Blind Faith was Eric Clapton's fourth band in as many years, formed directly after the dissolution of Cream, almost by accident after a jam session with Steve Winwood while his own band, Traffic, was on hiatus. Their lone album has six tracks, the last of which takes up almost all of side two with relatively aimless Ginger Baker drum solos. Because the album had no hits and possesses easily the worst album cover of all-time (the kind that's so bad you hope prospective girlfriends don't even stumble upon lest you have to defend owning it), it's pretty easy to forget about its existence at all. Cream was great, Derek & the Dominoes had "Layla," and Blind Faith was just that side project in between that no one really cares about. At least, that's the narrative I had in my head.
I don't really know what I was expecting when I put this album on the other day. I knew what "Presence of the Lord" sounded like because it was on a Clapton compilation I used to have, and it's vaguely boring church-ish blues, so I guess my memory had falsely carried that over as the sound of the whole album. Nope. The first song, "Had to Cry Today," now strikes me as the first heavy metal song.
First, some timelines: Obviously this came out after Cream's entire career, and it's also after the first Blue Cheer album, the first Jeff Beck Group album, and the first Led Zeppelin album. But those all feel like distinctly hard-edged blues albums from which you can understand the advent of metal, but which don't fully feel like metal themselves. This is prior to Led Zeppelin II, all of Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple's In Rock (their first heavy album), and came out about the same time as the second Jeff Beck Group album, all of which are much closer to traditional metal.
As with any artistic debate like this, the precise transitive moment is tricky, if there even is one. It's like Descartes' old philosophical question of replacing every board in a ship with a different kind of wood, one by one. At what point is the ship made of a different kind of wood? How many of our hair follicles have to go gray before we officially have gray hair? It's both trivial and arbitrary to pinpoint, but fun and somewhat informative to try. At least as informative as any other argument about pop music really can be.
Anyway, this is my answer. This opening riff. This is the beginning of heavy metal. Crank it up, stretch out your devil horn fingers, make sure no one's looking, and bang the shit out of your head. And try to pretend it's not Steve Winwood's white-soul voice that you're doing it to.
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