Friday, April 3, 2020

Airto Moreira - 1970 - Natural Feelings

Airto Moreira
Natural Feelings

01. Alue 3:55
02. Xibaba (She-ba-ba) 4:35
03. Terror 9:45
04. Bebe 3:00
05. Andei 2:55
06. Mixing 4:25
07. The Tunnel 3:00
08. Frevo 2:35
09. Liamba 2:15

Bass – Ron Carter
Guitar – Sivuca
Percussion, Vocals – Airto
Piano, Organ, Harpsichord, Flute – Hermeto
Vocals – Flora

Recorded at A&R Recording Studios, New York.

Airto Moreira was born in 1941 in the small village of Itaiopolis - south Brazil, and was raised in Curitiba. Even before he could walk he would start shaking and banging on the floor each time the radio played a hot song. This worried his mother, but his grandmother recognized his potential and encouraged him to express himself. By the time he was six years old he had won several music contests singing and playing percussion. The city gave him his own radio program every Saturday afternoon. At thirteen he played his first paid engagement and became a professional musician. After that he worked in local bands playing percussion, drums and singing. At the age of sixteen he moved to São Paulo and soon was performing regularly in night clubs, shows and television, as well as touring with prominent artists.

In 1965 he met singer, Flora Purim in Rio de Janeiro. Flora moved to the USA in 1967 and Airto followed her shortly after. When in New York, Airto began playing with jazz musicians. It was bassist, Walter Booker that introduced Airto to the greats - Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan, Paul Desmond and Joe Zawinul, to name a few. Zawinul recommended Airto to Miles Davis for the "Bitches Brew" recording session in 1970… the iconic album that changed the face of jazz. Davis then invited Airto to join his group, which included such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea and later John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett. He remained with Miles for two years and appears on such releases as "Live/Evil", "Live at the Fillmore", "On the Corner", "The Isle of Wight" and later releases including the "Fillmore Sessions".
Following his stint with Miles, Airto was invited to form the original Weather Report, a group with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Miroslav Vitous and Alphonse Mouzon with whom he recorded "The Weather Report". Soon after, he joined Chick Corea's original “Return to Forever” band with Flora Purim, Joe Farrell and Stanley Clarke and they recorded the albums, "Return to Forever" and "Light as a Feather", touring extensively around the world.
In 1974 Airto formed his first band in the USA called "Fingers" with Flora Purim. Since then, they have performed constantly all over the world and recorded their own albums for major record companies in Europe and America. Airto remains one of popular music's most in demand percussionists. His collection of instruments, along with his knack for playing the right sound at the right moment has made him the first choice of many producers and bandleaders. His work with Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Gil Evans, Gato Barbieri, Michael Brecker, Dexter Gordon, The Crusaders, Chicago, and many others including contributions to movie sound tracks such as The Exorcist, Last Tango in Paris, King of the Gypsies and Apocalypse Now, represents only a small number of the musical contributions Airto has made over the last four decades.
His impact was so powerful that the leading jazz magazine “Down Beat” added the category of percussion to its reader’s and critic’s polls, which he has won over twenty times since 1973. In the past few years he was voted number one percussionist by Jazz Times, Modern Drummer, Drum Magazine, Jazziz Magazine, Jazz Central Station's Global Jazz Poll on the Internet, as well as in many European, Latin American and Asian publications.

As a member of the "Planet Drum" percussion ensemble, he has advanced the cause of world and percussion music together with Mickey Hart, drummer of "The Grateful Dead", master conga player Giovanni Hidalgo and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, along with Flora Purim, Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju and Vikku Vinayakram. In 1991 the Planet Drum project won the Grammy Award for World Music. Airto also contributed to another Grammy Award winning ensemble, "Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra", which received the award for Best Live Jazz Album. In addition, Airto's song "Samba de Janeiro" was remixed by the Bellini Brothers and landed at Number 1 on the dance floor in 27 countries across Europe and Japan for three months.
Airto's recording for European based label Melt 2000 called "Killer Bees" features Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Mark Egan and Hiram Bullock; was one of the most critically acclaimed albums on the European market. Other releases on this label include the group "Fourth World" with Jose Neto, Gary Meek and Flora Purim.

