Tommy Bolin
Teaser


4.5
superb

Review

by JamieTwort CONTRIBUTOR (29 Reviews)
July 26th, 2013 | 22 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Like a lotus in an oriental sky."

Over the years there have been many innovative and highly acclaimed musicians that never had the chance to fully live up to their potential, leaving their audiences wondering what might have been. One could consider Tommy Bolin as one such artist. Before his untimely death in 1976, Bolin was one of the most promising guitar talents of the early 70’s. With his unique playing style, Bolin covered a variety of different musical styles from blues to funk to jazz fusion but despite his versatility, Bolin will undoubtedly be remembered most for his brief and turbulent time with British hard rock band, Deep Purple. Sadly in December 1976, years of drug and alcohol abuse, which had often hindered his career, took their toll. Bolin died from an overdose several hours after being on stage in support of his second and final solo album, Private Eyes, at the age of just 25.

At the beginning of his career Bolin made his name with the female-fronted blues rock band Zephyr, who were formed in 1969, and would go on to become one of the most highly respected guitarists of the early 70’s rock scene. However it was actually as part of the jazz fusion scene that Bolin made his biggest impact, when performing on Billy Cobham’s first solo album, 1973’s Spectrum. His guitar playing on Spectrum was at times mind blowing and was effectively what brought him to the attention of Deep Purple, who hired him to replace Richie Blackmore for their tenth studio album, the opinion-dividing Come Taste the Band.

With his first solo album, Teaser which was released in late 1975, around the same time as Come Taste the Band, Bolin began to draw together his vast array of influences into one career defining album. Teaser combines elements of jazz fusion, funk and even reggae into one surprisingly cohesive rock album that stands as one of the guitarist’s finest achievements. Not only does Teaser showcase Bolin’s remarkable skills as a guitar player but also as a songwriter and as a more than adequate vocalist. A perfect example of this can be heard in the form of album opener, The Grind, a funky, energetic rocker that combines Bolin’s flashy guitar playing with classy song writing and memorable vocal hooks. Third track, Dreamer, is another song that showcases Bolin’s vocal talent. This emotional, piano-led ballad stands out as one of the album’s most memorable songs with an excellent emotive vocal performance from Bolin and a powerful guitar solo which oozes feeling. The song climaxes with a cameo appearance from Bolin’s Deep Purple band mate Glenn Hughes who contributes some of his unmistakeable vocals, adding to the soulful feel of the song. Following track, Savannah Woman, an infectious Latin-influenced song, again demonstrates Bolin’s skill as a composer, featuring strong Latin jazz influences, complete with a Santana-esque guitar solo, presented within a typically refined composition.

While the majority of songs on Teaser benefit from their cohesive structure, Bolin does allow himself to stretch out on occasion, most notably on the jazz fusion number Marching Powder, which is one of two instrumental tracks on the album. The song’s main recurring melody is broken up by some superb guitar playing, which provides a perfect example of Bolin’s unique jazz-influenced playing style that featured so prominently on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum. Bolin’s guitar playing peaks with the album’s title track, a seemingly straight forward rocker that manages to incorporate some of Bolin’s flashiest guitar techniques without sounding at all self-indulgent. One moment Bolin’s guitar cuts through with the sound of a laser beam the next it retreats to a more conventional bluesy sound. The song is elevated to even greater heights by Jeff Porcaro’s classy drumming, which is particularly effective during the song’s solo section.

At the other end of the spectrum songs like People, People rely more on creative song-craft than Bolin’s guitar heroics. Fusing together equal parts of reggae and jazz-rock, People, People is stylistically one of the albums most intriguing songs, featuring an infectious reggae groove and some excellent alto sax from renowned session saxophonist David Sanborn. The album concludes with one of Bolin’s most beautiful compositions, Lotus, a song that features some of the guitarist’s gentlest and most melodic guitar licks which combined with the soft, gentle percussion give the verses an almost psychedelic feel, beautifully contrasted by the heavier chorus. This song is perhaps the album’s biggest testament to Bolin’s skills as a composer and songwriter, providing an appropriate conclusion to an expertly crafted album.

To conclude, Teaser is one of the most interesting and unique “rock” albums of the 70’s and is undoubtedly one of the high points of Bolin’s short but prolific career. Covering such a wide range of styles and incorporating numerous different influences, Teaser is quite a hard album to categorise; it straddles the line between jazz-rock and more straight forward classic rock, while still being relatively experimental. Despite its eclectic nature, Teaser doesn’t at any point sound forced or disjointed, which is perhaps one of the album’s most impressive attributes.

