Friday Music, in conjunction with the Tommy Bolin Archives, is proud to present Tommy Bolin, The Ultimate: Redux, a 3-CD set of material drawn from earlier, and in some cases out-of-print TBA releases. The song list was hand-picked by Michael Drumm and Johnnie Bolin, and the audio has been re-mastered by Joe Reagoso at Friday Music. The 3-CD set is presented in a fold-in digipak with original packaging design by John Herdt and Joe Reagoso. The liner notes were written by Steve Vai (wow!). The package includes many rare photos and a booklet with extensive liner notes by Michael Drumm and Joe Reagoso.
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LINER NOTES BY STEVE VAI
I was 13 years old when a friend played me Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album. I was stunned. It was as though I was hearing something I had been craving. Up to that point, there was no guitar player that demonstrated such control, rock virtuosity and sheer visceral passion. Here was an unequivocal guitar God. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t on the tip of all musicians’ tongues, but when stints with the James Gang, Bang, etc. and finally Deep Purple came to be, the secret was out.
Most people believe that a virtuoso’s prime element is their speed. But to truly be considered elite, one must possess the honed qualities of technique, control, vibrato, tone, reaction, musical awareness and perhaps the most important virtue, confidence. Tommy wielded these qualities into a fine audio elixir. And he made it sound simple. It’s good to see more of his secrets being let out of the bag.
– Steve Vai 10/22/07
Teaser (Acoustic Demo 1973)
Sister Andrea (Demo 1971)
Cross The River (Zephyr Live/Boulder, CO 1973)
Hard Chargin’ Woman (Zephyr Live/Boulder, CO 1973)
Red Skies (Energy 1972)
Heartlight (Energy 1972)
Hok-O-Hey (Energy 1972)
Got No Time For Trouble (Energy 1972)
Miss Christmas (Energy 1972)
Journey (Demo 1973)
Alexis (Acoustic Demo 1973)
Standing In The Rain (Acoustic Demo circa Bang)
Cucumber Jam (Early version of “Cucumber Slumber”)
Spanish Lover (Acoustic Demo circa Miami)
Stratus (Ebbets Field 1974)
Getting Tighter (Tommy Bolin Tribute/Denver, CO 1997)
Homeward Strut (Ebbets Field 1974)
Teaser (Tommy Bolin Band/First Time Live-Disc 2 version)
Wild Dogs (Early L.A. Demo 1974)
Dreamer (Early L.A. Demo 1974)
People, People (Tommy Bolin Band/Ebbets Field 1976)
Lotus (Tommy Bolin Band/Ebbets Field 1976)
Savannah Woman (Demo)
Crazed Fandango (Teaser Outtake 1975)
Sweet Burgundy (Acoustic Demo/Naked II)
Shake The Devil (Albany, NY 1976)
Someday Will Bring Our Love Home
(Acoustic Demo/Naked I)
You Told Me That You Loved Me (Albany, NY 1976)
Post Toastee (Electric Guitar Demo/Naked I)
Post Toastee (Albany, NY 1976)
Slow Driver (Acoustic Version/Naked I)
TOMMY BOLIN: THE ULTIMATE
by Michael Drumm, Tommy Bolin Archives, Inc.
Tommy Bolin was filled with the light of the divine power — his musical gift resonated, enabling him to touch thousands and thousands of people. His life was an incredible musical celebration and his life wound up being a terrible tragedy.
His life began in Sioux City, Iowa on August 1, 1951. Tommy was the oldest child of Rich and Barb Bolin of Sioux City, a family of modest means, but a family that loved their children. Think back to the 1950’s and answer this question: Which musical figure was the top star of the 1950’s? Elvis was truly fascinating — his music, his hip grinding presence, his incredible celebrity status captivated millions and Tommy was one of those millions. He knew he wanted to be like Elvis and unlike so many parents of the Elvis era, who were horrified by the King; Rich Bolin took Tommy to an Elvis show right in Sioux City, Iowa. What a powerful inspiration that was for a child not yet ten years old. And that wasn’t the only support the Bolins provided for Tommy, they bought him a guitar early on and basically supported him in his desire to become a star. Dad was even known to road manage for Tommy, helping haul band members to and from gigs, even if it meant getting home at 3 am. Tommy owed so much to Rich and Barb, and he owed so much to other Iowa musicians who also had been bit by the rock-n-roll bug, his Iowa band mates who helped get that fire burning to a fever pitch.