In 2001 when Airto recorded with Japan’s renowned Kodo group, he contributed with two of his compositions: "Maracatu" and "Berimbau Jam". The song "Maracatu" was chosen to be one of the official songs for the 2002 World Cup in Asia to open the ceremonies for the event in Japan.

In September of 2002, Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso inducted Airto Moreira and Flora Purim to the "Order of Rio Branco", which was created in 1963 to formally recognize Brazilian individuals who have significantly contributed to the promotion of Brazil's international relations.

For three years Airto was a professor at the Ethnomusicology department of UCLA, and broke new ground in musical concepts and creative energy. In 2006 he was featured on Chick Corea’s five cd box-set entitled “Five Trios” along with bassist Eddy Gomes. He also composed and performed with the help of Gil Evans, a project called “Brazilian Spiritual Mass” with the WDR Philharmonic Orchestra in Cologne Germany. Airto was also a featured guest of the Boston Pops Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he performed a piece called “Pela Floresta” inspired by the Brazilian Amazon forest.
Airto is presently promoting his new solo album release called “ALUÊ” which he recorded and has already toured in Brazil, featuring his daughter, Diana Purim on vocals. They are currently preparing for upcoming performances in Europe and the USA.

Ginger Baker's Air Force - 2015 - Do What You Like

Ginger Baker's Air Force
Do What You Like

01. Let Me Ride 4:26
02. I Don't Want To Go On Without You 4:01
03. You Wouldn't Believe It 5:45
04. Do What You Like 33:06
05. Airforce Jam 7:29

Baritone Saxophone – Bud Beadle
Bass – Colin Gibson (tracks: 4, 5), Rick Grech (tracks: 1 to 3)
Congas – Speedy Acquaye
Drums – Elvin Jones (tracks: 4), Ginger Baker
Guitar – Denny Laine (tracks: 1 to 3)
Organ, Guitar, Vocals – Kenny Craddock
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Steve Gregory
Vocals – Aliki Ashman, Diane Stewart
Vocals, Organ, Alto Saxophone – Graham Bond

Track 4 includes Drum Battle with Elvin Jones.

Tracks 1 to 3: Studio Outtakes, October 1970.
Track 4: Recorded Live at the Lyceum, London (UK), February 1, 1971.
Track 5: Recorded Live at the City Hall, Sheffield (UK), December 7, 1970.

After Ginger Baker wrote music history with Cream and Eric Clapton broke up the successor band Blind Faith after only one LP and a U.S. stadium tour, Baker had the financial backing to set off on his first solo project. 'Ginger Baker's Air Force' began in 1970. It was Ginger's idea to mix the music of his African roots with popular Western music. It was to become the first 'World Music' band in music history, long before this music category even existed. The last tour began on January 29, 1971 in Leeds and the next day Air Force played in the 'Lyceum' in London, where the long awaited meeting between the two great drummers Elvin Jones & Ginger Baker took place. After Air Force had played for a half hour, Elvin came on stage and played 'Aiko Biaye' with Baker. 'Do What You Like' followed, during which Ginger and Elvin delivered a drum battle of the highest quality. On February 20, 1971, Air Force gave its last concert in England. Ginger Baker's Air Force had become music history after just 14 months.

Ginger Baker never wanted to be thought of as simply a rock drummer. And on Feb. 1, 1971, at the Lyceum in London, he got a definitive chance to measure himself outside of the genre. That's when he faced off against jazz legend Elvin Jones in a legendary drum battle.

Baker arrived with no small amount of bravado. "I do have a God-given gift that only a few drummers have – and it is a gift, it's not something you can work at," Baker once said. "Keith Moon? John Bonham? No, I wouldn't put them in the same frame. They were drummers, but they weren't in any way exceptional in my opinion."
Still, how would Baker fare against a musician who had held his own amid the torrent of John Coltrane's saxophone? And how'd this unlikeliest of pairings ever come to be?

