Tommy Bolin "The Ultimate" (2 CD Box Set)

This is a grandly packaged retrospective of Tommy Bolin's work, and a must for collectors. It includes songs from Zephyr, The James Gang, Billy Cobham, Alphonse Mouzon, Moxy, Deep Purple, and Tommy's two Solo Ablums (Teaser and Private Eyes). There is also a previously unreleased accoustic version of "People, People" (called "Brother, Brother") that sets the stage for later releases of archived tapes. A wonderful biographical picture booklet accompanies this 2CD box set, which is heavily laden with trivia to bring back even the most ardent fan again and again to check over the facts and timelines.

Trivia note: The booklet says Tommy is Native American, but this is a mistake. His father was of Swedish decent, and his mother was of Syrian (Lebanese) decent.

1. Sail On
2. Cross the River
3. See My People Come Together
4. Showbizzy
5. Alexis
6. Standing in the Rain
7. Spanish Lover
8. Do It
9. Quadrant 4
10. Train
11. Time to Move On
12. Golden Rainbows
13. Nitroglycerin
14. Gettin' Tighter
15. This Time Around
16. Owed to G
17. You Keep on Moving
18. Wild Dogs
19. Dreamer
20. People, People
21. Teaser
22. Sweet Burgundy
23. Shake the Devil
24. Brother, Brother

Glenn Hughes Bass Lee Sklar Bass Dale Peters Bass Reggie McBride Bass Terry Juric Bass WALLEZ Bass Henry E. Davis Bass VIOLONS DU ROY-QUEBEC Bass David Givens Bass Bill Wade Drums Jeff Pocaro Drums Ian Paice Drums Billy Cobham Drums Robbie Chamberlain Drums Bobby Berge Drums Alphonse Mouzon Drums Jim Fox Drums John Faris Flute Tommy Bolin Guitar Earl Johnson Guitar Buddy Caine Guitar Candy Givens Harmonica Mark Stein Keyboards Stanley Sheldon Keyboards Jan Hammer Keyboards John Faris Keyboards Tommy Bolin Keyboards David Foster Keyboards Jerry Peters Keyboards Jon Lord Keyboards Tommy Bolin Main Performer Bob Hall Percussion Rafael Cruz Percussion Norma Jean Bell Percussion Sammy Figueroa Percussion Norma Jean Bell Saxophone David Sanborn Saxophone Glenn Hughes Vocals Buzz Shearman Vocals Roy Kenner Vocals Candy Givens Vocals Tommy Bolin Vocals Dale Peters Vocals Reggie McBride Vocals David Givens Vocals David Coverdale Vocals Mark Stein Vocals WALLEZ Vocals Robbie Chamberlain Vocals

Tommy Bolin: Come Taste His Guitar Virtuosity
Jul 17 '01 (Updated Jul 17 '01)
A review found on "" by Casey Stewart. Some of Casey's views are debatable, and facts incorrect, but overall the review is an interesting read.

Author's Product Rating


Representative Selections From Bolin's Decade Of Guitar Wizardry Cons

Needs A Few More Cuts From Solo Career

The Bottom Line

Provides the listener with an idea of the scope and talent of one of the finest guitarists ever, and offers a few selection that are not available elsewhere. Quality product!

Full Review

The seeming link between musical genius and premature death, both haunts me and causes me to exclaim, "What a tragedy...such a waste!" So when respected Epinionator, frazzledspice, went looking for participants for her The Day The Music Died Write Off, I was unusually quick to respond.

Everyone can think of musicians who fit the above category, and names like Robert Johnson, Billie Day, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Phil Lynott, Lowell George, Jim Morrison, Cass Elliot, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janice Joplin, Tim Buckley, Andrew Wood and Tommy Bolin come to mind as but a handful, whose loss I mourn.

The Man

Sioux City, Iowa's own Tommy Bolin, absorbed the teachings of his mentors, such as Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards then swam in the same musical waters as his gifted peers, pre-eminent among them Frank Marino, Robben Ford, and a young, but enormously talented lad by the name of Eddie Van Halen.

A fore-runner of guitar shredders of the Joe Satriani school of speed splendor, and the equally fine work of Randy Rhoades, Steve Vai and the technical wizardry of ax master, Nuno Bettencourt, Bolin was poised to move beyond the level of mere cult-figure status into the spotlight he deserved.

Besides founding, or co-founded several Boulder bands, Tommy Bolin is remembered for session work and lead guitar duties with fusion jazz-crossover musicians such as Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon, and the dubious job of filling the hard rock void where Joe Walsh, of The James Gang and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple left off.

The Music

This double CD box set, The Ultimate Tommy Bolin succeeds on many levels. It provides a generally comprehensive selection, representative of Bolin's many guitar styles, as well as the musical progression of a Guitar God in the making. The overall sound quality is quite high, something that can't be said for the various postumous releases of outtakes, radio broadcasts, and bootleg-quality arena recordings.

One of my pet peeves has always been the quality, or lack of, in the liner notes or booklets that accompany CD packaging. From the worst: a blank inside, to the best, with extensive photos, quotes from those who knew the artist best, mini biography and recording tidbits, this one would rate a solid 9. (It would have been a 10, but some of the text is written over various artwork and background photos, which makes it occasionally difficult to read).

