Warren Haynes says that he helped construct a new tribute album to Tommy Bolin with an eye toward what the former Deep Purple and James Gang guitarist would have been interested in: “I don’t think we chose anyone who would make Tommy grimace,” Haynes says, adding: “Hopefully not!” with a laugh.
Great Gypsy Soul, issued March 27 by 429 Records, includes a series of standouts playing and singing along to outtakes and alternate versions of Bolin’s solo material — including Peter Frampton, Nels Cline, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Steve Lukather, Sonny Landreth, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Morse, Brad Whitford and others.
Bolin, who also worked with the James Gang, passed in 1976 having issued just two albums under his own name. Haynes and producer Greg Hampton, who previously worked on the 2006′s archival Bolin release Whips and Roses, carefully selected unused tracks from those sessions and then recorded new versions.
“Anything we did, we did with the spirit of staying true to Tommy and his songs,” Haynes tells MusicRadar. “We put a lot of love and reverence into this. We were trying to respect his legacy at every turn, starting with who we chose to be part of it.”
One of the more interesting, and resonant, moments in the project found Lukather playing along with a Bolin session for the song “Homeward Strut” featuring former Toto bandmate Jeff Porcaro, who died in 1992. “Steve was very emotional doing that,” Haynes says. “I think it was a fulfilling but very difficult experience for him.”
Elsewhere, Frampton appears on “The Grind,” Haynes on “Teaser,” Scofield on “Savannah Woman,” Trucks on “Smooth Fandango,” Whitford on “Wild Dogs” and Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes and Cline on “Lotus.”
“These original recordings weren’t finished, so doing what we did, we turned them into complete performances. That was really cool,” Haynes says. “I think it’ll be interesting to see how the music stands up now. I think people will go, ‘Oh, wow, that’s pretty cool!’ People who know Tommy’s work should be pretty pleased with it, but I think that people who aren’t familiar might go, ‘Hey, this is great stuff. Why haven’t I heard this guy before?’”
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Tommy Bolin, and Deep Purple. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
TOMMY BOLIN, WITH WARREN HAYNES, PETER FRAMPTON, STEVE LUKATHER, OTHERS – GREAT GYPSY SOUL (2012): This isn’t a eulogy, no sad occasion, mostly because Tommy Bolin is so very present on the pleasantly unsanctimonious Great Gypsy Soul. Of course, you can’t help but miss Bolin, whose shooting star of a career included stops with the James Gang, Billy Cobham and Deep Purple, along with a pair of celebrated solo projects in 1975′s Teaser and 1976′s Private Eyes. But his physical absence, after a shocking accidental overdose later in ’76, seems smaller after a spin through this interesting new studio tribute album.
DEEP PURPLE – SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE (1968; 2011 REISSUE): Coming together in 1967, Deep Purple were like a lot of bands of the day, as their mission was to push the sonic envelope as far as possible and create something new and exciting. Based out of Hertford, England, the group achieved their goal straight away. Dramatic and bombastic, Deep Purple played a tumultuous blend of heavy metal and progressive rock before such labels arrived into being, tagging them pioneers of the genres.
ON BOLIN’S EARLY YEARS, FROM CHILDHOOD FRIEND OTIS TAYLOR: “There was no heavy metal back then. Tommy was heavy metal, as one of the pioneers. Before he came along, there was no such thing,” said Taylor, who has gone on to stardom as a blues musician. “When it came to Tommy, everybody said I impacted him more than he impacted me. I try to tell people, and it’s so hard: When you know a kid from when you’re 10 years old, can it really impact you? We were really just being kids. He wasn’t a star yet. I remember we were playing this bar, it was sound check. And Tommy came in and said: ‘I just got a gig with Deep Purple.’ We were so happy for him. ‘We know somebody who’s a star now.’ It was a big deal.”
ONE TRACK MIND: DEEP PURPLE’S ROGER GLOVER, “THE CAR WON’T START” (2011): A tune that couldn’t be further away from the dark organ-based groove of his band, “The Car Won’t Stop” finds Deep Purple’s Roger Glover indulging in a childhood passion for skiffle. There may not be a more surprising connection to be made between this homemade amalgam of roots influences and Glover, unless you know the history: This British folk-rock tangent influenced many of Glover’s generation, including the Beatles.
FORGOTTEN SERIES: EPISODE SIX – THE ROOTS OF DEEP PURPLE: THE COMPLETE EPISODE SIX (1994): Formed in the summer of 1964, Episode Six quickly developed a star-studded reputation as a hotshot live band. The English group, which included lead singer Ian Gillian and bassist Roger Glover, who eventually gleaned even more accolades in Deep Purple, also cut a flock of brilliant singles that are featured on this set, along with a brace of previously unreleased material.