Album Reviews: Tommy Bolin – Teaser (1975) / Private Eyes (1976)


I can’t believe it is three years since I wrote the following reviews of Tommy’s two solo albums. Such a lot, both good and bad, has happened to me since that at times it seems like yesterday and at others a lifetime ago. The main thing that springs to mind today though as I partake in my annual Tommy Bolin fest is that the music you love stays with you forever, through the good and the bad. Like the best of old friends, you know they they will be there whenever you want or need them, and for that we should all be thankful ……. I know I am.

  Teaser (1975)

As today, 4th December 2007, is the thirty first anniversary of the death of Tommy Bolin this would seem to be an appropriate album to review today.

‘Teaser’ was the first of two solo offerings from Tommy Bolin and was recorded in 1975 following his departure from James Gang and just prior to his being recruited by Deep Purple to replace the Rainbow bound Ritchie Blackmore. In fact the call from Purple, allegedly instigated by David Coverdale’s eureka moment whilst listening to the Billy Cobham album Spectrum on which Bolin had guested, came before recording was completed. Hence the uncredited guest appearance by Purple bassist Glenn Hughes. Indeed the first release of the album included a sticker stating ‘The new guitarist in Deep Purple’. The close proximity of the recording and writing sessions for those two albums along with Bolin’s influence and confidence in his own ability probably explain why his only Deep Purple album ‘Come Taste The Band’ sounds more, in places, like this album than it does any other Deep Purple album.

The album kicks off with ‘The Grind’ an uptempo foot tapping feel good type of song despite the lyric which appears to be about a down and out jobless hobo unless I’m missing something. Some of the guitar work has an almost Kossoff like singing sound in parts and Jeff Porcaro provides a great drum track. Porcaro and bassist Stanley Sheldon appear on most of the tracks and provde Bolin with a a superb tight bass section which gives him plenty of space whilst filling the room with solid rhythm throughout. There really isn’t a wasted note on this album at all. ‘Homeward Strut’ follows, the first of two intrumentals on the album it features some great riffing and jazz rhythms. It has a 70s movie soundtrack feel in places and uses the synthesizer to good effect. A nice tom-tom type fade out finishes the track nicely. ‘Dreamer’ is one of the albums many highlights and showcases Bolin’s vocal talents as well as his guitar playing. Had this track been recorded by a more  mainstream artist I believe it would have been hailed as a classic. For that is what it is, from the quiet piano based introduction and verse to the fully fledged vocal power of Glenn Hughes’ guest vocal during the final part of the song. It is a song that lovers of great music should hear at least once. ‘Savannah Woman’ provides a couple of surprises in the shape of the multi talented Bolin playing piano as well as guitar and a guest performer on percussion by the name of Phil Collins. It is a very jazzy track where the influence of working with Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon is very evident. The title track ‘Teaser’ closed side one in the vinyl days and featured a great tempo change. The track possibly encompasses a little bit of everything as you can hear Bolin suggest at the end of the track. Had it not already been earmarked for this album it would not have been out of place on ‘Come Taste The Band’

The original vinyl version started side two with the almost reggae like ‘People People’. Another five star classic it features the immense talents of Jan Hammer on piano, drums, synthesizer, organ and drums. There is also a great sax solo courtesy of Dave Sanborn. A highly personal totally self-penned song it almost has the feeling of a cry for help in retrospect. The second instrumental ‘Marching Powder’ follows and features a great jazz riff and melody. Like ‘Savannah Woman’ the influence of Billy Cobham is clear to hear. Despite all that it is possibly the weakest track on the album. ‘Wild Dogs’ is quite possibly the closest to an out and out rock track on the album. As well as featuring Bolin playing ARP Synthesizer the song once again showcases his above average talents as a vocalist. The track was actually played live by Deep Purple and Bolin was allowed to handle the vocals despite the presence of both David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The album closes with ‘Lotus’ which Glenn Hughes once informed me was his favourite Bolin song. Whilst the verses are very quiet and soft to begin with they are followed by a heavy riffing chorus. Possibly the heaviest part of the album. The song also includes an almost Blackmore like blues solo and a great rock solo to fade out.

In conclusion then this is undoubtedly a very fine album well worthy of its five star rating. It is well produced and well written. Bolin knew his limits as a vocalist and never attempted to go beyond them. A mistake that many guitarists who make solo albums still don’t manage to avoid.

Thanks to the Tommy Bolin Archives there are numerous collections of out-takes and alternative versions of these songs available. Most recenty in the two ‘Whips & Roses’ collections. Whilst they are great albums in their own right it is still worth tracking down an original copy. It is a timeless classic and still sounds as fresh and exciting as when I bought it during my school lunch break far more years ago than I care to remember.

