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Tommy Bolin
Whips And Roses

Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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CD Label: SPV

 

  This music really took me back, all the way back to a cold rainy night in September 1976 when I saw Tommy Bolin for the first and last time. He opened up for Blue Oyster Cult, who happened to be one of the hottest rock bands of the day. In fact, that very concert is out now on CD, released as part of the archives series in 2004. I have to wonder what the sound quality is like.

Bolin had the world at his beckoned call; he was young, extremely talented and had nothing but opportunity in front of him. He foolishly explored drugs to the point where it took his life. It is such a shame and a waste of one of the greatest talents to pick up a six string. I am on a mission now to get every recording Bolin was involved with because of this CD, I am now officially obsessed. When you are a music freak that grew up in the 70s like me, this is par for the course.

I am beside myself just how incredible this man was on guitar. I knew it all along but it has been a while since I took out my old boxed set, The Ultimate Tommy Bolin, which is no longer in print. It consists of two CDs with an album-sized booklet loaded with color pictures of Tommy. It is a real treasure. I also have copies of Private Eyes and Teaser, which are great solo albums. All the tracks on Whips and Roses are alternative versions of material from the Teaser album or previously unreleased gems. There is no doubt Teaser was a high point for Bolin's solo work, even the alternative versions of tracks off the album are killer. They all have a different twist and ambiance from the original versions making them fun and interesting to compare. Greg Hampton and Bolin's brother Johnnie do a fine job producing these thought to be lost, but not forgotten tracks. The sound is clear and the music has a pop and meaty crunch to it that would make you believe Bolin had just stepped out of the studio and wrapped up the sessions yesterday.

Every track is worthy of many listens. There is so much to hear on this CD. The guitar is typically beyond reproach, the instrumentals are incredible showcases of jazz-blues-rock fusion that proves unequivocally and repeatedly that BolIn could play anything with expertise and flair like few have that come before and after his demise. "Flyin' Fingers" and "Blowin Your Cookies" are just too much; this dude was a six-string magician, a true icon of his day. The more I listen to the tracks it just amazes me that he has not received more attention over the years.

Bolin's story is not unlike another great guitar player named Hendrix, although his legacy does not mirror the great one's musically based on the recordings he left behind, his life certainly parallels Hendrix in some ways and you have to wonder how far he would have taken it if he were to be alive today. Would he be compared or even surpass Jimi? Although we will never know, I have no doubt that Tommy Bolin would have evolved into something beyond anything a mere mortal could fathom. He was right up there with the best, and literally is with Hendrix and all the rest of the great rock 'n' roll tragedies. As sad as that may be, the music can still bring us plenty of joy. If you are a guitar aficionado, you will rejoice when you hear this irreplaceable material.

 

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