I had no idea about Tommy Bolin until Motley Crue covered the song “Teaser” and released it on their “Raw Tracks II” EP which came out in 1990 for the Japanese market and suddenly I was scrolling the used record racks for Tommy Bolin albums or albums that had him playing.
Actually, the Motley Crue version of “Teaser” was officially released on a 1989, compilation album called “Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell” which featured the bands who performed at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. And of course the song re-appeared on their “Decade Of Decadence” collection in 1992.
Shock horror to everyone these days who grew up with Wikipedia, I was surprised to read that he was in Deep Purple, but only for a brief moment and that he was in Deep Purple with David Coverdale who was another artist’s back catalogue I was digging deep into during the same period.
The Tommy Bolin “Teaser” album came out in 1975, and while successful he couldn’t really tour behind it due to his Deep Purple commitments, so he kept on writing and over an 8 day period, “Private Eyes” was recorded and released in 1976. This would be his last studio album before he died of a drug overdose on December 4, 1976 at 25 years of age.
It’s worth pointing out that from 1969 to 1976, Bolin was involved in 10 studio albums, with the bands Zephyr, James Gang (he replaced the guitarist who replaced Joe Walsh), Billy Cobham, Alphonse Mouzon, Moxy, Deep Purple (he replaced Ritchie Blackmore) and as a solo artist.
To put into context, Metallica have released 10 studio albums in 38 years. Avenged Sevenfold have released 7 albums in 20 years. The different work ethics of the artists and the labels across different decades is evident.
As a 15 year old, he hitchhiked from his hometown to Denver and met up with a singer called Jeff Cook to form American Standard. Cook would also act as a co-writer for Bolin’s solo output. He then joined Zephyr and after a few albums, he grabbed drummer Bobby Berge to form “Energy” with Jeff Cook on vocals.
But the fusion of styles in the music of “Energy” didn’t resonate with people and the labels. But Bolin did enough to get the attention of Billy Cobham who asked him to play on his record. And then the high profile gigs and studio work started. And by the time he was in Deep Purple he was heavily into drugs and alcohol.
“Bustin’ Out For Rosey”
Its funk rock groove is great to jam to.
The outro jam with the fuzzed out guitar licks and brass section is great listening.
I don’t know who influenced who, but “Wonderful Tonight” from Eric Clapton sounds very similar to this in the intro.
The slide guitar is sublime.
And in the outro, they just jam out the main melody, something that Bruce Springsteen would do to great effect with “Born In The U.S.A” when they keep playing the vocal melody in the outro.
A nine minute song.
So many songs came out between the years of 1968 and 1978 that had similar riffs to either “Cocaine” or “Sunshine Of Your Love”. This is another for the first two minutes and 20 seconds.
Then a bass groove comes in and it’s all funky and soulful. As the bass and drums jam, Bolin starts his lead break. Listen to his phrasing, how he lets certain notes ring and others he deadens.
It’s this fusion of so many different styles which makes Bolin unique.
At the 4.30 mark, the “Cocaine” riff is back in.
Then Bolin shreds away again for the rest of the song.
“Shake The Devil”
It’s a blues jazz fusion cut, like how Joe Walsh played in James Gang.
But at 2.34, the embryo of bands like Iron Maiden is there. Check out the change of pace, the riff and the lead breaks.
It’s like a campfire “Love Boat” acoustic cut.
And what I like about this is that Bolin stays within the acoustic guitar and delivers a stellar flamenco lead outro break.
“Someday We’ll Bring Our Love Home”
Carmine Appice filled on drums on this one, as Bobby Berge was unavailable that day. It could have appeared on a Steely Dan album. Its bluesy and full of soul.
The strummed chords outline a similar progression like “Free Bird” as the song percolates in that acoustic domain with violins and violas.
“You Told Me That You Loved Me”
A bluesy jazz fusion cut full of sleaze and soul with an ascending walking bass riff.
I like the change at the 3 minute mark, and then the brass instruments come in and the leads starts and its solos to the end.
If you like a lot of guitar playing, this album has it. Crank it.
P.S. Reggie McBride on bass and Bobby Berge on drums are excellent and unsung heroes on this album.