However, Tommy was a free spirit. He knew that his craving for musical recognition probably could not be quenched alone in Iowa, so when his high school demanded that the sixteen year old Bolin cut his hair yet again, Tommy packed his bag, grabbed his guitar and headed to Denver. Colorado, which proved to be a very nurturing environment for Tommy. In short order he was absorbed by the most creative elements of the Colorado rock music scene. At the ripe old age of seventeen, Tommy helped form Zephyr — a prototypical psychedelic, blues rock band based out of Boulder, Colorado. Zephyr was, in many ways, as dynamic, compelling and powerful as its San Francisco based psychedelic compatriots, bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, total legends of that era. In Zephyr, Tommy stretched out — way out. It was here he developed his Echoplex laden improvisational chops, going out into musical dimensions that very few guitar players had ever visited. Not only did those of us in Colorado recognize what a unique talent Tommy was and what a great band Zephyr were, national record companies got it as well. In 1969 ABC-Probe released their debut album Zephyr; soon thereafter the band appeared on American Bandstand and crisscrossed America playing with just about all the best bands of the era. In October of 1969, Tommy and I were both 18. He was making musical history, and I was an impressionable freshman at the University of Colorado. We were all experimenting with life, and that was the night I saw Zephyr play for the first time, at the Glenn Miller Ballroom on the CU campus. My head was spinning with the many doorways the band and Tommy led me through that night! Shortly thereafter, I befriended Tommy and supported him however I could — he had helped turn “the light” on for me!
In 1970 the band, now signed to Warner Bros., traveled to New York to record their second album Going Back to Colorado at Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Electric Lady Studios with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer at the helm. Zephyr completed the album, but in early 1971 Tommy quit the band to pursue his own musical vision with the band Energy. Initially, Energy was an all-instrumental ensemble, playing Heavy Metal/Jazz Fusion music — uncompromising, incredibly powerful music that left many people scratching their heads. During this era, Tommy and Energy would serve as both the opening act and back-up band for many incredible touring musical legends like Chuck Berry, Big Mama Thornton, and Albert King. One show I saw had Energy backing Albert King, but backing is really the wrong term, as Tommy and Albert stood toe to toe complementing and challenging each other with blistering blues licks. It is an awe inspiring musical memory. Energy evolved into a tight, more commercial ensemble featuring Jeff Cook on vocals. They recorded an album’s worth of wonderful demos trying to secure a record deal and in one of the great absurdities of the modern music era the band could not secure a record deal, so the bottom line was that the bottom line was at zero. Tommy was broke and something had to give.
It was during this time that Joe Walsh had quit The James Gang and moved to Boulder — he had met Tommy — jammed with him and told his old band mates about him. To help build his reputation and receive some well deserved recognition, Tommy joined The James Gang — basically putting an end to Energy. His stay in The James Gang resulted in two really good albums, Bang and Miami, as well as appearances on important national television shows like The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert; as well as the chance to tour extensively with this respectable rock outfit.
Around the time he was joining The James Gang, Tommy had been recruited by drumming legend Billy Cobham to be the guitar player on Billy’s first solo album, Spectrum. You see while Tommy was in New York working on the last Zephyr album, he had been introduced into the burgeoning New York jazz/fusion music scene. People like Jan Hammer, Jeremy Steig, and Billy Cobham, amazingly gifted, innovative musicians, became hip to Tommy and immediately absorbed him into their progressive innovative musical worlds. This was not rock music, this was cutting edge improvisational fusion music that demanded both technical excellence as well as a flowing creative musical imagination, and Tommy had both in generous supply.
At this time he was faced with a challenge — focus on creative cutting edge music with limited commercial potential, or position himself to become a major star. He decided on the latter, moved from Boulder to LA and began developing demos for what would become the Teaser album, his crowning solo album accomplishment. While Tommy’s star was rising within the structure of the music industry, he still was relatively unknown to the public. It was at this time that Ritchie Blackmore made rock music history by leaving Deep Purple. At the time, Deep Purple was one of the most popular rock bands in the world. Obviously, this band wanted to keep things going, but they needed to continue on without the major contributions of Blackmore. David Coverdale had heard of Tommy from the Spectrum album and invited him to audition. Well it took all of about fifteen minutes for that to be a done deal. They had found their man.
In joining forces with Deep Purple, Bolin was finally catapulted to worldwide fame as they released Come Taste The Band (Friday Music 1058) in 1975. The album fared very well, and a successful worldwide tour followed, however, his life would change as his solo career would soon follow with the release of his much acclaimed first album, Teaser.
