Ignored Obscured Restored
Tommy Bolin was a great guitarist. He would be much better known and recognized if he hadn’t died 45 years ago at the age of 25. Yes, that’s right – he was only 25. He didn’t even make it to the 27 club with Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and Cobain!
When you read reviews of the groups he played with (Zephyr, The James Gang, Deep Purple) they often comment on the lack of top notch material but always acknowledge Bolin’s guitar playing as a highlight. It didn’t help that his stints with The James Gang and Deep Purple followed the departure of other well-known guitarists (Joe Walsh, Ritchie Blackmore) at times when the bands were in decline and receiving much less attention from the press and fans alike.
But even at his young age, he had the chops to play and record with fusion giants such as Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon.
Bolin also released two high quality solo albums — Teaser (1975) and Private Eyes (1976) – before he died in December 1976.
Here’s a sampler of his recordings through the years:
Zephyr was a pretty tight band that could move in and out of straight rock and jazz influenced music, as “Sail On” demonstrates. But the band suffered from Candy Given’s overwrought, screechy vocals.
“Alexis” begins as a ballad but just before the 3 minute mark it turns heavy and becomes a vehicle for Bolin to solo and squeeze gallons of emotion from his fretboard.
“Post Toastee” has a cool riff and acts as a vehicle for some extended soloing by Bolin that show off both his fusion and rock influences. It was a favorite show closer on his last tour.
So, my ultimate goal here was to bring some notice to an overlooked and often forgotten guitar talent. I hope I succeeded.
Enjoy… until next week.