In many ways Teaser ended up being an unintentionally apt title for this album as at times this record hints at an even greater level of creativity and success that could have been achieved had Bolin’s career not been consumed by the on-going drug and alcohol problems that led to his death. However, perhaps it would be better to look at what Bolin did manage to achieve in his tragically short career rather than what might have been. After all by the time of his death, Bolin had reached greater heights than many guitarists could have hoped to reach even in a career spanning three or four times that of Bolin’s. In fact, returning to the opening sentence of this review, it could be argued that Bolin did manage to realise his potential after all, all be it at a very early age.

Bolin went on to release one more album after this, the excellent Private Eyes, which although not quite as impressive as Teaser, further demonstrated Bolin’s artistry. Looking back on the guitarist’s brief career it’s remarkable to think that he managed to achieve so much in such a short time. To leave behind such an impressive and varied discography at the age of just 25 is impressive to say the least and with more material still being unearthed from the archives after all this time, it seems that there’s still even more material yet to see the light of day. For anyone not familiar with Tommy Bolin’s music, or for those who are only familiar with his performance on Deep Purple’s Come Taste the Band, Teaser would be the perfect place to start as it provides the perfect snapshot of Bolin’s trademark style and brings together all his best attributes into one superb album.



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user ratings (6)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


Once again apologies for the length but as with my previous review I had a lot that I wanted to say.

Nagrarok
July 26th 2013


8291 Comments


Great and detailed writing Jamie, I knew you'd give us a Tommy Bolin (solo) review eventually ;). Some
minor punctuation issues I spotted, but hardly worth mentioning, you'll come across them. As you know
I checked out Spectrum not too long ago which rules, though I've never cared too much about Come Taste
the Band. Need to give that another listen.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


20063 Comments


Great and detailed writing [2]

Digging: Trophy Eyes - Mend, Move On

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2013


6269 Comments


Excellent review Jamie, pos.

I was always curious to learn more about this guy and your thoroughly informative review was 100% effective in that respect.


one tiny correction:

in1969

in 1969

Digging: Varathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


Thanks guys.

@Nag: Come Taste the Band definitely isn't one of Bolin's best performances but as you know I really like that album. I felt that Bolin was a good fit for the funky direction the band were going in at the time. I'd say it's definitely worth another listen.

@Voivod: Thanks for pointing that out, I'll edit it in a minute.

manosg
July 26th 2013


6506 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lots of great info here, didn't remember David Sanborn's participation on this one. This is an excellent album, Dreamer and Lotus are amazing songs.

The dude died too young. Blackmore met him not long ago before his death and said that Bolin was at an awful state. His guitar strings looked like they hadn't been replaced for two years and when Blackmore noted that, Bolin seemed amazed.

Great review man, pos.

Digging: Witchfynde - Give 'em Hell

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


Thanks dude. Yeah Lotus in particular is one of my favourites on here.

ButteryBiscuitBass
July 26th 2013


10159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Auto-POS'd. Then read and double POS'd.

Awesome stuff, Jamie.

MrSirLordGentleman
July 26th 2013


4741 Comments


Great and detailed writing [3] , I've never listened to Bolin's solo career, but it sounds very interesting, I think I might give it a try

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


16112 Comments


nice review, need to listen to more of this guy

Digging: H.P. Lovecraft - H.P. Lovecraft II

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


Thanks dudes.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


This album was recently reissued with two discs worth of bonus material and I'd highly recommend getting that if you're interested in checking this out. Some of the bonus material is excellent, particularly Crazed Fandango and Smooth Fandango (one of those should have made the album imo).

TrueBlood
July 26th 2013


1388 Comments


oh sweet didn't even see this, gonna read now

and if I remember correctly I believe you had a pic of Bolin as your user prof. pic for the longest

TrueBlood
July 26th 2013


1388 Comments


Bro, really solid write up. It had great flow and was easy to read. You explained Bolin's career very well.

pos'd

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2013


21392 Comments


Thanks bro. And yeah I did have him as my profile pic for a while.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2013


4453 Comments


Very nice, Jamie. POS'd. Haven't heard this yet, so I'll check this one out. I need to check out Odyssey still as well.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2013


21392 Comments


Thanks Hernan. I can see you digging this.

ButteryBiscuitBass
July 27th 2013


10159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Treated myself to a couple of listens, it's good.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2013


21392 Comments


Glad you liked it man, it gets even better with repeated listens.

KILL
February 14th 2014


72086 Comments


was looking through records phil collins appeared on and found this, great stuff and great review mr contrib

Digging: Steve Hackett - Out of the Tunnel's Mouth



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