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Tommy Bolin and Deep Purple

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I’ve been listening to Tommy Bolin’s two solo albums, “Teaser” and “Private Eyes” recently, and it’s becoming clear what bugs me about Tommy Bolin’s sole studio contribution to the Deep Purple canon, the 1976 album “Come Taste the Band”.

The two Bolin albums, especially “Teaser”, released while he was still in Purple are choppy funk-rock. Meanwhile David Coverdale, as demonstrated by his later solo albums and with the earlier incarnation of Whitesnake (forget the late 80s MTV hair-metal version of that band!) was more into Hammond-heavy blues-rock. “Come Taste the Band” is an unhappy mix of these two styles, which for me is why the album as a whole doesn’t quite work for me. Some songs, such as “Dealer”, “Love Child” and “I Need Love” sound to me like bits of songs from “Teaser” and “Lovehunter” crudely chopped up and spliced together! The songs which do work, such as “Lady Luck”, “Drifter” and “You Keep On Moving” are where one style (Coverdale’s) predominates.

Saying that, “Teaser” and the heavier follow-up “Private Eyes” are fine albums, and it’s a pity Bolin’s career was tragically cut short by drug abuse; it’s just he was the wrong choice for Purple.

Sometimes I wonder what might have happened had Purple either chosen someone else, or sacked Bolin (and Glenn Hughes) in 1976. I’m guessing we’d have ended up with something much like early 80s Whitesnake, only with a flashier guitarist. Who was available in 1976? What about Gary Moore? Just what would a David Coverdale – Jon Lord – Ian Paice – Gary Moore – Neil Murray lineup have sounded like?

(This entry also appears in Where Worlds Collide)

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About Tim Hall

  • Eric Olsen

    I love the Teaser album, a league apart from any of his other work, although he did some fine, blistering fusion with Billy Cobham and also played with the James Gang for an album or two.

    Excellent find.

  • CARL MOSTERT

    WAKE UP, DONT EVEN GO ANYWHERE ELSE TOMMY WAS AND STILL IS THE MESIAH.NO MORE COMPARISONS,I SAW HIM LIVE,I KNOW I WAS THERE.WILD DOG

  • Lenny Maes

    Tommy was one of the best guitar players
    ever. Guitar players now still can’t get that style or sound.

  • Igor

    Come Taste The Band for me is a perfect marriage between powerfull, early-Purple rock and funk. I love it. And this is why I think it has more relevance now than more straightforward but at the same time boring music of early Whitesnake. It’s a shame the band couldn’t quite cut it live in 1976. I wish they had stayed there for another couple of albums.

  • http://www.drivinrain.net Timexx Nasty

    Tommy Bolin rocked, lots of new CDs on sale, I have the new LIVE cd, and it is just awsome!
    link

  • Stu

    To me, Bolins best album with Spectrum with Billy Cobham…he really tore it up on that album…i wish deep purple had not broken up…i could see the band going in the funky direction of spectrum if he had not.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    agreed. Spectrum is a killer record.

  • Blackie

    I reachon your spot on, I followed Purple from In Rock back and then forward, although I like the production of Come Taste the Band, they were heading into middle of the road america, where there is no honest rock.
    That funky chops and Coverdales monotone ruined Purple, the facts are all there to see, and Tommy the Messiah?? I dont agree… Rory Gallaghar yes, Angus Young yes, Buchanan yes, townsend yes, hendrix yes, tommy, sorry mate we’ll never know…

  • Vinny

    I’m a huge Purple fan and I love Ritchie Blackmore. I’m an even bigger Tommy Bolin fan and I think that they shouldn’t have tried to carry on as Deep Purple since Purple had a distinct formula and sound. The problem most Purple fans have with CTTB is that is doesn’t follow the canned Purple formula. The mark 2 lineup of Purple is the definitive version but CTTB is the Purple album that holds up best today due to the variety it offers, a great album. They should have called it a day for Purple and started a new project which had great promise with the talent in this lineup. If you want to hear Tommy in his element as opposed to someone else’s, check out any of the Tommy Bolin Archives discs or better yet, get the newly released Whips and Roses. Whips consists of Teaser outtakes and a couple of live gems and is a must for anyone who loves great guitar playing. The remarkable thing about this CD is that it brings Teaser sonically into today’s standards, it sounds like it was recorded yesterday rather than 30 years ago. Tommy was a musician’s muscician who was the most versatile player I’ve ever heard and he was way ahead of his time. For the die hard Purple fans, listen to Tommy and appeciate him for the gifted player that he was instead of just looking at him from the Purple vein.

  • Stormbringer

    I agree with Vinnie, that the Bolin/Coverdale/Hughes lineup was the problem. Theres no Ritchie Blackmore, the end all be all of Deep Purple. As you can tell by the name, I am a huge Purple fan, and I can tell you the only reason anyone bought Burn or Stormbringer(both of which i love) or attended any of their shows is because of Blackmore. Bolin was a great guitar player who shined on spectrum. Just wasnt a great fit for Purple. No one could fill Blackmores shoes, not even Hendrix.

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Funny how this three and a half year old post is still getting comments.

    No one could fill Blackmores shoes, not even Hendrix.

    What about Steve Morse then ?

    I think it’s taken a dozen years and four albums before Morse really became part of the band’s sound.

    Morse had a much easier time being accepted by Purple’s fanbase, partly because of Blackmore’s pretty awful live performances on his last tour with Purple. Bolin had to live up to “Burn” (or be compared with “Rainbow Rising”). Morse had to live up to “The Battle Rages On”, or be compared with the fairies and pixies of Blackmore’s Night.

  • Val

    Yes Tommy was a great guitar player, but his funky style was completely differend compare to RB, so the CTTB album was at least 7-10 years ahead of it’s time and therefore DP loosed direction and a lot of it’s fanbase. I guess Satriani could be the better choice for DP at that time.

  • Greg

    While CTTB is certainly a mix of styles, the one thread is Tommy’s guitar playing. Over the years this album has found it’s way into my list of favorite albums, and “Owed to G” is an all-time favorite of mine!