Tommy Bolin – The Ultimate Teaser (2012)

Arriving between stints with the James Gang, Billy Cobham and then Deep Purple, Teaser stands as the first, best testament to the roving genius that was doomed guitarist Tommy Bolin.

Set for reissue as The Ultimate Teaser on September 4, 2012, via Samson-429 Records, the original 1975 album — an unpredictable gem that blends heavy rock, sizzling fusion, Latin rhythms, island sounds and greasy funk amid these stunning displays of raw emotion — is now paired with two additional CDs of outtakes and alternative takes, a stark reminder of Bolin’s shooting-star career. He would issue only one more solo album before tragically overdosing in 1976.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Childhood friend Otis Taylor, a celebrated bluesman in his own right, remembers Tommy Bolin’s early years – including the night he got the call to join Deep Purple.]

A super-deluxe option called The Definitive Teaser: Collector’s Edition will also include a two-disc version of Great Gypsy Soul, the recent collection of Bolin songs that paired the fallen star with a series of today’s guitar gods.

Digging back into Teaser, its title could not be more prescient: There are moments that recall Bolin’s subsequent stint in Deep Purple as replacement for Richie Blackmore (Come Taste the Band would appear later in ’75), and things that sound far freer — very much in the style of Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon. There are even hints toward what could have been a credible move into pop music, so impressive was Bolin’s innate knack for hooks. Mostly, though, there is a devastating sense of unfinished business.

Already, the young Bolin had garnered a sweeping amount of respect. Check out this album’s all-star guest list: You’ll find David Sanborn on the reggae-ish “People, People” and on the titanic instrumental “Marching Powder.” Jan Hammer plays synthesizer on the same two cuts. Toto’s Jeff Porcaro appears on “The Grind,” “Homeward Strut,” “Dreamer” and the title cut.

Phil Collins of Genesis fame, meanwhile, added percussion to “Savannah Woman,” while Sammy Figueroa (Average White Band, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis) sits in on “People, People” and “Marching Powder.” Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Todd Rundgren, Journey) is at the drums for “Savannah Woman” and the ballsy rocker “Wild Dogs.” An originally uncredited Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion) also adds vocals to “Dreamer,” a touching ballad.

The outtakes and alternate takes on Discs 2-3, while not essential, illustrate the power, the almost sexual drive, that Bolin’s playing possessed. You hear tracks that didn’t make the final cut, and new thoughts inside familiar songs from the original album — all the while wondering, all over again, what might have been.

If Teaser could have been seen, back in the mid-1970s, as a roadmap for where Bolin was going, that as yet undiscovered destination seems all the more intriguing today.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.