young horse. I called the image ‘Blind Faith’ and Clapton made that the name of his band. When the cover was shown in the trades it hit the market like a runaway train, causing a storm of controversy. At one point the record company considered not releasing the cover at all. It was Eric Clapton who fought for it. If this was not to be the cover, there would be no record. It was Eric who elected to not print the name of the band on the cover. This had never been done before. The name was printed on the wrapper, when the wrapper came off, so did the type.

         This was an image created out of ferment and storm, out of revolution and chaos. It was an image in the mind of one who strove for that moment of glory, that blinding flash of singular inspiration. To etch an image on a stone in our cultural wall with the hope that that wall will last. To say with his heart and his eyes, at a time when it mattered, this is what I see and this is what I feel. It was created out of hope and a wish for a new beginning, innocence propelled by BLIND FAITH.                        ©Bob Seidemann

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20
Feb
09

Blind Faith not needed for these two

Last February, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood played three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden. It was the first time they had played specifically billed together since their successful, but doomed-from-the-start Blind Faith project in 1969.

winwoodclaptonThey had performed together in early 2007 at an English festival, Clapton joining Winwood’s touring band, and later that summer at Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in Chicago. Their set, which closed the event, had Winwood this time playing with Clapton’s band. It’s all documented on the DVD of the festival, and it’s a spectacular performance by both.

I was a little surprised and very pleased that the MSG shows sold out so quickly. I would think because of Clapton’s name, even though I’m a bigger Winwood fan. Still, I’ve liked and listened to both over the years. It was a big boost for Winwood who, although he has enjoyed great success at various times in his career with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and later as a Grammy-winning solo artist, has always flown a little under the radar of the general public. This despite a creative, influential and lasting catalogue that stands up to any of the great ’60s artists.

The concerts gave Winwood’s latest album Nine Lives, released last spring, a deserved boost as it turned out to be his most successful in years, debuting in the Billboard Top 10. But since his return to continual touring in 2003, Winwood had already released one of his best albums in About Time (2003) and played live with an exceptional band that has included rotating chairs on drums, percussion and tenor sax, along with gifted Brazilian guitarist Jose Neto, whose latest album Winwood produced.

It was announced recently Clapton and Winwood will tour 14 cities this year and a DVD and CD will be released from the MSG shows. Unfortunately for us in the Northeast, New Jersey is the closet they are coming. No Boston, nothing in Hartford or one of the casinos. And although it’s been noted ticket prices are varying according to venue, they are expected to be quite pricey.

I’ve seen Winwood’s band six times since 2003, ranging from opening for the Grateful Dead at the Meadows to playing the tiny Bowery Ballroom in New York for two long sets to a memorable outdoor set at the Ives Center in Danbury on the campus of Western Connecticut State. And I strongly recommend seeing the Clapton-Winwood show.

But I lament it being at one of these mega-arenas and I won’t be investing in it this time. It’s too difficult to get good seats at these places, too expensive and too far to travel. Yeah, say it, I’m getting older. But I don’t think it’s just that. I just don’t care for the mega-arena experience.

In a previous post, I mentioned seeing the original Blind Faith in their second American concert at Kennedy Stadium in Bridgeport of all places. That was a post on Delaney Bramlett’s passing and told of how anyone could see Clapton was so into Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, the concert’s opening act, it was only a matter of time before Blind Faith was history. And that’s what happened. Blind Faith, despite recording a lasting and revered album with some bonafide standards such as Can’t Find My Way Home and Presence Of The Lord, was doomed because of the superhype employed by manager Robert Stigwood and an exhausting and unsatisfying touring scheme with which the band had to cope. Remember, Clapton wanted to be in the Band at this point in his career and make music something  akin to the Bearsville quintet. Blind Faith delivered on the music but they were rushed out the door to make big live bucks too quickly.

I wrote of my remembrances of that concert for a Winwood site several years ago. I’ve found the note and posted it here. By the way, the story behind the canceled Newport gig was a lost item and omitted from several books that included touring information. I helped correct this with the help of a couple of webmasters who have restored it to history. Here it is:

