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Old 06-09-2008, 03:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Well, if he isn't going to post any more albums, I think I will



If you look hard enough, you'll see the late Tommy Bolin's name on a plethora of albums released in the early 1970's. Bolin was equally at home playing guitar for the likes of Deep Purple and the James Gang as he was for jazz-fusion drummer Billy Cobham. Sadly, Bolin was only able to finish two solo albums before dying of a drug overdose at the age of twenty-five.

1976's Private Eyes, a hard rock/funk/jazzy masterpiece, was Bolin's second solo release. Adept at playing numerous musical styles, Bolin combined several within the context of the album, giving Private Eyes the feel of being more than just another Classic Rock CD.

Take, for instance, the epic Post Toastee, a nine-plus minute romp that smoothly combines elements of funk, rock, and jazz. (One has to admit it's a bit ironic hearing Bolin sing of the perils of drug usage considering the manner in which he passed, but it's still a classic piece of rock and roll.) From the fuzzy, menacing power chords that open the track to Bobby Berge's precise, heavy drumming Post Toastee is begging for the volume to be cranked up. Throw in some Deep Purple-like organ from Mark Stein and you have the makings of a great rock tune. Where Post Toastee gets down and dirty, though, is a couple minutes in, when bassist Reggie McBride gets funky. As the band starts turning the song into a funk track, Bolin begins an extended, quick-fingered acid-guitar solo over the top. (Listen for the part where Bolin literally makes his guitar growl like a monster, it's great.) Norma Jean Bell (sax/percussion/vocals) then uses her sax to turn Post Toastee in a jazz/funk direction, during which the band grooves while Bolin plays some wonderful scratch guitar. Finally everyone heads back into rock territory while Bolin solos away. A fantastic track worthy of repeated listening.

Bustin' Out For Rosey and Shake the Devil are also fine funk-rock tracks, albeit not quite as epic as Post Toastee. Bell stands out on Rosey as she throws in some soulful backing vocals as well as some nice backup percussion. Her sax works well toward the end of the song as she plays off Bolin's fast solo's while still keeping time with the band's tight riffs. Shake the Devil features more tight riffing, along with more heavy drumming from Berge. The organ and hand-clap percussion give the track a bit of a bluesy touch. Bolin follows Bell's sax solo effortlessly with a guitar solo of his own before the band turns the final minute into a jam session.

Lest you think Private Eyes is just one single exercise in funk-rock, check out Sweet Burgundy, Bolin's ode to the red wine. (After hearing Sweet Burgundy, I've often wondered how much influence Tommy Bolin had on Deep Purple's Come Taste the Band which featured a glass of red wine on the cover...) Burgundy is a nice, mid-tempo ballad featuring some nice slide-guitar work from Bolin and some slow-yet-festive sax playing from Bell. Or the lovely Gypsy Soul, a carefree, jazzy samba that picks up steam as Bolin plays some Spanish acoustic guitar. If it were an instrumental, you could play this as background music at your next outdoor Friday afternoon ****tail party - yet it doesn't sound a bit out of place as a part of Private Eyes. Hello Again is a lush, acoustic ballad with a gorgeous string arrangement from Del Newman. The subtle harp that sneaks in midway is a very nice touch.

Drummer Carmine Appice appears on Someday Will Bring Our Love Home, doing his usual solid job on the acoustic-flavored rocker. Thanks to the soulful organ and Bolin's slide guitar, the track has just a touch of country-rock tinge to it. Bolin and Bell match guitar and sax riffs at the beginning of You Told Me That You Loved Me, a mid-tempo rocker that fuses rock and jazzy sax with Stein's bluesy organ. Bolin's piercing/squelch-laden solo at the end is a perfect way to finish the CD.

Tommy Bolin was an incredibly talented guitarist who was taken from us all too soon - he passed away a few months after the release of Private Eyes. One can only wonder what Bolin could have accomplished had he lived longer and built upon the strength of this album. One can also question why one so talented feels the need to throw it all away, but that's a conversation for another time. Private Eyes is a wonderful piece of rock well deserving of an audience. Recommended to fans of classic-rock, funk-rock, jazz-rock, and guitar fans. Start with Private Eyes and his solo debut, Teaser, then work your way into Bolin's posthumous releases. Then you, too, can wonder what might have been.
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The cover creeps me out and I never knew he did any solo work, or that he died young. Always pictured a skinny white guy. I'm gonna check this out. Funk rock is always at least interesting.

If the Urban is on the mend the Vandyman can.
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for the recommend it sounds like good stuff.
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