Seems a writer for Life magazine played "Do What You Like," a song from Baker's post-Cream band Blind Faith, for Jones – and he'd clearly heard of Baker's own jazz-leaning aspirations. The article, titled "Elvin Jones' Kinesthetic Trip," included some cutting criticism directed at Baker. "Nothing's happenin'," Jones told Albert Goldman. "Cat's got delusions of grandeur with no grounds. They should make him an astronaut and lose his ass." Perhaps worse for Baker? Jones also heaped praise on Moon in the same piece.

Baker apparently intimated that Jones – then in his forties – was too old to play anymore. Later, as momentum grew toward the drum battle, Jones was said to have issued a more direct challenge. "Baker had better put his drums where his mouth is," Jones reportedly said during a performance at Ronnie Scott's, a prominent London jazz club

By this point, Baker was leading his own all-star group, Ginger Baker's Air Force. The band included Baker's recent Blind Faith bandmates Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, as well as Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Wings), Alan White (Plastic Ono Band, Yes) and Chris Wood (who'd been in Traffic with Winwood), among others. A 1971 tour, which began on Jan. 29 in Leeds, brought Baker to the Lyceum a few days later, and a date with musical destiny.

Air Force played for about a half-hour before Jones took his place behind a simple Gretsch four-piece kit. Baker introduced him, with a flourish of generosity, as "a man he'd admired since he was a boy." They then launched into an explorative, 20-minute take on "Aiko Biaye," a Nigerian folk song that has remained in Baker's set list for decades. At that point, they were playing in tandem. The pair then tangled more directly throughout the course of "Do What You Like" – an ironic moment, considering the song's central placement in this feud.

Commentators back then seemed of two minds on who emerged victorious, with jazz writers choosing Jones while rock scribes sided with Baker. Fans of both genres got to make up their own minds when the drum battle finally emerged as the title track from an archival Air Force release in 2015. (Jones died in 2004.)

Baker, for his part, said he did more than hold his own. He proved he belonged among jazz's leading lights. "I battled Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Phil Seaman, Max Roach and Tony Williams," Baker said years later. "Bonham played in [Led] Zeppelin. If he was still alive today, ask him! How I am grouped with Bonham and Moonie is laughable."

Jones and Baker memorably hugged at the end of their battle, prompting Melody Maker to publish a headline trumpeting "A Truce!" Unfortunately, Ginger Baker's Air Force broke up at the end of their 1971 tour, performing for the last time in England on Feb. 20.

Ginger Baker's Air Force - 2010 - Live In The Stadthalle Offenbach Germany 1970

Ginger Baker's Air Force 
Live In The Stadthalle Offenbach Germany 1970

101. I Got The Answer
102. We Free Kings
103. Don’t Care
104. Early In The Morning
105. Sunshine Of Your Love
106. Toady
107. Let Me Ride

201. 12 Gates Of The City
202. What A Day
203. Aiko Biaye
204. Do What You Like

Bass – Colin Gibson
Congas – Speedy Acquaye
Design, Layout – Martyn Lewis
Drums – Ginger Baker
Saxophone [Sax] – Bud Beadle
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Steve Gregory
Vocals – Aliki Ashman, Diane Stewart
Vocals, Organ, Guitar – Ken Craddock
Vocals, Organ, Saxophone [Sax] – Graham Bond

Sanctioned by Ginger Baker.
The recordings featured in the Official Ginger Baker Bootleg Series are sure to become collector's items.

This live recording is one of several releases based on the private archives of legendary drummer Ginger Baker, which finally see the light of day. Although not intended for a formal release and suffering from "bootleg" sound quality problems, the musical importance of this material is so significant, that it overshadows any technicalities and is essentially a Godsend. This album brings a live recording of Baker's revolutionary Jazz-World Fusion ensemble Air Force, which he founded following the demise of Cream. Air Force recorded only two albums during its short life-span, and any additional material by the band is invaluable. Baker assembled a formidable group of top British Jazz players of the period, augmented by African vocalists and drummers. The fact that this album features the talents of the legendary saxophonist / organist Graham Bond is alone worth the price, but other great players are also present: organist / guitarist Ken Craddock, saxophonist / flautist Steve Gregory, saxophonist Bud Beadle, bassist Colin Gibson and others. The material is similar to the material present on the two Air Force albums, but several surprises are heard here for the first time, like the group's version of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love". Most of the pieces include extended improvised parts, with the saxophonist taking solos in tandem. Definitely worth investigating, provided you're not squeamish about sound quality.

