THE TOMMY BOLIN BAND LIVE 9/19/76
It’s September 19, 1976. The Tommy Bolin Band Mark 2 is starting a new tour, the band’s second ever gig, in Albany, New York. Their new label, Columbia Records is pulling out the stops to get as much promo set up as possible. Accordingly, various radio broadcasts are being arranged. This first night of the tour is to be a taping for King Biscuit Flower Hour’s, nationally syndicated radio series. DIR studios are there doing a 16 track recording. As the opening act for Blue Oyster Cult, Tommy does not get the sound check one would like to have for such a recording, so there are some feedback problems, guitar tuning problems and Tommy’s guitar is missing from the assigned track for the first part of Teaser. Also the band is so loud on stage, that there is bleed into the various microphones making the recording less than perfect. But that is where audio editing wizard Bob Ferbrache comes in. With advanced 21st century digital editing technology at his disposal, Bob has gone in and made this recording into a powerful document of a great musician. Perfect it is not, but that still doesn’t take away from the shear power of Tommy’s musical voice making itself very present. Fact is there have been very very few multi-track recordings found of Bolin live shows. This and Deep Purple in Japan are the only two to surface to date. This one has benefited nicely from the digital editing, mixing and mastering process making it an important CD for any true Bolin collector.
THE STAGE WAS SET...
By Johnny Bolin
I had been with the Tommy Bolin Band for about a month. Three weeks of rehearsal then to Denver for the “Big Gig in The Sky Mile High”! Returning to L.A. for a week then off on our 30-day tour of the states starting with the gigs in Albany, NY for two nights with legendary rockers, Blue Oyster Cult. Finding out that King Biscuit Flower Hour was recording was a little scary but it enhanced the excitement of our first gig. Business as usual. We got to see the tour bus and our new equipment for the first time, then to the hotel to unwind before the performance. There’s something to be said about being an opening act. First of all, no sound check, the lights, 1/3 of the monitors, small drum riser, no back drop, etc. Regardless of who you are or used to play with (Tommy AKA-Deep Purple).
We got there ready to rock. It was a huge old auditorium and the sound was real boomy but the show must go on. Back stage was the norm. Talking about the song list, arrangements and how we’re going to go on stage and kick what’s their names asses. BOC had opened for James Gang with Tommy in the past so we knew what to expect but we only had 30 minutes to rock and that’s what we did. We were to do two nights but cancelled the second show due to a conflict between the bands. These things happen but things did get better as time marched on.
Thank you and enjoy,
THE TOMMY BOLIN BAND LIVE 9/19/76 ALBUM REVIEW
By Jim Sheridan
While it is true that 1976 was a turbulent year for Tommy Bolin, when he was hot, he was red hot. A late September evening in Albany found him in strong voice and high spirits, and luckily the show was recorded to 16 tracks. If listening to the excellent recording quality of Deep Purple’s This Time Around has been making you wish that the tapes had been rolling to record Tommy on a better night, then wish no more: it’s here. The Tommy Bolin Band: Live 9/19/76 has that full live sound that moves air. You can feel the drum fills roll around your living room as if Johnnie Bolin had his drum kit set up behind your couch! The separation of instruments is definitely the cleanest and clearest of any live Bolin Band recording we have heard yet. While Mark Stein’s keyboard solos have always been loud enough, now you hear his rhythm parts equally distinctly. Here, Tommy Bolin is front and center, his voice on top of the mix rather than competing with sax and keyboards, and his guitar the loudest instrument. And best of all - the kid from Sioux City is ON.
This great mix of hot sound and inspired playing is clear from the get-go. “Teaser” features a variety of guitar textures and tones, from the nasty distortion of the opening riff to Tommy’s remarkably crisp and cutting funk rhythm in the mid-section. “People, People” is also a sonic treat - Norma Bell’s sweet sax is mixed just right, not too loud, so that her duel with Mark Stein at the coda shows how well Tommy’s band played off each other. Stein’s smoky keyboards on this song are some of his best ever; his tone is vintage. That song ends with Tommy doing his patented string rakes in synch with Johnnie’s drum rolls before easing into a sassy laid-back solo. Just as quickly, Johnnie Bolin saunters in with the drum beat that introduces “You Told Me That You Loved Me,” and Tommy dials in a perfect crunchy sound. His vocals here as throughout the whole CD are right on, as smooth and natural as his best studio sounds. You can tell the band feels it, too, as Tommy shouts out “You got it!” between lines. The band builds up with Tommy’s solo and then lets loose with a blazing jam on the end.
After some bantering band introductions in which Tommy explains that he is “the mystery guest,” the hard-hitting “Shake The Devil” is fired up. Norma Jean and Tommy belt out the chorus with gusto before delivering tight and tasty middle solos. At the end of the song, Norma takes your head off with her melodic rapid-fire runs, and Tommy responds by dipping into his Hendrix bag for an off-the-wall display of guitar firepower. While you may have heard this song before, you have not heard THESE licks!
Mark Stein takes his majestic keyboard solo next, a synthesizer work-out that leads into Johnnie Bolin’s drum spot. Johnnie shows that Tommy was not the only virtuoso in the family with a powerful display of pounding. Then it is back into the full band slam of “Post Toastee.” Knowing that it is the last song, Tommy puts some extra gusto into his singing, and again the band responds with high energy ensemble playing. Jimmy Haslip gets an exceptionally funky bass break-down in the middle of the song, playing against Tommy who slowly builds into his Echoplex lead. Tommy takes his playing in this section to frenzied heights, another example of his sending a solo off in a brand new direction. The band brings the funk back in to build to the song’s climax, and here Tommy pulls out some Albert King overbending, dipping in and out of key as the rhythm section tears it all up. Just when you think it can’t go any higher, the band drops out and Tommy takes a sweltering unaccompanied solo, working the dynamics of his guitar from a whisper to a scream. And then bang it’s over, and as with the best music, you are left both completely satisfied and hungry for more. Do yourself a favor go ahead and hit the “play” button again.
The great live recording quality Tommy has always deserved, the great playing you know he was capable of, the band completely in sympathy with each other, and some of Tommy’s most passionate singing. This is a lively, vital CD that will have you moving from the first notes through until the end. It’s a great time to be a Tommy Bolin fan.
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