REVIEWS BY JIM SHERIDAN
Based on a 5 star system. All albums may be ordered through the Archives Catalog.
TOMMY BOLIN FROM THE ARCHIVES VOLUME I
* * * * *
(Available in stores only) The first, the finest, the one that started it all. The Bolin Archives put their best foot forward with the choicest performances and most pleasing sound quality. This CD has the balance and blend you expect from the musician who created the Teaser LP. Thorough packaging, acoustic ballads, blazing hard rock, jazz-fusion instrumentals; it is almost a more fitting follow-up to Teaser than Private Eyes was!!
TOMMY BOLIN FROM THE ARCHIVES - VOLUME II
* * * * *
Heavier on the acoustic material and on Tommy as singer and songwriter rather than as guitar virtuoso, but no less powerful than Volume 1. The track “Destiny,” featuring Cobham, Hammer and Bolin is an overlooked gem. The Zebra Records version is a noticeable sonic upgrade.
TOMMY BOLIN AND FRIENDS LIVE AT EBBETS FIELD 1974
* * * * *
Tommy Bolin as blues-rock guitar hero, unleashed in a way he never was on his studio recordings. The beefed-up triple percussion section propels him through his most aggressive playing; blues covers, jazz fusion, molten hard rock, and the first airing of “Homeward Strut.” Again, the Zebra Records version adds sonic quality. This CD is culled from the 2 nights of live performances at Ebbets Field in Denver that Tommy put together during the time he was in The James Gang. The band was basically the then defunct Energy, Jeff Cook, Stanley Sheldon, and Bobby Berge, and guests Archie Shelby and Russell Bizet. The format of these shows allowed Tommy to dominate with some of his most ferocious guitar work. Songs include “You Know You Know,” “San Francisco River,” “Shakin’ All Night,” “Walkin’ My Shadow,” “Born Under a Bad Sigh/Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Crazed Fandango,” “Honey Man,” and “Stratus.” 63 Minutes.
TOMMY BOLIN: THE BOTTOM SHELF
* * * *
While a few tracks are for the diehards only, others like the amazing live version of “Stratus” with Carmine Appice and the Good Rats, and the demo for “Marching Powder,” here entitled “Journey” are up there with Tommy’s best.
THE TOMMY BOLIN BAND LIVE AT EBBETS FIELD 1976
* * * *
This is Tommy as bandleader for the first time, really. He mixes Teaser favorites with some solo spots for drummer Narada Michael Walden and keyboardist Mark Stein. Very funky and very eclectic. This historic first lineup of Tommy’s solo band put on a high energy, unique live performance that not only showcased Tommy, but also now legendary Producer, Narada Michael Walden on drums and vocals, and original Vanilla Fudge keyboardist and vocalist Mark Stein. The band also included Norma Jean Bell and sax and vocals, and Reggie McBride on bass. Songs include “Teaser,” “People People,” “The Grind,” “Wild Dogs,” “Delightful,” “I Fell In Love,” “Marching Powder,” “Lotus,” and “Homeward Strut.”
THE TOMMY BOLIN BAND LIVE AT NORTHERN LIGHTS RECORDING STUDIO
* * * *
Tommy’s live concert recorded for WBCN Radio in September of 1976 at The Northern Lights Recording Studio in Maynard, Massachusetts. This performance is famous for it’s over the top, abandon filled rendition of “Post Toastee.” So now, enjoy the archives enhanced fidelity from this performance that is taken from the radio broadcast master that was given to the Archives by Carter Allan, Music Director of WBCN, and a huge Tommy fan. As with our other releases, big bad Bob Ferbrache has done his magic to provide the best possible audio package. If you have bought the bootlegs, you will now need the good version! The line up for the performance includes Johnny Bolin, drums; Norma Jean Bell, sax and vocals; Mark Stein, keys and vocals; and Jimmy Haslip, bass. The 58 minutes of songs includes “Post Toastee,” “Teaser,” “People People,” “Shake the Devil,” “Wild Dogs” and more.