Well, the liner notes are honest. This is a true bootleg-probably some stoner standing with his tape deck held high over his head. This is a good performance overall, but if you're looking for instrument separation and clear vocals, I'd probably have you take a pass on this. This is not the band line-up that recorded the GB Air Force record in '70. Winwood & Gretch (his Blind faith partners) are both absent. This is a very raw recording. For die-hards, I'd say pick-up a copy. It is a solid performance. My only issue is the sound quality. As a side note, the price was fair and there's a lot of music for your buck over 2 discs with plenty of jamming. You be your own judge. I'm just offering a heads-up for any audiophiles out there thinking about it.

Ginger Baker's Air Force - 1971 - Air Force 2

Ginger Baker's Air Force 
Air Force 2

UK / USA version

01. Let Me Ride 4:22
02. Sweet Wine 3:34
03. Do U No Hu Yor Phrenz R ? 5:40
04. We Free Kings 4:22
05. I Don't Want To Go On Without You 3:56
06. Toady 9:45
07. 12 Gates Of The City 4:05

German, French, Australian and New Zealand version

01. We Free Kings 4:57
02. Caribbean Soup 3:10
03. Sunshine Of Your Love 5:49
04. You Wouldn't Believe It 3:42
05. You Look Like You Could Use A Rest 5:41
06. Sweet Wine 3:34
07. I Don't Want To Go On Without You 3:56
08. Let Me Ride 4:23

Bonus Tracks From The Same Recording Sessions on CD

08. Sunshine Of Your Love 5:46
09. Caribbean Soup 3:06
10. You Wouldn't Believe It 3:41
11. You Look Like You Could Use A Rest 5:37
12. We Free Kings (Alternate Take) 4:53

Alto Saxophone, Organ, Piano – Graham Bond
Baritone Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Bud Beadle
Bass – Colin Gibson, Rick Grech
Drums – Ginger Baker
Drums [African] – Neemoi (Speedy) Acquaye
Guitar, Vocals – Denny Laine
Percussion – Rocki Dzidzornu
Piano, Organ, Guitar, Vocals – Ken Craddock
Producer – Denny Laine, Ginger Baker, Graham Bond, Rick Grech
Saxophone, Flute – Harold McNair
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Steve Gregory
Vocals – Aliki Ashman, Catherine James, Diane Stewart

Recorded at Trident Studios, London and Olympic Studios, London betwee May and October, 1970.

Denny Laine took "Go Now," a Larry Banks/Milton Bennett tune originally cut by Bessie Banks and the Jelly Beans, and made it his own with the Moody Blues. That Ginger Baker's Airforce has Laine cover the Drifter's "I Don't Want to Go on Without You" is very clever, and a hint that this band was very serious about making a go of it. The Bert Berns/Jerry Wexler composition might have been a bit too soulful for Top 40, while Graham Bond's rendition of Roebuck Staple's "Let Me Ride" is beyond soul, it's rock-gospel and genuinely great. Here Ginger Baker is far more restrained than he was in Cream, and fans of his former supergroups seeing this Airforce album with its childishly psychedelic cover probably had no idea what was inside. Laine's guitar is a tremendous contribution -- as this is Laine in his prime, post-Moody Blues and pre-Wings. Cream's "Sweet Wine" has a majesty here with the lead vocals of Aliki Ashman accompanied by Diane Stewart and Catherine James. Although Laine is listed as an "additional personnel" along with Rick Grech, Harold McNair, Rocki Dzidzornu, and Catherine James, Laine makes three appearances. On an album with seven tracks, that's pretty significant. "Do U No Hu Yor Phrenz R?" is pretty much this version of Ginger Baker's Air Force and the music is solid on the Baker original. Horns and keyboards combine and sway to the lilting vocal -- a very expressive and well-constructed track -- leading one to think maybe Baker wasn't the madman he portrayed, or at least that there was a method to his madness. His other contribution to side one is "We Free Kings" which weaves percussion and flute with the jazzy vocals of Ashman and Stewart. There are solos galore by Bud Beadle on saxes, Steve Gregory, and Graham Bond. The barely audible lyric sounds like something about Lady Godiva, togetherness, and happiness. Nice pyschedelic '60s sentiments, except that the '60s were over. "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall" can be clearly heard, making it obvious that this song is about the music, and the music is refreshingly intact and enormous. Baker's excess has to emerge on at least one track, and his drums are all over "Toady," of course, which is like a "Son of" "Toad" from the previous live album produced by Jimmy Miller. Baker does the production work here, and after eight minutes and 21 seconds of "Toady"'s haunting vocal and piano, Bond's "12 Gates of the City" concludes the disc. This material was clearly as hip as Eric Clapton's Layla album, just not as commercially organized or executed. There is no doubt that Derek & the Dominoes contained a special magic elevating those performances and songs to a sacred realm, but something should be said for the honesty and purity of Ginger Baker's Air Force 2, and if it is too musical and avant garde for an audience that embraced Clapton, it should be commended for its sense of adventure and elegance. "12 Gates of the City" is a delight, swimming with sounds from the Arabian nights and the swamps of New Orleans, a sublime and uncharted mix that sounds better years after it was recorded. A timeless, yet pretty much forgotten record which deserved more FM airplay in its day than it got.