While finally achieving the degree of spotlight he clearly deserved, he was now in a position to tour and record with his own entity The Tommy Bolin Band. In May of 1976, Tommy began his first ever solo tour. I saw the show at the legendary Denver venue Ebbets Field. I hadn’t seen Tommy for over 2 years. I wondered if he would remember me. After all, he had left Boulder to become a star, and was returning now as a star. A meet and greet party was staged and I was so impressed that Tommy was still the warm, friendly person I had known. He greeted me with a big bear hug that meant so much to me. He was not some lofty rock star, he was Tommy Bolin — a warm soul.
The year unfolded with a tour and the recording and releasing of Tommy’s Private Eyes album. But all was not well. There were continual issues, economics, personnel changes, etc. So, at this point, the goal he had worked so hard for, the launching of his solo career, the waters were now muddied. Throughout these trying times Bolin carried on. A major tour was eventually put together that would feature the Tommy Bolin Band as the opening act for The Jeff Beck Group, followed by a tour with Fleetwood Mac. The exposure Tommy would get would be very powerful for his career.
In opening for Jeff Beck, Tommy would be on the bill with Beck, who was a true fan of Tommy’s, and he would be reunited with Beck’s keyboardist Jan Hammer — a dream situation. But then tragedy struck. After the first night of the tour on Dec. 3, 1976 in Miami, there was talk that Tommy had partied extensively. Later, after Tommy showed signs of passing out, paramedics had been called, but he was gone… Dead at the age 25.
On Monday morning Dec. 5th 1976, I was in my TV room in Boulder watching Good Morning America. Rona Barrett’s celebrity gossip segment came on and on the screen the Teaser LP graphic was superimposed. My eyes were riveted on the screen. Why was Tommy being featured on major network TV? Then Rona announced Tommy had died in Miami. My heart sunk — oh my God. It was then that Tommy returned home to Iowa, and it’s where he will be for eternity.
It has been an endless source of conversation since. What if Tommy had lived? Would he have been a huge multi-platinum act and would he have indulged in both the commercial side of his career and his creative improvisational side, similar to the way Santana has over the years? Those in the know are sure that this is exactly what would have happened. After all… he was The Ultimate.
THE ULTIMATE CONTINUES
by Joe Reagoso, Friday Music, Inc.
Step into the new millennium, Tommy Bolin is still being talked about, listened to, admired and emulated by a whole new legion of fans and aspiring guitarists worldwide. This little kid from Sioux City definitely made an impact on many and his legendary music will live on forever through the gift of his recorded output.
In remastering this massive compilation, I would continue to find specific licks or sections of songs that would just blow me away. For instance, the Echoplex break in the middle section of Hard Chargin’ Woman should be something for the history books. In as much, that I called a ton of guitar freaks and played it for them over the phone from the studio. I don’t think I ever heard anything like it!
Or check out the power of his live performances on tracks like You Told Me That You Loved Me, the extremely jazz fused Cucumber Jam, or something as simplistic but powerful as the closing acoustic track Slow Driver.
Another surprise is the strength of material from the Energy sessions. What a shame. This should have been a national release at the time. Friday Music and the TBA folks will work on getting this a proper release in the near future. In the meantime, groove on with this incredible tapestry of tunes from this unreleased masterpiece.
You know Johnnie Bolin summed it up for me, “The local clubs wouldn’t book Tommy. The owners couldn’t make any money at the bar. Everyone was listening to Tommy play guitar in awe.”
We still are.
Produced by Joe Reagoso and Michael Drumm
Executive Producer: Johnnie Bolin
Sequenced by Michael Drumm
Re-mastering by Joe Reagoso at Friday Music Studios
Archives Legal and Publishing Information: Barry Simons
Original Archives Releases Produced and Mastered by Robert Ferbrache
Selected Photos by Robert Ferbrache and Johnnie Bolin
Art direction: John Herdt and Friday Music
Archives Web Site: John Herdt
www.fridaymusic.com • www.tbolin.com
Musicians include: Tommy Bolin, David Givens, Candy Givens, Bobby Berge, John Faris, Jeremy Steig, Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham, Stanley Sheldon, Jeff Cook, Tom Stephenson, Archie Shelby, Russell Bizzett, Narada Michael Walden, Norma Jean Bell, Reggie McBride, Mark Stein, The Good Rats, Johnnie Bolin, Jimmy Haslip, Glenn Hughes, Rocky Athas, Ralph Patlan, Terry Brooks, Robert Ware, and others.