ZEPHYR - LIVE AT ART’S BAR & GRILL
* * * * *
In many ways this is Tommy’s finest recorded live hour. The band effortlessly swings, rocks, and jams. The material from Zephyr’s first album appears here but is so turbo-charged that it is as if it was two different bands. Playful, intense, soulful; and the CD’s centerpiece “The Creator Has A Master Plan” legitimizes psychedelia.
ENERGY - RADIO BROADCASTS
* * * *
Tommy’s favorite band on a generous 2-CD slab of music. Only the low-fi sound quality keeps this monstrous heap of “jazz metal blues fusion” from being a five star, but Tommy’s guitar is always up front. Note the pre-Deep Purple versions of “Lady Luck” and “Goin’ Down.”
TOMMY BOLIN - ENERGY
* * * 1/2
Energy’s place was on stage, but their posthumous studio album contains many treats. From the blazing opening trio of “Red Skies,” “Heartlight,” and “Hoka Hey” to the cosmic excursions like “Sky Sail” and “Knife’s Edge,” this CD is a sleeper that gets better with each listen.
TOMMY BOLIN - IN HIS OWN WORDS
This 2-CD interview set is a music historian’s dream. If you’re intrigued by Tommy’s personality and want some insights into the man behind the music, this is a wealth of material. It contains no music, however.
TOMMY BOLIN - SNAPSHOT
* * * *
A compilation not unlike From The Archives Volume 2, it reveals the acoustic origins of several James Gang songs. Also included are a red-hot “tribute” to Weather Report on “Cucumber Jam,” and one of Tommy’s last studio recordings, “Gotta Dance.”
TOMMY BOLIN/APHONSE MOUZON - THE FUSION JAMS
* * * *
A carefree musical fling. Tommy and powerhouse drummer Mouzon warm up for the recording of Alphonse’s 1975 album Mind Transplant by blazing through some early drafts of “Homeward Strut,” some slow blues, the swing of “No More Crying,” as well as what would grow to be Deep Purple’s “Love Child.” The highlight is “The Real Thing,” sonically upgraded, a candid photo of Tommy at his improvisational best.
TOMMY BOLIN AND FRIENDS - EBBETS FIELD 1974 OUTTAKES
* * * 1/2
If you own the full Ebbets Field 1974, you have the best of the two nights of music, but these outtakes are still worthwhile. Tommy never played a song the same way twice. More fiery blues jamming but this CD is shorter than its big brother.
TOMMY BOLIN - TRIBUTE CONCERT 1998 FEATURING GLENN HUGHES
* * * *
One of Glenn Hughes’ finest recordings. Glenn leads a carefully chosen band featuring Johnnie Bolin through a string of Tommy’s favorites, including “Alexis,” “Getting Tighter,” “Teaser,” and others. If you have not heard Glenn since Deep Purple, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
COME TASTE THE MAN - VOLUME I
* * * *
A worthy overview of the Archives releases and a cool way to hear tracks usually NOT heard back-to-back in this order, with some of Tommy’s Own Words interspersed throughout. This sampler CD includes the otherwise unavailable Energy studio version of “Rock-A-Bye.”
TOMMY BOLIN - TEASER IMPORT
At last, the first Tommy Bolin solo album. It is a stone classic of major proportions. At last, it’s all Tommy, all the time! From rock to reggae to jazz fusion to ballads, the entire spectrum of Tommy’s stylings are contained on this album which contains an all star line up of great musicians. This album sounds as great today as the day it came out, and proves that Bolin could make the switch from free form music to commercial rock and still keep his integrity. All the songs here are now considered Bolin classics. If you are reading this and don’t own this album, well what are you waiting for???