As most fans are aware, there are two versions of this record, with the much rarer version being the more interesting.  The rarer (non-US/UK) version, judging by writers credits for Laine, Grech, and McNair, seems to be a collection of tracks put down in late spring / early summer.  It would seem that the aforementioned trio walked out, leaving Baker scrap those tracks in favor of replacement Baker and Bond compositions, and much lesser-known replacement musicians.

"Let Me Ride", "Sweet Wine", and "I Don't Want to Go On Without You" are common to both sets, and are the highlights in both cases.  The earlier version of "We Free Kings" is longer, and preserves a tempo closer to the Christmas carol it's derived from.  McNair's instrumental "Caribbean Soup", as the name implies, has a breezy island feel unlike anything else the group (in all its various incarnations) ever waxed.

The GBAF version of "Sunshine of You Love" is a bit too long and unstructured in relation to their other Cream cover, and "You Wouldn't Believe It" is pretty much a throwaway.  "You Look Like You Could Use A Rest", though, while beginning and ending as a mundane pop-song, has an inspired, jazzy middle section that could easily have been stretched out in the same manner as the earlier live album tracks.

As is to be expected when a fair percentage of your band quits, the replacement tracks penned by Baker have a decreased level of inspiration.  "Do U No Hu Yor Phrenz R?" is likable fluff.  "Toady" is less-likable fluff, serving (as its name suggests) as a vehicle for an extended drum solo in lieu of better material.  At this point, it seems as if Baker was attempting to save the set from rejection by the label.

As others here have noted, the one replacement track to stand out is Bond's "Twelve Gates of the City".  Interesting more for Bond's growing interest in religious mysticism and occultism than for it's lyrical content, it is nevertheless bolstered by Bond's earnestness, and sense of melodic adventurism.

Perhaps my infatuation with the rarer tunes is just that. A product of hearing material which, for me, is new, in relation to songs I've known for years.  I'd rate the rarer version maybe a half-star higher, but it would be balanced by the loss of Bond's inventive closing piece.

For the German issue with 1st vers. of track list.
This issue has a significantly different track list, with more than half the tracks either completely different or re-recorded versions. I can best describe this album as soul influenced, prog flavored rock featuring extensive use of brass and reeds, along with some soulful female backing vocals. What I think I was missing the last time I heard the other version so many years ago, is that this has a fairly decent, heavy sound running beneath all of the brass (which I am still not the biggest fan of, though I am mellowing somewhat). The cover of the Cream classic started out almost laughable to these ears, but as it proceeded, I found myself conceding that it was actually pretty good, and then good, and then very good, despite the horns. I really must question the wisdom of trashing most of these tracks in favor of those on the newer version, and yet retaining something such as "I Don't Want to Go On Without You", which I found rather awful. Bottom line: significantly superior to the second version track list.

