SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
By Eddie Williamson
(Note: Eddie is a major Tommy fan, and is a manager for Sharon Osbourne Management... yes that Sharon)
Now, this is a treat! From the Archives I am proud to present you with this brilliant set of Tommy Bolin material, After Hours: The Glen Holly Jams. Unreleased in the truest sense (ie. uncirculated and never-before-heard… till now), this compilation of loosely-arranged improvisations and after hours jams has the flavor of a glass of that sweet burgundy, these tracks having aged like a fine wine. Twenty-six years on his fiery playing remains remarkably fresh, allowing the listener a rare glimpse into the world of a turbulent artist at perhaps the peak of his powers. This is Tommy Bolin kicking back, playing for the sake of playing, and doing what he loved to do most. This is “The Kid” at home, lights low, Strat in lap, jammin’ into the night. In other words, pure, unadulterated Tommy Bolin music as you’ve never heard before!
Dating from the mid-1970’s with a cocksure (and with good fucking reason!) Tommy Bolin as yet unhindered by the drug abuse that would eventually extinguish his scintillating flame, these pure improvisational jams reveal Tommy in his element, surrounded by musician friends such as Stanley Sheldon and Bobby Berge who were familiar with, adapted to, and stoked his chameleon style. Like “The Kid” himself this material is loose, live, fun, and free-spirited. High up in the Hollywood Hills at Glen Holly Tommy’s instincts come alive on these discs, revealing the unfettered genius of rock’s forgotten golden boy. It is here more than on any other Tommy session I know of that you, the listener, are allowed access to his creative core to bear witness to his extraordinary gift. As a musician it was strikingly obvious to anyone who saw him play that he had “It.” But it wasn’t his awe-inspiring dexterity, remarkable as it was, that made him unique: many an axeman have had the ability to throw down all manner of trills, frills, and lace at the drop of a hat. What separated Tommy was his rhythmic sensibility and, moreso, his telepathic, “switched on” instincts. Stephen King may have written a book about it, but Tommy Bolin embodied what King called the “shine”: that rare quality of anticipation and prescience. As he said in an interview not long before his death in 1976, “I’d hear something on record or in my head, then eventually play it. But, it’s a subconscious thing…Most of the time I really don’t know what I’m playing.” As revered drummer Billy Cobham aptly noted in the liner notes to his recent retrospective, Tommy “could hear things in advance of playing them.” To wit, lacking the ability to read music, Cobham taught the fresh-faced, 21-year old Iowan the arrangements to the songs that would make up the groundbreaking Spectrum album and Tommy commenced to nail his parts in one or two takes. Listen to that classic album again that’s pretty much all improvisation! “The Kid” could play!
It was with genuine humility that I took on this project, cataloguing the many reels of tape that the fine folk at the Archives acquired last year from a close Bolin confidant and former owner of the Glen Holly Studio, Philip Polimeni. Stored away years ago and left sitting for the dust fairy, never circulating in the collector network, I navigated my own treasure hunt, at times thrilling, utterly boring (e.g. no Bolin on an entire reel, contrary to the box label) but always, at least for me, historic: “This shit has never seen the light of day!” I often pondered under headphones and the spell of a magical Tommy moment. Moreover, the fidelity of the recordings the sonics is more than a fan can ask for. Having acquired a stash of Bolin bootlegs over the years I was prepared for the worst but, alas, this cache of lost gems arrived and, to borrow one of Tommy’s oft-repeated lines, what I heard “blew my cookies”! The instruments ring crisp and clear in marvelous hi-fi stereo and our hero is never far from front & center, effortlessly thrusting his inimitable chops into a face-melting lead at one turn and then, ever the egalitarian, easing back into a moving rhythm passage with “the ultimate” finesse and moxie.
Listening back to these recordings after the sonic massaging and sequencing by the Archives’ own Bob Ferbrache I realized that Tommy was not by any measure a learned musician in the traditional sense. The great ones rarely are. Rather, he acquired his skills from simply absorbing the music around him, digesting and recombining it, then unleashing new crossover creations with incredible fluency, fluidity, and characteristic flair. “Practice isn’t doing scales but doing things like jamming with other people, or playing gigs,” he observed in 1976. Of course, practice makes perfect and, by all accounts, Tommy was never not within hand’s reach of a six-string but he was more than a student of his instrument. Like his hero Jimi Hendrix, the instrument seemed to play him. After a thorough sit-down with this set, you’ll better be able to grasp this oblique concept. Bolin just rolls and rolls and rolls, notes flowing like a river, always in command yet in tandem with his comrades on every level.
At any rate, as we know well by now, Tommy Bolin had “It” and unfortunately his Jekyll & Hyde personality ate him alive. He picked from the tree of plenty once too often, recklessly indulging his vices with horrifying consequence. But we are left with his music his beautiful, inspiring, ingenious music and the memory that once, in a time more innocent and less calculated, a spontaneous snake charmer named Bolin spellbound audiences with the grace and elegance of a prince.
Had he lived no doubt he would be the King.
Enjoy the Glen Holly Jams, People People! It’s a treat!
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