TOMMY BOLIN - PRIVATE EYES (1976)
Tommy’s second and last official solo album was cut six months before his death. Again, all the songs on the album are now considered classics. Tommy’s answer to “Stairway to Heaven” and “Cocaine,” “Post Toastee” stands out as one of the seventies most outstanding AOR masterpieces. Unlike Teaser, Private Eyes was cut with the official Tommy Bolin Band which at that time included Norma Jean Bell, Reggie McBride, Mark Stein, and Bobby Berge. Sonically, it is not quite as diverse as Teaser, but is a great document of a great rock artist.
ZEPHYR (1969 self titled)
Zephyr, the self titled debut from the legendary Boulder band was Tommy Bolin’s major label recording debut. The band’s youth, and the limited nature of the recording capability, is somewhat apparent, as is lead vocalist Candy Givens’ flamboyant Janis Joplin fixation. Though barely 19 at the time of recording, Tommy’s precocious musical capability is very apparent on this album, in his playing AND his writing. He gets co-songwriting credit on 5 of the 8 cuts, including the album’s epic 7:43 opener “Sail On” and the equally grandiose closer, the 9:18 “Hard Chargin’ Woman.” “Sail On” travels all over the place, veering into heavy progressive rock/ jazzy sections that recall the Allman Brothers, Vanilla Fudge, and, interestingly enough, Deep Purple, in the wailing vocals and grandiose B-3 Hammond organ stylings. Fans of San Francisco acid-rock sounds will find this release very appealing. The blues are given an electrification of serious proportions! “Boom-Ba-Boom/Somebody Listen” begins with a VERY tasteful instrumental and leads into a Led Zep/“Since I’ve Been Loving You”-ish blues. When compared to anyone, Tommy is usually compared to Jimi Hendrix, but this work finds his playing and arranging perhaps closer to Jimmy Page and the British school of blues playing. However, one listen to the outro solo of “Raindrops” makes it clear that already his own distinctive playing voice had emerged.
ZEPHYR - GOING BACK TO COLORADO (1971)
The band’s second release, 1971’s “Going Back To Colorado” shows serious maturation on the band’s part in their playing as well as in the arranging and recording. This album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer producing and engineering. Tommy wrote or co-wrote 5 of the 10 tracks. Gone for the most part are the first album’s “epics”; this is a more concise, focused effort. The title track plays like a John Mayall blues, with Tommy’s pedal steel guitar(!) guiding the number along. The dramatic Jefferson Airplane-ish “Miss Libertine” follows. “Night Fades Softly” is classic psychedelia; a spoken poem surrounded by trippy effects becomes a jazzy torch song. “See My People Come Together” is the album’s centerpiece; this lengthy 6-minute Bolin composition showcases Tommy’s arranging complexity, ability to use effects to get the perfect sound, and his overall hot chops. Showbizzy, his other solo composition, points to his future heavy fusion efforts. He displays further acumen with acoustic 6- and 12- string guitar on other numbers on this successfully eclectic album.
BILLY COBHAM - SPECTRUM (1973)
Billy Cobham’s Spectrum comes from a completely different planet! Guitar For The Practicing Musician columnist Wolf Marshall wrote of Bolin’s playing on this album that “In the minds of many, it is the crowning achievement and the crux of his contribution, historically. The fact that Spectrum influenced the course of fusion, specifically jazz-rock music, is undeniable.” Drummer Billy Cobham and keyboardist Jan Hammer had come from John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra with a new sound in mind; they enlisted bassist Lee Sklar and the relatively unknown Tommy Bolin to join them. Though Tommy could not read music, the band fed him chord changes and melodies and let him take it from there, which he did with full force. This one is THE MOTHERLODE any fan of jazz, or of great drumming and great guitar playing, especially of the Beck/Satriani vein, will find this to be a true source of inspiration. Bolin’s rock roots keep the album from simply being “musician’s music” however; there are melodies and hooks aplenty amidst the whirlwind of jamming. It was, after all, this “jazz” album that got Tommy the offer of a solo deal as well as his gigs with the James Gang and with Deep Purple, and got accolades from Ritchie Blackmore to boot! Descriptions of this recording are, after a point, meaningless. It must be heard. It is equaled only by Teaser and Mind Transplant as a portrait of Tommy Bolin at the height of his powers.