For the U.S. issue with 2nd vers. of track list
Hearing this version of the album all those years ago, I was significantly underwhelmed. After all, Baker was fully 1/3 of that incredible underground blues/rock band Cream. Shouldn't this later work bear at least some resemblance? But I rated it as I heard it, and didn't often go back for more. Then I heard about the alternate track list and had to investigate. What a difference! Though somewhat similar in style, the overall thrust of the album was substantially altered. While it may not have been anything close to Cream, I could surely find some solid material to enjoy on it. So I went back to this issue while the other was still fresh, to compare and see if indeed my taste has changed, or if the two versions really were all that different. A little of the first, and much, much more of the second. What they did by substituting the original tracks with these was to almost totally shift this into strong, funky soul/rock territory, with extensive use of horns, sax and soul-ish female vocals. Though I did bump a few of my original track grades on this one up somewhat, I'm going to stand by my opinions: The original version of this is a solidly good album. The second version struggles to reach pretty good zones. It's off the pace of their debut. It's still progressive, but I recommend seeking out the first attempt.

Ginger Baker's Air Force - 1970 - Ginger Baker's Air Force

Ginger Baker's Air Force
Ginger Baker's Air Force

01. Da Da Man
02. Early In The Morning
03. Don't Care
04. Toad
05. Aiko Biaye
06. Man Of Constant Sorrow
07. Do What You Like
08. Doin' It

Alto Saxophone – Graham Bond
Bass, Violin – Rick Grech
Drums – Ginger Baker
Drums – Remi Kabaka
Guitar, Vocals – Denny Laine
Percussion – Phil Seamen
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Chris Wood
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Harold McNair
Vocals – Jeanette Jacobs
Vocals, Organ – Steve Winwood

On a purely musical level, Ginger Baker's Air Force was arguably the pinnacle of the legendary drummer's achievements of the 1960s. Even allowing for the many and varied virtues of the Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, and Blind Faith, they didn't approach the breadth or ambition that characterized the Air Force sound. Sadly, despite their prodigious musical attributes, Ginger Baker's Air Force are mostly remembered in the music business as one of the great non-starters among the heavily press-hyped supergroups of the late '60s and early '70s. Air Force essentially grew out of Ginger Baker's six-month stint with Blind Faith, a supergroup that collapsed after generating one album and finishing one tour. Baker's ex-Cream bandmate Eric Clapton abandoned that venture in favor of the vastly different (yet more rewarding) musical styles of Delaney & Bonnie, but Baker persuaded Steve Winwood and Rick Grech, the other members of the band, to stay on with him. Baker planned to put together a new band that would explore music on a new scale, and in new directions than Blind Faith or Cream. The projected band, christened Air Force, would embrace jazz, R&B, blues, folk, and African music.

Baker's old bandmate Graham Bond came aboard on saxophone, joined by legendary jazz drummer Phil Seaman, whom Baker regarded as a mentor and inspiration, along with Traffic's Chris Wood, and Harold McNair, both on sax and flute. As a guitarist and singer, the new group featured Denny Laine, the former lead singer and guitarist of the original Moody Blues. Singer Jeanette Jacobs and African percussionist Remi Kabaka were also in the lineup that played two extraordinary gigs at Birmingham's Town Hall and London's Royal Albert Hall at the end of 1969. Baker's initial plan hadn't extended beyond the two shows, but the first one was so successful musically and critically that he began laying bigger plans, including the recording of the Royal Albert Hall show and keeping the band going. By January of 1970, events were starting to break both inside and outside of the band that would have a profound effect on its future. The reviews from Birmingham were so good that the Royal Albert Hall show turned into one of those press events that became the talk of the entire music trade in England and, by extension, America. The fact that the show had been recorded made it even better -- there was proof on hand that the press enthusiasm was justified. The recordings were extraordinary, with the Air Force thundering along amid blazing sax, organ, guitar, and bass virtuosity, fiery solos, and extended jams that, for a change, actually went somewhere, while three percussionists were busy all the way through playing several layers of rhythm. At its best -- and the Royal Albert Hall tapes were their best -- the Air Force's music was like this wonderful, huge array of Chinese boxes, each opening to reveal a smaller but more beautifully ornate box inside.

