The late, great Tommy Bolin, one of the most prolific and underrated guitarists arguably of all time, is getting the royal crown tribute firmly affixed on his sonic memory with the release of Great Gypsy Soul. The eleven song album, which was released in MP3* format today, March 25 (it’s actually on sale right now for $3.99) has a stunning array of guests on it that reads like a who’s who line-up of some guitar and vocal greats of the 1970s and 80s and today, like Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, and Warren Haynes.
Bolin, who was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1951 and died in Miami, Florida, in late 1976, was yet another guitar player in the annals of rock whose bright future was stilled, a victim of a heroin overdose while on tour with Jeff Beck.
Bolin’s career spanned from playing with the jazz drummer Billy Cobham on the fusion/progressive rock classic “Spectrum,” then in a post Joe Walsh incarnation of The James Gang; filling in the slot vacated by Richie Blackmore in Deep Purple, and also recording some solo albums on his own. His playing was a musical cocktail of jazz blends, hard rock, vintage blues and hyper fast fury on his instrument. His death left another void for scores of guitar players to pick up in his wake, holding onto the memory who’s career came to screeching halt by way of 1970’s excess.
Now, a bunch of those players and vocalists are here on Great Gypsy Soul. Greg Hampton (who produced other Bolin compilations) and Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers, Govt Mule) co-produced the album, which sets it apart from other tribute albums in the fact that they took existing multi-track tapes of recordings Bolin had done but were never publicly released. The producers took the tracks, some with Bolin’s vocals and stellar guitar intact, overlaid new guitars and new vocals from a guest list of singers in the mixes and created as a finished product an eerie yet memorable effect, as if Tommy Bolin was right there during these sessions in the studio.
The heavyweight lineup includes Haynes, Steve Lukather (Toto), Sonny Landreth (John Hiatt), jazz guitarist John Scofield (Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis), Derek Trucks (also from The Allman Brothers), and top shelf people such as Peter Frampton, Deep Purple’s Steve Morse and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. Glenn Hughes, who actually played with Bolin during his lifetime in Deep Purple, also makes an appearance.
Highlights on the record include “Teaser,” a pot-boiling rocker which features Haynes; the smooth “The Grind” with Peter Frampton; Scofield’s clean and emotional verve present on “Savannah Woman”; the bulldozer attack of “Homeward Strut” with Lukather, and the emotional ballad “Wild Dogs” with Whitford and Bolin’s pained, soulful vocals.
Great Gypsy Soul is a great collection and a great tribute to Tommy Bolin. Amazon has the MP3 version of the album for only $3.99 right now, the price is oh so right to add this to your musical library and also pay tribute to another never to be forgotten figurehead in the storied history that is rock and roll. Grab it at this low price while you can (valid through the end of today; will probably still be on sale tomorrow, but after that, the price goes up!).