ALPHONSE MOUZON - MIND TRANSPLANT (1975)
In 1973, Tommy had blown the jazz world away with his playing on Cobham’s Spectrum. In early 1975, he would do the same with Alphonse Mouzon on Mind Transplant, seen by many as "Spectrum II."
JAMES GANG - BANG (1973)
Leader Joe Walsh had left the Gang in 1971; it was not until 1973 that he recommended Bolin for the job of salvaging the floundering band. Their salvation was first evident on 1973’s Bang. The album opens with the slide-and Echoplex whoop that became one of Tommy’s trademarks, leading into “Standing In The Rain,” a riff-rocker that foreshadows Tommy’s “The Grind.” It is an interesting facet of The James Gang albums that the roots of songs on Teaser and Private Eyes can be found here first. It seems VERY clear that Tommy coached singer Roy Kenner on the way the vocals should sound from Bolin’s demos; the eerie “Mystery” could be Tommy singing. Bolin’s first vocal appearance is on the wistful “Alexis,” the precursor to Tommy’s “Lotus” in many ways. Roy Kenner’s vocals were rather similar to the sound of many singers of the time, falling into the Foghat/Doobie Brothers realm, lacking individual character this REALLY makes “Alexis” leap out at the listener. “Got No Time For Trouble” is very Grand Funk-ish but sports a GREAT acoustic solo from Tommy. “From Another Time” is a percussion-heavy number with moments from “Crazed Fandango” in there. Bang is loaded with great playing and writing.
JAMES GANG - MIAMI (1974)
The follow-up, Miami, is equally interesting. Tommy gets a few spotlights; the instrumental “Miami Two Step” is a Doc Watson-ish acoustic number with some slide careening in at the end, while “Praylude/Red Skies” lets Tommy dip as deeply into the jazz licks bag as he ever would with The James Gang. The latter track is actually a song Tommy bought with him from his previous band Energy, whose version of the track appears on From The Archives Vol. 1. The riff from “Teaser” has its roots in “Do It,” which contains some smooth slide work. “Spanish Lover” features Tommy’s lead vocals, a beautifully dreamy number that again stands out in the intensity and individuality of the singing this is the Bolin that Tommy fans look to hear. Two other songs that deserve praise for their majestic vision are “Sleepwalker” and especially “Head Above the Water,” which foreshadows “Wild Dogs.” These discs are both fully realized, atmospherically charged works that demand to be heard.
DEEP PURPLE WITH TOMMY BOLIN - COME TASTE THE BAND (1975 IMPORT)
With Tommy’s inclusion in Deep Purple. Thousands and thousands of new fans discovered Tommy. After all, Purple was one of the most popular bands of the seventies with their classic heavy rock sound. When Richie Blackmore quit for the first time leaving the band high and dry, Purple was desperate to replace him so they could carry on. Hard core Blackmore fans felt that that would be impossible! Then along came one of rocks all time guitar greats, Tommy Bolin, and carry on they did. Come Taste the Band was this lineups’ only studio album. Recorded in Munich Germany, the album features mostly music written by Tommy, all guitars played by Tommy, and a fact not known to many, bass played by Tommy, instead of Glenn Hughes! You see, Glenn was battling substance abuse problems at the time and missed a bunch of the sessions. So Tommy filled in on bass. It is reported that Glenn later re-cut his bass parts for some of the tracks. But as it turns out, the sonic shape of the album was heavily shaped by Tommy! Yes, they could carry on without Blackmore!