  Private Eyes (1976)
‘Private Eyes’ is the second of Tommy Bolin’s two official solo albums. Whilst the first album ‘Teaser’ was his final recording before joining Deep Purple, this was his first after their demise. It was also tragically to become his final studio recording as he died just a few months after its release of a heroin overdose following a show in Miami.

This is a very different album to its predecessor. Firstly it should really have been credited to The Tommy Bolin Band for that is what they were as Tommy himself pointed out on the album sleeve. Whilst ‘Teaser’ featured five drummers, three keyboard players and two bass players ‘Private Eyes’ has the same players on all tracks Reggie McBride on Bass, Mark Stein on Keyboards, Bobbye Hall on percussion, Bobby Berge on drums and perhaps most significantly Norma Jean Bell on sax. The only addition to this being a guest appearance on one track by drummer Carmine Appice.  

If I had to pick one side of a vinyl album as all I could keep from my collection it would quite possibly be side one of ‘Private Eyes’. From the opening thud of the drums on the first track ‘Bustin Out For Rosey’ right through to the dying notes of ‘Post Toastee’ not a single second is wasted and a whole spectrum of musical styles is encompassed. I’m not going to try and break the album down note for note but anyone who shares my tastes should check this album out. ‘Bustin’ Out For Rosey’ also features Bolin playing piano as well as handling guitar and vocal duties. The second track ‘Sweet Burgundy’ has for some reason always been a favourite of mine and features a great guitar and sax solo during the second part of the song. Norma Jean Bell’s sax playing is probably the main difference between this album and ‘Teaser’. Whereas the earlier album only featured sax on two tracks it is very prominent throughout on ‘Private Eyes’. In places it is almost more significant than the guitar. The lengthy ‘Post Toastee’ completes side one and it is an injustice to refer to it as a song. It features more styles and moods than many an entire album and is an absolute audible joy. A heavy bass style riff gives way after about two and a half minutes to pure Billy Cobhamesque jazz and a great solo. Then a little later the sax takes it right down to a wistful little melody before the heavy riffing comes back in. One thing you could never accuse Bolin of was hogging the limelight. He allowed the musicians to play and gave them their own space for improvisation. Both Bell’s sax and McBride’s bass being featured heavily. If you are ever buying new hi-fi equipment use this track to test it before buying!

‘Shake The Devil’ kicks off side two for those still playing the vinyl version and begins almost like a mini ‘Post Toastee’ reprise until it veers off into a kind of faster heavier version of Free. Bolin had obviously picked up a few heavier rock tips during his time in Deep Purple and although this album is as far removed from a Deep Purple album as you could imagine it features some of Bolin’s heaviest playing. Similar comments also apply to ‘Someday Will Bring Our Love Home’ on which Carmine Appice guests at the drumstool as once again the British rock influence is evident without compromising the jazz fusion soul funk type feel of the album as a whole. Again the track has a Free feel in places. Bolin was obviously quite aware of Free and Kossoff as his band played the Free track ‘Walk In My Shadow’ during the live set. A version of which can be heard on the Tommy Bolin Archives released album ‘Tommy Bolin & Friends Live at Ebbets Field 1974’. ‘Hello Again’ and ‘Gypsy Soul’ are both gentle laid back singer/songwriter type songs which are not unlike the tracks Bolin sang with James Gang (Spanish Lover and Alexis). The album closes with ‘ You Told Me That You Loved Me’ a track which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Bolin’s Purple album ‘Come Taste The Band’.

Most Bolin fans will tell you that ‘Teaser’ was the better of his two solo albums and the ratings on here will probably bear that out. Whilst I rate them both as 5 star classics I have a preference for this one. I don’t know why, its just the feel of it. It includes a bit of everything and is probably one of my most played albums. When I gave in and bought a CD player, this was one of the first albums I bought on CD and I can’t see me ever tiring of it.

Now, thirty one years to the day since Tommy Bolin’s tragic death I will play it again as I always do on this day and raise a glass to Tommy Bolin for giving me an album that has become more than just music but a lifelong companion.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM December 2007
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About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
This entry was posted in Album Reviews, Classic Rock, Deep Purple, Music, Music Reviews, Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Album Reviews: Tommy Bolin – Teaser (1975) / Private Eyes (1976)

  1. metalodyssey says:

    A fine Metal acquaintance of mine, Greg Hampton, (Alice Cooper, The New Czars), is producing a Tommy Bolin tribute album that is fully loaded with a “who’s who” of Rock, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal guest musicians. Fabulous album reviews of Tommy Bolin you wrote. You are so correct… “the music you love stays with you forever, through the good and the bad.” I could not have stated that any better myself.

