Definitive Teaser Collector's Edition

Tommy Bolin

After stints with Zephyr and James Gang, guitarist Tommy Bolin released Teaser, his debut solo album, in 1975. Around the same time, Ritchie Blackmore departed Deep Purple and the band considered calling it quits. After all, despite each member's individual talents, Blackmore truly was the driving force. However, when vocalist and Purple’s front man at the time, David Coverdale, heard the brilliant guitar work of Bolin on Billy Cobham’s groundbreaking fusion classic Spectrum, he was able convince the rest of Deep Purple to carry on and bring him on board.

Like so many artists, i.e., Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Randy Rhoads, to name but a few, Bolin's life ended at a youthful age. Drugs claimed the young man's life — specifically, after a gig in which Bolin opened for Jeff Beck. Neither Bolin nor his brilliant Teaser received the recognition they deserved at the time. Now, 429 Records has not only reissued Teaser, but has included it as part of a five-disc Definitive Teaser Collector’s Edition.

Aside from Teaser, the other four discs are studio outtakes, unreleased material and a disc called Great Gypsy Soul that brings in players like Peter Frampton, Warren Haynes, Nels Cline, Steve Lukather, Steve Morse, Brad Whitford, Joe Bonamassa, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Glenn Hughes and Myles Kennedy to perform alongside Bolin on Teaser outtakes. Overall, the entire package does come off as a bit boundless. I am not complaining, in terms of variety, but I believe only a diehard would indulge in such excessiveness. I feel only Teaser itself should have been released instead of padding the product with alternative takes. Regarding the unreleased material, consider most of it pencil sketches of fine art. Bolin was no Blackmore, and that is not a slight. Blackmore leaned towards renaissance-meets-rock, whereas Bolin had a hand in all aspects of music — be it jazz, blues, Latin. You get the picture.

And Bolin had a masterful style of incorporating all of these styles, and rolling them into a rock and roll package. In other words, it came off as rock, but one would have to look gingerly into the oh-so-fine layers of Bolin’s work, to actually realize his multitude of influences. At the end of the day, Bolin displayed tons of promise that sadly was never truly realized. That may be the reasoning behind the unreleased and outtake material, but I don't feel these cuts justify the cause. The album Teaser speaks for itself.

Upon listening to Teaser, for the first time, in, oh, I dunno, 30-plus years, it still sounds fresh to me. I played this album to death, back in the day, but upon fresh ears, I am hearing plateaus and layers of musical intricacy, that I did not realize upon my earlier listens. This music, of course, would not work today. The 70s music scene was made up of blues-inspired artists, that loved the composition, over the paycheck. Today, it is all about the video, the grand scheme MTV production. Back then, previous to television prostitution, artists believed in their work and strived to become greater than whatever level of talent they had already possessed. They were never satisfied, and you hear that in Bolin's work. He was not flashy, not showy. But he had a talent to take a few simple notes and mold them into a musical masterpiece.

With an appearance by Peter Frampton (one of rock’s most underrated guitarists) on the infectious “The Grind,” Teaser kicks off in impressive fashion — hard-hitting, yet catchy. I am surprised no one has thought to cover this song. “Dreamer” is downright brilliant. Beginning as a cookie-cutter ballad, it builds to some head-shaking guitar work by Bolin, builds to a crescendo, then brings the listener down gently, only to bring them back to a dazzling display of blues-inspired guitar work.

“Savannah” is a cut of pure Latin-inspiration, ala Santana. But, in prophetic fashion, it resembles more of the 90s version of Santana. Some 20-plus years prior to Santana's MTV success, Bolin was already creating a sound that could cross over from the rock world into the Latin musical community. “Marching Powder” reeks of Purple Haze inspiration, that doesn't take a trained ear to pick out. However, it seems as if Bolin took the song, rearranged it, nip-and-tucked here and there, and it results in a song that, although similar in tone, is almost entirely dissimilar.

Those are just a few examples. The listener owes it to his or herself to pick out the fine-and-subtle influences jam-packed into Teaser. For any fan of 60s and 70s rock that may have missed this release when it was originally released, Bolin obviously put down the blueprint for bands to come — subtle, impressive guitar work with soulful vocals. Teaser attaches to the cranium instantly, and grows greater and greater upon repeated listens. They just don’t make them like this anymore. I wonder, had Bolin survived his addiction, what he could have released in later years. That aside, Teaser one outshines most other artists’ entire catalogs.

~ Bruce Forrest

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