Although Bolin's first real foray into the world of public performance was his brief stint the guitarist for the band backing southern legend, Lonnie Mack, his first band of any duration was Zephyr. Featuring the ear-blistering vocals of Candy Givens and the bass and backing vocals of David Givens, this compilation gives us 4 selections from the years 1968-1971.

My favorites are the 2 from their debut album, with the blues-into-jazz workout of Sail On and more rocking Cross The River. From tasty keyboards, to jazz-inflected Hendrix-into-Coryell guitar work, this is great ensemble effort. The next 2 selections, while providing glimpses of the Bolin magic, are more dated overall and don't bear up as well, though I can clearly give the nod to See My People Come Together over Showbizzy, a track most memorable for its decent, Bobby Berge drumming.

Featured next are cuts from the 2 James Gang albums, Bang and Miami. While the bands languished from generally lackluster material, Bolin provided both the easy-going style and guitar mastery of the former lead guitarist and band leader, Walsh. Standouts here are the straight ahead rocker Standing In The Rain, and the Seals And Croft-sounding Alexis. Spanish Lover, is near acoustic pleasure while the final selection Do It, sounds like the sort of song teenaged boys would hope came on the radio while they worked on mysteries without any clues and sought Paradise by the dashboard lights!

Co-founding jazz-rock band Energy with flautist Jeremy Streig, it was this partnership that would bring Bolin to the attention of fusion drummer Cobham, fresh from the truly awesome Mahavishnu Orchestra. A selection from Billy's first, (and best), solo outing, Quadrant 4 gives an idea of the more free-form style and improv Tommy enjoyed.

In the same vein, session work with Mouzon, here yields 2 tracks, the more ethereal Golden Rainbows, and my pick among the fusion choices, the high powered virtuosity of the aptly named Nitroglycerin. Through his interaction with jazz luminaries such as keyboardist, Jan Hammer, and alto saxman, Dave Sanborn, Bolin would incorporate more of these musical elements in his first solo album, the highly recommended Teaser, (1975).

This was a busy time for Tommy, who would probably be best remembered by the public for his 1975-1976 stint replacing Ritchie Blackmore with the immensely popular hard rock/heavy metal arena favorites, Deep Purple. The single album released during his lifetime, Come Taste The Band, showed that while Bolin ably filled the lead guitar chair and David Coverdale's vocals were as powerful as always, the band suffered from uneven material.

My pick here would be Gettin' Tighter, which continues DP overall rock and roll motif with a tasty and funky Bolin bridge. The other selection, Owed To "G" seems too ambitious, a pastiche of styles that sound more like a Queen reject.

Rumors of the band's breakup encouraged Bolin to branch out and former his own band, with the previously mentioned Teaser, represented here by the inclusion of 3 excellent tracks. People, People is semi-autobiographical, lilting and mellow, embellished with Sanborn's trademark sax work; as distinctive in its own way as the musical fingerprint of Junior Walker. Dreamer offers comforting words of support to a person, (to self?), who feels lost and alone. More upbeat, with perfectly slinky guitar licks, Teaser is a standout cut.

Bolin's second, and last solo release, Private Eyes, is more painful stuff. It lacks the experimentation and stellar sidemen of Teaser, and while there are several good songs, it is a less cohesive effort, as the ravages of cocaine, Marching Powder, alcohol, Sweet Burgundy, and heroin, Shake The Devil were beginning to show the work. All but the first of these songs are included here. I would have campaigned for the funkier, and more riff happy Post Toastee, to be included here.

Two tracks from Moxy, where ironically Bolin received no album mention, are included here, and are more blues-rock that much of solo work. The first, Train, if fairly anonymous, though somewhat turgid work, while Time To Move On provides ear candy and classic Bolin chops galore.

A couple selections have been included from live Deep Purple material compiled on the 1977 release, Last Concert In Japan. The crowd noise is not intrusive, and the recording quality is better than most live material from this time. You Keep On Moving, is an odd space romp, (the band sounds really stoned!), but Bolin's own Wild Dogs features a Bolin lead/Coverdale back vocals delivery and is one of the highlights of this collection.

In Conclusion

Linear Notes: 4.5
Sound Quality 5.0
Song Selection 4.5

It's a tough call. Four years of exhaustive work, a true labor of love, went into this compilation, a nightmare of tracking down master tapes, nailing down recording rights and obtaining the necessary wavers and cooperation of a large number of disparate interests tend me toward giving this 5 stars, at least until Epinions gives us the needed half-star shadings to indicate the appropriate increments.

Again, I strongly recommend Teaser as the single, definitive example of various Bolin styles. Besides demonstrating his inventive, bold and exciting guitar stylings, Teaser, amply shows us the true songwriting talents of both Tommy and co-writer, Jeff Cook. I am also highly impressed with what others have to say about this incredible talented artist, whose versatility still amazes me, and perhaps music writer Greg Prato says it best:

Name a musical style and Tommy Bolin mastered it. Writing him off as a heavy metal guitarist is completely unfair.

Do yourself a favor and give Tommy's body of work a listen. Though this 1989 release is out of print, I had no problem whatsoever, finding a near mint copy at eBay, and I've seen it offered many times at my other favorite used record haunt,, if you prefer a fixed price shopping experience.

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