The live album Ginger Baker's Air Force was issued by Polydor in Europe and Atlantic Records in America. In keeping with the excesses of the times, Ginger Baker's Air Force was a double LP, an extraordinary debut for a band that had yet to play a regularly scheduled concert. Devised with artwork that seemingly reversed the design of the Cream Wheels of Fire double set, and released amid extraordinary press fanfare, the live album reached number 33 in America and 37 in England, a long way from Cream or Blind Faith's chart-scaling days, but not bad (or, at least, it wouldn't have been if Atlantic, in particular, hadn't pressed hundreds of thousands of copies more than would ever be needed, which turned Ginger Baker's Air Force into a perennial bargain-bin cutout in America) for a group that had only played two gigs. Those were the days of supergroups and all-star jams, all of them heavily advertised and discussed in the rock press, and Air Force, in contrast to a lot of their rivals, delivered the goods.

The biggest problem facing the group, however, was that three key members, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Chris Wood, left -- as Baker knew they had to -- in early 1970. Graham Bond took over on organ and vocals for Air Force, and new members Steve Gregory and Bud Beadle joined on saxes, while Colin Gibson took over on bass. Neemoi Acquaye came in on African percussion, and Catherine James, Aliki Ashman, and Diane Stewart sang. It was Baker's plan to be an old-style bandleader in the traditional sense, opening up Air Force to experimentation by the bandmembers while he hung back, concerning himself as much as possible with the drums. He hoped to play a role akin that which Count Basie or Duke Ellington did in their respective bands, with his members. The problem was that keeping an 11-piece group going was a difficult and expensive proposition under the best of circumstances, and without a hit single or a hugely successful album to their credit, it proved impossible for Baker and Air Force. In addition, bands like Basie's supported themselves by getting lots of outside work, supporting singers on record and in concert, even touring as part of rock & roll shows in Basie's case in the late '50s, to keep the money coming in around their less lucrative gigs; that was clearly not a role that Air Force were ever going to play. And Ellington had income from his huge and vastly successful songwriting catalog to guarantee him the money needed to sustain the band during the lean times, if there were any. Baker, by contrast, had only a tiny smattering of songs to his credit, none of them very successful on their own terms except to the degree that the Cream and Blind Faith catalogs kept selling. And then there was the American tour.

The assumption, based on the media blitz out of England, was the Ginger Baker's Air Force would be another Blind Faith, an arena act whose tickets would disappear as fast as they were put on sale. In point of fact, the new group was two or three times more complex musically than Blind Faith and a lot more surprising. Without Eric Clapton or Steve Winwood in the lineup with Baker, however, and without a single that clicked as a popular track on the radio, it was discovered that Air Force were a phenomenon that many potential ticket-buyers could pass up. The tour was in trouble from the start, and it got worse as advance ticket sales to vast halls were far below what anyone anticipated. The whole thing collapsed just about the time that the group was completing its second and final album. By the end of 1970, after a short tour and a very short spurt of press interest in Air Force 2 -- which had some rewarding moments, but was really little like the first album -- the second album disappeared without a trace, as did the Air Force. Baker went on to a career as a solo artist, starting with Stratavarious the following year, which featured a far smaller band and steeped in African rhythms, while Laine joined Paul McCartney's new group Wings and, after a rough start for the group, did a decade of arena shows and became a household name. Ginger Baker's Air Force lingered in the memory for one great album and one decent album, but also as a classic non-event. Their final indignity came in 1972 when National Lampoon released their comedy album Radio Dinner, one highlight being a commercial for "Greatest Hits of the '60s," with (supposedly) Bob Dylan as the announcer hawking it and Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force as two of the specific groups mentioned on the K-Tel-type record. In the late '80s, Polygram reissued the live album on CD, and that record, Air Force 2, along with Stratavarious, were later pressed as a double-CD entitled Do What You Like. Ginger Baker died on October 6, 2019 at the age of 80.

Ginger Baker wasn't happy about the way Blind Faith fell apart in late 1969, but he didn't waste any time moping; instead, he went and started a whole new band.