Blind Faith was scheduled to debut in the U.S. in Newport, not at the
festival but a special concert. In fact, we bought tickets to the show and were
quite excited to have third-row seats at Fort Adams State Park, where the Jazz
Festival was held for years. However, about a week before the show, it was
canceled. The promoters backed out because of problems they had with prior
rock acts there. Actually problems with fans destroying property. So, Madison
Square Garden became the debut. What a place to open the tour. The band was
doomed from the start with these type of management decisions. Luckily for us,
another show was added in Bridgeport, Connecticut, not far from where we
were at the time.
        In fact, I have a little story. The promoter of the show, Ben Segal,
was the father of a drummer I was working with, Beau. We got into the show
free and stood backstage or what would pass for backstage at the outdoor
football field, a roped-off area near a portable stage. We went out front during
their set because the sound was obviously better there. There were no seats on
the infield. They sounded very good and played much the same set as the
European concerts. Though I was disappointed that Winwood played
keyboards, not guitar, on “Had To Cry Today.”
      It was interesting to note that when Clapton arrived he stood to the
side of the stage, grooving on Delaney & Bonnie. It was just the second
concert! Also, Dave Mason was the guitarist for D&B, rather a coincidence.
      One last thing, Janis Joplin showed up, actually looking quite well. I wound
up standing in a group of people with her. She was quite funny and was
continually asking where Clapton was. Heady times.

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29
Dec
08

So long Delaney

Delaney Bramlett, a much more influential than popular musician, died Saturday at 69. The Reuters obit is about the most complete.

db-togetherHe and his wife’s group, Delaney and Bonnie & Friends, from the late ’60s, early ’70s, never hit it really big, but had some recognizable tunes such as Only You Know And I Know. More interesting, the group featured many stars among its sidemen. Eric Clapton played with D&B following his tour with Blind Faith. Dave Mason was in that version of the group as well and George Harrison guested. Other luminaries included bassist Jim Radle, sax player Bobby Keys, now with the Stones, drummer Jim Gordon, keyboard player Bobby Whitlock and trumpet player Jim Horn and many more. Most of them played in Mad Dogs & Englishman with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell and Clapton took Radle, Gordon and Whitlock to form Derek & and Dominoes.

In his biography, he takes credit for teaching Harrison to play slide and how to write a gospel song. He also produced Clapton’s first solo album, arguably one of his, if not his best. A recent deluxe edition of the album featured a second disc with Bramlett’s original production mix.

Also, he really brought Clapton out as a singer. His voice on that album, Eric Clapton, is miles ahead of his efforts in Cream.

One personal anecdote. I saw the Blind Faith concert at Bridgeport’s Kennedy Stadium in the summer of 1968, the second of their cross-country tour. D&B opened up. The stage was portable and set up on the football field. What served as backstage was simply a roped-off section separating the crowd from the musicians. I was backstage because the drummer in my band, Pulse, was the promoter’s son.

When Clapton arrived, and by the way the four members of Blind Faith arrived in separate limos, he was immediately grooving to D&B on the side of the stage. This was the second concert! He was gone. The ill-fated, albeit financially successful, Blind Faith tour may as well have ended right there artistically. The group broke up before the end of the tour and Clapton was playing with D&B and planning the solo album.

I also include this post from the Winwood Fans newsletter, written by David Pearcy, who has a very interesting web site.

Greetings All,
It was with great sadness that I woke up this morning to the
newspaper story that singer/singwriter/music legend Delaney Bramlett
died Saturday morning from complications of gallbladder surgery. He
was 69.

dbhendrix

The list of music luminaries that he worked played and recorded with
is long. He wrote “Let It Rain” for Eric Clapton and produced Eric’s
first solo album in 1970. He taught George Harrison how to play
slide guitar (he told me that himself) and even took George on tour
with the Delaney & Bonnie and Friends group for which George thanked
him by giving him the one of a kind Fender Telecaster that George is
seen playing in the rooftop concert at the end of the “Let It Be”
movie.
I met Delaney in 2002 in Nashville when he came to town to sing
backup (along with ex-wife Bonnie) at daughter Bekka’s CD release
party at a small club in Nashville.(the first time the two had
performed together in 25 years).
I went down that afternoon hoping to catch them rehearsing and
entered a propped open side door and there he was.I introduced
myself and gave him a couple of photos from the day Jimi Hendrix sat
in with Delaney’s band 1969 at a gig in Los Angeles. Delaney was
visibly moved. He held the color photo to his chest and said, “This
is just a joy.” He thanked me and he and Bonnie signed my copies and
I gave them both copies. He even gave me his email address and phone
number (how cool is THAT?) and we talked a couple of times on the
phone. He sent me a copy of his unreleased new CD (he had no record
deal at the time) and I hooked him up with the people at XM Satellite
Radio and they interviewed himon the air and put his new music into
rotation on the Blues and Classic Rock channels.
He talked of coming back to Nashville to visit and coming by my home
to teach my son (a young musician) the rudiments of slide guitar).
To see the photos he and Bonnie signed for me go to my website and
click on the “Autographs” link and scroll down.There is also the
link to his website in the links section.
http://www.jimihendrixonline.com
David




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