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 mainly 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.
1. Sail On
2. Sun's A-Risin'
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.
In 2016, a newly remastered 45th Anniversary edition of Going Back To Colorado was issued (Sunset Boulevard SBR-7900), featuring bonus tracks and a second disc titled Leaving Colorado. The remastering substantially improves the album, giving it a crisper, cleaner sound that helps it seem less distant and more contemporary. Most of the bonus tracks on both discs are muddy and informal studio jams that go on forever. "Bolin Surf Strut" is the best of those, a surf-rock instrumental that is really a full-band effort, and doesn't disappoint. The three tracks with "71" in their titles are live tracks, but were not necessarily recorded in 1971. A wild rendition of Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has A Master Plan" is the most interesting of those, and it features a wild echoplex solo from Bolin.
1. Going Back to Colorado
2. Miss Libertine
3. Night Fades Softly
4. The Radio Song
5. See My People Come Together
7. Keep Me
8. Take My Love
9. I'll Be Right Here
10. At This Very Moment
Bonus tracks on 2016 reissue:
11. Mr. Sandman
12. Green Shoes
13. 3 Days On
14. New Colors
LEAVING COLORADO (bonus disc included with 2016 reissue):
1. Downtown Left Turn
2. Hard Chargin' Woman '71
3. Slap Myself
4. Cross The River '71
5. Bolin Surf Strut
6. The Creator Has A Master Plan '71
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.
1. The Grind
2. Homeward Strut
4. Savannah Woman
6. People, People
7. Marching Powder
8. Wild Dogs
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.
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)
Between 1996 and 2005, many posthumous Bolin recordings (most of them live) were issued on CD by a label called Tommy Bolin Archives, Inc, which was run by Bolin's brother Johnnie. One such release from that label that bears mentioning on this page is a live Zephyr album released in 1997, recorded during a 1973 club date in Boulder, Colorado, from a period in which Bolin was briefly reunited with his former band just before his time with the James Gang. This CD, titled Live At Art's Bar & Grill, May 2, 1973, finds Bolin and Zephyr in amazing form. Aside from the fascinating 11-minute jazz-fusion opus "The Creator Has A Master Plan", the band mostly avoided the directions they took on their second and third albums while performing this set, and returned wholeheartedly to the energetic blues-rock of their 1969 debut album. In fact, six of the ten songs are drawn from that album. Although the entire band comes across well, with Candy Givens' vocals and harmonica seeming more controlled than they did on the studio versions of these songs, Bolin's guitar is the standout ingredient. He excelled at straightforward blues licks, and was able to dazzle with showy guitar effects as well (particularly on the 13-minute closer "Hard Chargin' Woman"). "Somebody Listen" does sound suspiciously like early Zeppelin, but for the most part, Zephyr was able to avoid resembling that band too closely. The set's four-minute instrumental intro is consistent with the other blues-based material, as are the covers of Ten Years After's "Goin' Home" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Crazy 'Bout You Baby". If another Deluxe Edition of the 1969 Zephyr debut is ever issued (like the one from 2014, which also featured these versions of "Sail On" and "Hard Chargin' Woman"), then Live At Art's Bar & Grill would make a swell bonus disc.
1. Just Warming Up
2. Cross The River
4. Somebody Listen
5. Huna Buna
6. The Creator Has A Master Plan
7. Sail On
8. Crazy 'Bout You Baby
9. Goin' Home
10. Hard Chargin' Woman
For Record Store Day 2020, the Friday Music label issued a limited edition LP titled Tommy Bolin Lives, which compiled eight tracks that were previously released on six of the Tommy Bolin Archives CD's. The LP was pressed in translucent gold vinyl, and was limited to 1,000 copies. This LP serves as a sampler of what to expect on the dozens of Archives releases, and will help the listener decide how far they would want to delve into the series. For casual listeners, Tommy Bolin Lives will probably be enough, giving them adequate examples of the types of live performances, alternate versions, and other rarities offered in the series. The best tracks here are the stripped-down version of the James Gang's "Alexis" and a spruced-up remix of "Savannah Woman" that could have been a '70's radio hit. "Cucumber Jam" is a satisfying extended instrumental. For historical posterity, the opening performance of "Teaser" was purportedly the first song performed live by Bolin in the U.S. after he left Deep Purple in 1976. Although it's good to keep the memory of Tommy Bolin alive, Tommy Bolin Lives -- like the series it represents -- is mainly for diehard fans.
1. Teaser (from First Time Live)
2. Alexis (from Naked 1)
3. Cucumber Jam (from Snapshot: The Deluxe Edition)
4. Wild Dogs - Acoustic Demo (remix) (from From The Archives Volume One)
5. People, People (from Live From Ebbets Field)
6. Post Toastee (live performance from The Ultimate: Redux)
7. Savannah Woman (remix) (from The Ultimate: Redux)
8. Lotus (remix/edit) (from First Time Live)
See also Deep Purple , Zephyr "Heartbeat" (1982)