Listen to this track by British R&B soul-jazz gurus The Graham Bond Organisation. It’s “Wade In The Water” a version of a traditional song that appears on their second, and final, album The Sound Of ’65, released that very year in March. The band consists of Bond on organ and alto saxophone, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor saxophone, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on the kit.
Along with Alexis Corner’s Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation (misspeling of Oxford English “orginisation” is deliberate, everyone …) was a very well-respected unit on the R&B scene in London from the early to mid 1960s. If the Beatles and the Stones were the bands that the record buying public loved, then Graham Bond and his compatriots were just as beloved by their musician peers on the London club scene. For a time, even future jazz-fusion innovator John McLaughlin was a part of the band on guitar. For those looking for pure chops and blues authenticity that was so sought after at the time, then these guys were it.
As short-lived as this band was, they helped to sow the seeds of the progressive rock and jazz-rock movements in Britain that would flourish by the end of the sixties and into the seventies. As influential as they were, there was much trouble at the root for these guys when it came to personal demons. Read more
Listen to this track by British power trio, “supergroup”, and hard-rock pioneers Cream. It’s their live performance of Robert Johnson’s 1936 song “Crossroads Blues”, a take on the song that also quotes another Johnson song, “Travelin’ Riverside Blues”, and showcases the three-way assault of each member of the band (For you stereo listeners: Bassist Jack Bruce to your left, drummer Ginger Baker just behind you, and Eric Clapton to your immediate right).
The song itself is a tale of an unnamed dread, a fear of nightfall and being out on the road alone. Many associate this song with the legendary and very often repeated tale of a deal going down at a crossroads in Misssissippi, where Robert Johnson is rumoured to have sold his very soul in order to become no less than King of the Delta Blues Singers. Johnson’s influence is certainly proven by this cover version, performed in March of 1968 at San Francisco’s famed Winterland Ballroom, a mecca of rock ‘n’ roll history. Cream scored a #28 hit with this rendition of the song.
But, what is the real story behind this tune, and the real source of dread hinted at in its lyrics? Is it the terror of a supernatural force, or is the threat the song’s narrator is alluding to more of a mortal concern? Read more
Listen to this track by bona fide, albeit short-lived, supergroup Blind Faith, featuring Steve Winwood (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Eric Clapton (guitar), Ginger Baker (drums), and Ric Grech (bass guitar). It’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” as taken from the band’s 1969 self-titled and sole LP Blind Faith, a folky and atmospheric gem that sits as a centerpiece to the record, and remains to be a celebrated track, covered as it was by acts as disparate as blues-rock maven Bonnie Raitt to No Wave band Swans.
For many, the era out of which this song and this group came presented new vistas in rock music, particularly those holding the purse strings at the major labels. In this case, it was three – Polydor, Island, and Atantic Records, distributed through the Atco label.
All the while, the name of the band was something of an ironic nod to the fact that for all of the hype and expectations surrounding it, the band members themselves knew that it was a union assembled informally and without much of a plan for world domination. Despite this, label support would roll out formal preparations for a tour and an album, counting their money as they did so in an act of, you guessed it, blind faith. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?