Album review: TOMMY BOLIN – Whirlwind

TOMMY BOLIN - Whirlwind

Cleopatra Records [Release date: 26.08.13]

Guitarist Tommy Bolin has an interesting pre-Purple history and this 2-CD set is an excellent chronicle of the band he formed in 1972 after Zephyr and before James Gang.  Energy, with a mix of rock and jazz fusion, pre-dates and pre-empts his time with Billy Cobham and included drummer Bobby Berge (who also played in Zephyr) and vocalist Jeff Cook who adds sketchy if authentic sleeve notes to this release.

Greg Hampton and Tommy Bolin’s brother Johnnie have overseen this compilation and a high standard is maintained with a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces.  Amongst the standouts, the instrumentals ‘Hoka-Hay!’ and ‘Dungeon’ and a 26 minute formative version of what became ‘Marching Powder’ on his classic ‘Teaser’ album.  We also hear early or alternate versions of songs that appeared on Bolin’s James Gang albums: ‘Alexis’ and ‘Spanish Lover’.

Although billed as ‘rare and unreleased’ recordings, buyers should note that several Energy and contemporaneous  tracks appeared on the 3-CD set ‘Ultimate: Redux’ in 2008 and the earlier ‘Energy’ in 1999.  For collectors, a limited edition deluxe box version of ‘Whirlwind’ includes 4 colour postcards, pick, patch and pin.

It does suggest that there is still a need for a definitive anthology which brings together  the somewhat haphazard archive releases since his death in 1976 along with the commercial recordings he made in his lifetime (and chronicled on 1989′s ‘Ultimate’ collection).

But this release is infinitely preferable to the very poor tribute album I reviewed in 2012 when Bolin’s original multi-track tapes were re-used.  ‘Whirlwind’ is thankfully the real deal although underlining the frustration that a promising career was to tragically unravel.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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