TOMMY BOLIN

Reviewed on this page:

The late Tommy Bolin, who died of a drug overdose in a Miami hotel room in December 1976, was a gifted guitarist probably best remembered for his brief tenure in Deep Purple. But Bolin participated in other artists' recordings as well, and recorded two solo albums before his death at the age of 25. The work that he left behind suggests that the world lost a major talent much too soon. Although Bolin was not a household name during his lifetime, he has deservedly acquired a posthumous following, and (decades after his passing) many CD's full of previously unreleased recordings have been issued. This page focuses on a few proper albums from Bolin's lifetime which were out of print in the U.S. at the time this page was created.



At the age of 18, Bolin began his recording career as the guitarist for the rock band Zephyr, and played on the first two of their four albums. The band's self-titled 1969 album Zephyr (often referred to as "the bathtub album" because of its cover art) offered a mixture of heavy metal, jazz, and blues, and was similar in some ways to the first Led Zeppelin album (released the same year). Bolin's guitar playing manages to show discipline, virtuosity, and flash all at once. So impressive was he that he often upstaged the band's intense frontwoman. The lead vocals of the late Candy Givens (who tragically drowned in a hot tub while under the influence of drugs in 1984) were sometimes over the top; the appeal of her Janis Joplin-like wailing may depend on your mood. But Bolin's excellent guitar playing makes Zephyr well worth discovering. Bolin also co-wrote five of the album's eight tracks.

Zephyr was remixed and remastered under the supervision of bassist David Givens and reissued on CD and mp3 in 2014 with four bonus tracks, and a Deluxe Edition (limited to 2,000 copies) was also issued with two discs of bonus live material. The second disc in this edition contains various live recordings, including two studio rehearsals, dating from 1969 to 1973. Although lo-fi in sound quality, these tracks offer plenty of splendid blues jams, providing a compelling showcase for Bolin's guitar talents in particular, and also giving a less shrill display of Candy Givens' vocals and harmonica playing than the studio album did. The third disc documents six songs from a June 1973 set at the small Tulagi's venue, near the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. Muddy sound quality gets in the way on this disc, but Bolin's playing during the long instrumental stretches is still fascinating, and Givens' vocals are again less obtrusive than on the album.


TRACK LISTINGS:

1. Sail On
2. Sun's A-Risin'
3. Raindrops
4. Boom-Da-Boom
5. Somebody Listen
6. Cross The River
7. St. James Infirmary
8. Huna Buna
9. Hard Chargin' Woman

Bonus Tracks on 2014 reissue:

10. Guitar Solo / Cross The River (Reed's Ranch, Colorado Springs, CO - July 3, 1969)
11. Jam (San Bernardino, CA 1971)
12. Uptown (To Harlem) [Boulder, CO 1971]
13. Sail On (Tulagi's - Boulder, CO June 19, 1973)


2014 Deluxe Edition Bonus Discs:

DISC 2: THE LIVE CUTS 1969-1973

1. Sail On (Live May 2, 1973)
2. Hard Chargin' Woman (Live May 2, 1973)
3. Uptown (To Harlem) [Rehearsal Studio 1971]
4. Jam Cats (Rehearsal Studio 1971)
5. Repent Walpurgis (A Tribute To Brian Jones) [Live July 3, 1969]
6. Guitar Solo / Cross The River (Live July 3, 1969)
7. Rock Me Baby (Live in Denver 1971)
8. Cross The River (Instrumental Section) [Live in Denver 1971]
9. Jam (Live in San Bernardino 1971)
10. I Can't Find A Way (To Say I Love You) [Live]

DISC 3: LIVE AT TULAGI'S (Boulder, CO - June 19, 1973)

1. Repent Walpurgis
2. Cross The River
3. Boom-Ba-Boom / Somebody Listen
4. Sun's A Risin'
5. Huna Buna
6. Sail On

On the second Zephyr album, Going Back To Colorado, the band turned away from blues rock and embraced a more mellow hippie sound straight out of the Southern California scene. It is hardly surprising that this was Bolin's last studio album with the band, because his guitar plays a much less prominent role this time around. The hard rock riffs are largely absent, in favor of lower-intensity folk-rock sounds. "Showbizzy" is the only real reminder of the first album. Givens comes across better on this album, wisely scaling down her Janis Joplin-like delivery to fit the lower-key backdrop. But Bolin only gets minor guitar showcases on "See My People Come Together" and "At This Very Moment". The acid-jazz of "Night Fades Softly" shows some creative spark. "I'll Be Right Here" gives the album a memorable emotional climax. (Side note: The male vocalist on "Take My Love" was the band's multi-instrumentalist John Faris; the male guest vocalist on "The Radio Song" was Buzzy Linhart). The hippie vibe of Going Back To Colorado makes it more dated than its predecessor.