    You can check out the full story of the Tommy Bolin Tribute album by clicking on the link provided: http://www.tbolin.com/hampton/index.html

    Stone

  2. kevmoore says:

    I don’t think any guitarist touched me more than Tommy Bolin -from the moment he joined Purple, I was ‘wow’ in a way I never was for Blackmore. His death hit me profoundly, I felt it to be such a tragedy, such a waste of life, and I have spent the following decades wondering what wonderful music we have been denied by the insidious hand of drug addiction. Teaser is an amazing first solo effort, and never grows old with me, I could, and probably will, listen to it forever. Private Eyes, is special too, but I feel his demons were getting the better of him by then. Indeed, it was meant to be a double album. One can only wonder to what heights a fit and healthy Tommy would have risen, he was on a creative roll. Stone – this sounds great- I’ll be checking out that link!

    • I agree entirely, although I am a big fan of Blackmore too. Tommy’s two solo albums are constantly played by me and CTTB was the first Purple album I bought so that is special too. I actually have a large charcoal portrait of the cover to Teaser that I bought on ebay a few years ago. i don’t think many people knew what it was and it only cost me about £40 including post etc, and it was framed too. Would have been nice to see Private Eyes as a double, Post Toastie is a great track for auditioning hi fi equipment as well as being a great track !! The TBA have released some great stuff over the years. One live disc has a version of Free’s Walk In My Shadow, very interesting to hear Tommy play a track more associated with Kossoff.

      • IAN DOUGLAS says:

        Dear Martin your site is a treasured “find” I followed a link from a Deep Purple (DPAS) blog. Loved the commentary on Tommy Bolin (and Glenn Hughes/Trapeze) albums => we are of a like mind I think! Tommy is my favourite and very special to me as I saw him three nights in a row in Sydney with Deep Purple in Nov 1975 and accordingly the Come Taste album is also very special – like Mk III the Mk IV lineup were never afraid to perform their latest work/s almost in full! Refreshing given so many of today’s “classic rock” artist/bands will only do greatest hits – ho hum. At last count I had I think 36 Tommy Bolin cd’s and/or re-releases by Archives and James Gang/Moxy and so on – all very special in their way – but the two Solo albums the best. Kind regards – and looking forward to the Tribute album!

      • Thanks Ian. It is fun writing these reviews and is great recieving news that people enjoy them. The best part however is getting in contact with like minded people such as yourself and Kev the guy who made the post inbetween your two. Like him I was never lucky enough to see TB perform but CTTB was my first Purple album so will always be special. Tommy’s two solo albums are amongst my most played and like you i also have a lot of the TBA releases as well as the Zephyr and James Gang albums. Billy Cobham’s Sprctrum and Alphonse Mouzon’s Mnd Transplant are also regulars on my deck thanks to Tommy’s input. I have a bootleg of one of the Purple shows from Japan in 75 …. Taste It Down Under … its called. Limited numbered edition of 2000 i think. Might that have been one of the shows you were at ?

  3. kevmoore says:

    Wow Ian – I’m pretty much a ‘completist’ where Tommy is concerned – I’ve also just watched the excellent ‘Phoenix rising’ dvd which was a gift from a friend. Though very sad, it’s essential to own.
    But I’m envious…..because you saw the man not once but three times!!! That must have been amazing. He was (and remains, in my mind) one of the greats, and the 2 solo albums and come taste the band are right up there in my top albums of all time. the Kevin Shirley remix of CTTB is astounding – it’s almost never off my car player!

    • IAN DOUGLAS says:

      Thanks Martin yes it was great; and just as CTTB had come out – and most of it performed too. Everyone was amazed with Glenn Hughes too – very much front of stage. Tommy was on form and really went for it; Lord and Paice too of course. David was good but suffered from the heat/humidity so the Hughes spots – such as the This Time Around and Gettin Tighter with expanded solos – were a welcome break for him I think. But some of the best Coverdale tracks are on CTTB – such as Love Child, Drifter and so on. Tommy did Wild Dogs (Teaser just out too at the same time). There was no programme as such only a tacky rainbow/striped poster (dreadful) but will locate tickets and scan you a copy.Cheers Ian.

    • As ever I agree with everything you say Kev. Nice to hear from you.You’ve been quiet lately. Hope all is well with you.

      • kevmoore says:

        Hi Martin,

        I’m good thanks mate! Been busy – I have a new Friday night spot on BayRadio here in Spain (starting tonight) and an interview coming up on Sunday lunchtime about Blue Odyssey, plus we’re putting the finishing touches to the new BC Sweet single and album, so it’s all go!

  4. Theo says:

    Surfing on the net for Tommy related things when I stumbled on your reviews.
    Great reviews
    Both albums are my lifetime favourites
    Was a Purple fan since 1972, so I already had all Purple albums before Tommy joined.
    Had bought Spectrum, Mindtransplant, Bang and Miami before the release of Come Taste The band and Teaser. And I was already addicted to Tommy.
    Unlike many Purple die-hards I instantly love CTTB and was in awe of Teaser
    Now I collect as many as possible of Tommy.

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