Standing in stark contrast to the power trio format he'd explored with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Cream — or the expanded four-piece employed by Blind Faith on their one and only album — Bruce went big for his next project, a huge 11-member outfit he called Ginger Baker's Air Force. As he insisted to Disc and Music Echo in the spring of 1970, it all happened because he was lied to by Clapton, who departed Blind Faith to join up with the band's onetime opening act, Delaney and Bonnie.

"I was very bitter after the U.S. tour with Blind Faith. You know, I was so shattered, I had to go away for two months' rest," said Baker. "When I came back, I had been led to expect that we’d tour Britain with Delaney and Bonnie second on the bill – which is where they belong. I’m afraid I have no respect for a band that has to resort to good old rock and roll to get an audience interested. Anyway, instead of that I came back to find that Eric had got into the D&B thing and there was no tour and no Blind Faith."

It was, according to Baker, another example of shoddy treatment from musicians he'd tried to help. "At the start, Cream was mine. I took a drop in salary to start Cream, whereas Jack and Eric took a step up. Cream was always my baby. Musically, it was great and I think we said all we could, the way things were at the time," he noted in the 1970 interview. "I'm not an easy person to get on with, I know, but I don't bear people grudges, and as I'd been talking about getting a big band together one day, I thought I might as well go ahead."

That big band received its introduction to record stores with Ginger Baker's Air Force, a two-LP collection of performances from the group's sold-out show at the Royal Albert Hall on Jan. 15, 1970. Released mere weeks later during the final days of March, it found Baker working with an illustrious lineup that included his former Blind Faith bandmates Steve Winwood and Ric Grech as well as ex-Moody Blues member (and future Wings guitarist) Denny Laine, U.K. R&B legend Graham Bond, and Winwood's fellow Traffic member Chris Wood.

Nearly 80 minutes long, Air Force blended original material with new arrangements of traditional songs, all of which were given plenty of room to grow; the shortest song on the album, a version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" featuring Laine on lead vocals, was the only cut to come in under four minutes, while five others passed the 10-minute mark. While traction at Top 40 radio was understandably hard to come by, the album itself performed respectably, reaching No. 33 in the U.S. and No. 37 in the U.K.

Telling Record Mirror he'd been imagining a project like this "for a long time," Baker insisted that as annoyed as he might have been by Clapton's defection, the Air Force's lineup came together easily and organically. "There didn’t seem to be much happening Blind Faith-wise," he recalled. "I got together with Chris and Stevie at the cottage, and a few sounds were very nice. Then Rick got interested, and I just got together a lot of people who could do it. They were all people I'd worked with before. I have difficulty getting my ideas over to some musicians, but not to these people; they sort of help."

Understandably reluctant to make any grand promises about longevity after the way Cream and Blind Faith had flamed out, Baker projected a casual attitude toward the Air Force's future prospects, telling Record Mirror it would "depend on circumstances." And as he explained in his conversation with Disc and Music Echo, the band had actually started out as something that was only supposed to last for a pair of concerts.

"We'd spent so much time rehearsing and we all had such a ball at the Albert Hall that everyone except Stevie Winwood and Chris Wood decided to carry on," said Baker. "It was a great surprise to me and a tremendous compliment. In fact I think it's the nicest thing that's ever happened. They're all friends of mine, but I knew they had their own things going for them, and I didn't think they'd want to stick. Their decision has given me an enormous amount of confidence — just at the time I needed it most."

Ultimately, however, Ginger Baker's Air Force would prove to be another short-lived outing for the mercurial drummer. After releasing Ginger Baker's Air Force 2 with a revamped lineup later in 1970, he left the U.K. to begin what ended up becoming a six-year stay in Nigeria, sitting in with Fela Kuti for a spell before joining up with Paul and Adrian Gurvitz to form the Baker Gurvitz Army for three albums later in the '70s.

That restless spirit, which has largely defined Baker's career during his brief tenures with various bands and sporadic forays into solo work, was evident even in the afterglow of the first Air Force album. "Of course I don't think I've reached my best yet. The day I don't move on I stop playing," he told Disc and Music Echo, incorrectly predicting he'd only keep drumming for another five years. "I'll have nothing left to give physically after that. I use both feet the way I play and to be honest it's shattering. After 35 or so, I won't he able to keep it up even if I want to."