THE KING BISCUIT FLOWER HOUR PRESENTS DEEP PURPLE LIVE (1995)
A new release from the King Biscuit Flower Hour is, a double-disc set that is a godsend! The two-disc set contains a mix of new and old Purple, and shows the rather split nature of the band at the time. Tommy and bassist/singer Glenn Hughes wanted to move the band in a more funk/jazz direction, while mainstays David Coverdale, Ian Paice, and Jon Lord wanted to stick with the traditional hard rock of Machine Head-era Deep Purple. Despite their resistance to change, a changed band they were; this live set shows them to be very funky and playful! Song titles “Smoke On The Water/Georgia On My Mind” show that not everyone in the band was taking the “classic” Deep Purple cuts too seriously, and actually the older tunes don’t sound as well executed as the newer material. Songs like “Gettin’ Tighter,” with its funky breaks, and “Lady Luck,” with Tommy’s scorching slide solo, show that Purple had some great new sounds. Other highlights include Tommy shredding on the bluesy “Lazy,” the inclusion of his “Homeward Strut,” (mislabeled here as “The Grind”), the instrumental coda to “This Time Around,” and a lengthy “Tommy Bolin Guitar Solo” that really lets the man stretch out and strut his stuff; slide, hyper-speed soloing, funk jamming, and heavy riffing. The solo clocks in at ten-and-a-half minutes, allowing Tommy his say!
CHILL FACTOR - SOME LIKE IT COLD with Johnnie Bolin and John Bartle (1996)
Finally, Johnnie Bolin’s band with guitarist-songwriter John Bartle has released it’s first album! The Sioux City Iowa based quartet that includes Bob Birch on bass and Dave Napier on Sax has put out a compelling blues rock exercise that contains echoes of Tommy, The Allman Bros, and the Fabulous Thunder-birds. Songs include six Bartle originals, plus Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” John Bartle goes way back with Tommy Bolin. Whenever Tommy went home in the 70’s he would inevitably go down to a local club, and spend the night jamming with Bartle, and brother John.
THE 1996 TOMMY BOLIN TRIBUTE CONCERT CD AND VIDEO
“A tribute concert to put all tribute concerts to shame.” Tommy’s all time favorite band Energy gathers with Johnnie Bolin, and guitar greats Ralph Patlan, and Michael Reese to put an inspired, emotional technically charged concert in honor of Tommy in the month of his 45th birthday. Recorded, engineered and mixed by Bob Ferbrache from the 24 track digital recording. The CD includes “Teaser,” “People People,” “Shake the Devil,” “Wild Dogs,” “Red Skies,” “Crazed Fandango,” “Rock Me Baby,” “Dreamer,” “Homeward Strut,” and “Post Toastee.” 69 minutes.
THE 80 MINUTE VIDEO version of the August 25th Tribute Concert has plenty of treats in store for viewers. Multiple camera angles and beautiful digital sound make for a deluxe viewing experience. The quality of the video is film-like in that it offers a cinematic big screen feel, not to mention that there is a lot to behold in the concert. The awesome guitar playing of Ralph Patlan and Michael Reese is presented with lingering views of the fretboards. Finally, there is compelling video of classic Bolin-like guitar playing. The songs include “Teaser,” “People People,” “Shake the Devil,” “Wild Dogs,” “Red Skies,” “Crazed Fandango,” “Rock Me Baby,” “Dreamer,” “Homeward Strut,” “Post Toastee,” and bonus tracks “You Know, You Know” and “San Francisco River” (not on CD).
THE TOMMY BOLIN TRIBUTE DOCUMENTARY VIDEO
A 60 minute tribute video to Tommy featuring both footage of Tommy himself, and also interviews with those who knew him best. The video features classic Bolin live performances from the Archives, as well as tributes from such Tommy luminaries as Billy Cobham, Glenn Hughes, Narada Michael Walden, Jeff Cook, Stanley Sheldon, Tom Stephenson, Tommy’s brother and co-owner of the archives, Johnny Bolin. (Note: U.S. & International videos have identical content Only the video format is different.)