Note: Going Back To Colorado is currently available as an mp3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Going Back to Colorado
2. Miss Libertine
3. Night Fades Softly
4. The Radio Song
5. See My People Come Together
6. Showbizzy
7. Keep Me
8. Take My Love
9. I'll Be Right Here
10. At This Very Moment


Between 1971 and 1975, Bolin worked with jazz-rock luminaries Billy Cobham and Jeremy Steig, and became the second replacement for Joe Walsh in the James Gang, playing on that band's Bang (1973) and Miami (1974) albums. After leaving that band, Bolin recorded the first of his two solo albums.

On Teaser, Bolin is aided by numerous well-known musicians, including Phil Collins, Jan Hammer, David Sanborn, Glenn Hughes (his soon-to-be-bandmate in Deep Purple), and Jeff Porcaro. As if he hadn't already proven his versatility, Bolin attempted several different types of songs on Teaser, usually with success. Alternating between hard rock songs ("The Grind", "Wild Dogs"), instrumentals ("Homeward Strut", "Marching Powder"), and even a cool jazz number ("Savannah Woman"), Bolin displays unique talent and virtuosity. Aside from a few forgivable moments of weakness (especially the standard rock ballad "Dreamer"), most of Teaser is both enjoyable and impressive.

Notes: In September 2012, the Teaser album was given a long-overdue remastering, and was reissued by 429 Records as part of two multi-CD collections: The Ultimate Teaser (which features two extra CDs with bonus tracks) and The Definitive Teaser Collector's Edition (which contained four bonus discs). Beware of a 2011 CD release titled Teaser Deluxe, which is not a reissue of the proper Teaser album. Instead, it contains alternate versions of the nine tracks, which are remixed working versions, as well as two versions of an instrumental called "Crazed Fandango". It's not a bad listen, especially during the instrumental stretches, but it's no substitute for the original.

Track Listing:

1. The Grind
2. Homeward Strut
3. Dreamer
4. Savannah Woman
5. Teaser
6. People, People
7. Marching Powder
8. Wild Dogs
9. Lotus


By the time Teaser was released, Bolin had joined Deep Purple to replace founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. At this time, the only original Purple members left in the band were keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice. The quintet was rounded out by Bolin, veteran British metal bassist Glenn Hughes, and future Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale. 1975's Come Taste The Band would be the only album Bolin would record with the band (excluding a few live albums that were released later).

Come Taste The Band was a good album, but not a great one. None of the songs are bad, but none of them are in the same class as Purple's earlier classics. "Comin' Home" and "Love Child" are the most memorable tracks. Bolin's guitar playing is excellent. Although he was less grandiose than Blackmore, Bolin was certainly impressive on his own terms. But when all is said and done, Come Taste The Band is not one of Deep Purple's best. The flaw may have been in the band's chemistry; if this lineup had stayed together longer, better albums may have resulted. But it wasn't to be: Bolin left the band to record his second and final solo album Private Eyes in 1976, and Deep Purple subsequently broke up (at least until 1984). Note: Come Taste The Band was reissued on CD in the U.S. in 2007, by the Friday Music label.

Track Listing:

1. Comin' Home -- (Bolin/Coverdale/Paice)
2. Lady Luck -- (Cook/Coverdale)
3. Gettin' Tighter -- (Bolin/Hughes)
4. Dealer -- (Bolin/Coverdale)
5. I Need Love -- (Bolin/Coverdale)
6. Drifter -- (Bolin/Coverdale)
7. Love Child -- (Bolin/Coverdale)
8a. This Time Around -- (Hughes/Lord/Bolin)
8b. Owed to 'G'
9. You Keep On Moving -- (Coverdale/Hughes)


See also Deep Purple

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