Friday, February 12, 2021

Tommy Bolin: “Shake The Devil: The Lost Sessions” (2021) CD Review

Tommy Bolin was only twenty-five when he died, and yet he left behind a fairly impressive body of work. He was a founding member of the rock group Zephyr, playing on their first two records, and then a member of the James Gang, where he not only took over on lead guitar but also wrote much of the material the band released in 1973 and 1974. Following that, he joined Deep Purple, playing on the group’s 1975 LP Come Taste The Band. And somehow in that time he also played on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album and managed to record a couple of solo albums. When Tommy Bolin died, there were a lot of tapes of his playing, but no one could find demos for his final album, Private Eyes. Until now. Dave Thompson, in the liner notes for Shake The Devil: The Lost Sessions, quotes Johnnie Bolin, who says of the tape, “I don’t know where it came from, or where it has been for the last 45 years.” I’d love to know the story behind these recordings, and perhaps someday we will, but for now we can enjoy the music itself.

The disc opens with its title track, an alternate mix of “Shake The Devil,” the first track from the second side of Private Eyes, and a wonderful example of 1970s rock, music I still maintain affection for. This is the kind of rock that was playing early in my childhood. The sound feels perhaps a bit muddier, and this version has a slightly longer ending. It starts to fade out, like the album version, and then cuts off. That’s followed by an alternate version of “Bustin’ Out For Rosey,” the lead track from Private Eyes. This is a fun tune, with something of a funky edge, with some rather goofy lyrics like “Yeah, I feel I’m crisp and toasty.” Yet it is a rather sweet song. Then that strange spacey part comes as a surprise, and feels more pronounced than in the album version, but it’s easy to get into it. This is one of my favorite tracks. “Hello, Again” is a mellower, softer number played on acoustic guitar. This version is without Del Newman’s pretty string arrangement that is on the album version. “And by the way, hello again/I’m so pleased to have your company/We’ll count the stars under misty skies/And watch them fall into the sea.”

This disc contains an alternate version of “Sweet Burgundy,” this one a bit shorter than the album version, with the instrumental section at the end trimmed. There is also an instrumental demo of “You Told Me That You Loved Me,” which to me at first feels like the closing music for Saturday Night Live or something, with that saxophone. I like it. And it builds from there, featuring some good work on keys. That’s followed by a demo of “Post Toastee,” just vocals and guitar. It is labeled as an acoustic demo, but it doesn’t sound acoustic to me. On the album, this song is nine minutes, becoming a cool jam that even dips into a disco sound at one point. This version is approximately a third of that length. Things then get fun and kind of funky with “Tommy’s Instrumental,” an outtake, a tune that was not included on Private Eyes. Certainly a reason to want to own this disc. Approximately halfway through, it takes a surprising and wonderful turn, with that sax coming in.

There are three versions of “Gypsy Soul” included on this release. The first is the closest to the album version, a cool, somewhat laid-back jazzy tune. I love the moment when the saxophone comes in, and I that guitar work in the second half is especially delicious. That instrumental section is excellent, and makes this track another of the disc’s highlights for me. The second version of “Gypsy Soul” is quite a bit different – a mellower, kind of loose, acoustic demo, giving us a sense of how the song developed. It’s much shorter. That’s followed by the third version, a rehearsal that features some really good work on guitar. This disc also contains two instrumental demos of “Someday Will Bring Our Love Home.” The first one has a vibrant sound, with some good percussion, and is a bit longer than the album version. It ends suddenly. The album wraps up with the second instrumental demo of “Someday Will Bring Our Love Home,” which has something of a cool country flavor. After it fades out, there is an additional little treat at the end of the disc.

CD Track List

  1. Shake The Devil (Alternate Mix)
  2. Bustin’ Out For Rosey (Alternate Version)
  3. Hello, Again (Outtake)
  4. Gypsy Soul #1 (Outtake)
  5. Sweet Burgundy (Alternate Version)
  6. Someday Will Bring Our Love Home (Instrumental Demo)
  7. You Told Me That You Loved Me (Instrumental Demo)
  8. Post Toastee (Acoustic Demo)
  9. Tommy’s Instrumental (Outtake)
  10. Gypsy Soul #2 (Acoustic Demo)
  11. Gypsy Soul #3 (Rehearsal Demo)
  12. Someday Will Bring Our Love Home (Instrumental Demo)

Shake The Devil: The Lost Sessions was released today, February 12, 2021, on Cleopatra Records.

No comments:

Post a Comment