by John Herdt with Tim & Teri Martin

Albany, NY September 20, 1976: A Tight Show Against All Odds

It’s September 20, 1976. The Tommy Bolin Band is playing their third gig after lineup changes brought in Jimmy Haslip and Johnnie Bolin on bass and drums. It is the second of two consecutive nights opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the Albany Palace Theatre in Albany, New York.

Their show the previous evening had been less than they had hoped for due to sound problems, as well as the occurrence of the house lights being turned on during a spirited set-closing performance of “Post Toastee.” That show had a lot riding on it, as Columbia Records had arranged for a taping by King Biscuit Flower Hour. The band did their best, but had an uphill fight trying to make the most of it.

So it would seem that the band, here on the second night in the same venue and under much the same conditions, would have the opportunity for an uninspired night. In spite of the occasional burst of feedback and continuing problems with the stage monitors, the band turns in one of the best shows ever by this lineup.

The show opens with a take of “Teaser” that features tight drum work from Johnnie Bolin and a crafted jewel of a bass ride from Jimmy Haslip. Tommy and the band sound great as well, crackling with energy.

“People People” continues in the great groove the band is enjoying. Norma Jean Bell plays a strong sax solo, but Tommy’s strong singing and playing are dominant.

Next up is “You Told Me That You Loved Me,” and it’s reading here is best described as relaxed yet exuberant. The solo is very close to the album version, which is a highlight that makes this show a must-have for Tommy fans.

Mark Stein had opened the previous night’s performance of “Wild Dogs” with a wonderful keyboard intro, but on this night they transition without the intro, possibly to save time so their last song wouldn’t get cut off again. Tommy and the band make up for it by packing in extraordinary drama, resulting in a vital performance.

Tommy then introduces the band to what sound like a very sparse audience, a penalty of being stuck in the opening slot. The crowd warms up well, however, and the rest of the show is rewarded with increasing enthusiasm.

The version of “Shake the Devil” that follows highlights how comfortable Johnnie Bolin was becoming in the TBB drum chair. He leads the band through the song with power and confidence.

The previous evening’s rendition of “Post Toastee” had been affected by the surprise of the house lights coming on part way through, but tonight Tommy sings with authority and plays and excellent solo with some outstanding Echoplex flourishes.

New Orleans November 16, 1976:
Highlights of Champagne Party at Jazz City

The final lineup of the Tommy Bolin Band featured Mark Craney on drums and Max Gronenthal on keyboards and vocals. Tommy was playing extremely well and the future was looking bright heading into an opening slot on Jeff Beck’s tour.

In New Orleans Tommy celebrated with a significant quantity of champagne, which resulted in some stumbles, but also resulted in some outstanding and unique highlights not heard in any other Tommy Bolin Band performance. “Wild Dogs” has a wonderfully personal feel with dramatic quiet moments with gently stroked chords, leading into the solo that starts on slide, opening with a sequence of shrieking harmonics that sound like satellites dancing.

A significant feature of this take of “Shake the Devil” is that Tommy starts the lyrics by singing “You were born with a bad disposition,” matching the album version on Private Eyes, whereas most other Tommy Bolin Band performances started with “You were born to shake the devil.” And they say champagne isn’t a memory aid!

A powerhouse “Post Toastee” follows, which features a sensational Jimmy Haslip solo over Craney’s outstanding drums. The tension builds and then chills, leading into a breathtaking excursion from Tommy where he creates an almost visual sequence of slide and Echoplex sheets of sound. The ending of the existing audio fades out, but what remains is substantial and vital.