Tommy Bolin Tribute
Reviewed by Bill Peterson
(as reviewed upon release in 2007)
Got my Russell Bizzett CD yesterday; I'd like to share some thoughts.
It is not a Tommy Bolin CD.
If you like Tommy's music: BUY THIS CD!
RB has brought together a great group of LA and San Diego musicians to create music that will change the way a lot of people feel about Tommy's music and hopefully expose many others to it for the first time. There is a blend of rock and jazz. Some songs are not "fusion", but one or the other. There is plenty of saxophone and keyboard playing on this disc. And the drumming and percussion are superb as you might expect.
It starts out with a bang – ‘Stratus’, might as well swing for the seats. Not a straight bluesy reading like a Craig Erickson version, but a real shot across the bow none-the-less.
The comes ‘Dreamer’ and you have not heard it done this way before. It is ‘dreamy’ to coin a phrase. Vocalist Ruby Etoile does an excellent job here. She is the vocalist of long-time So.Cal. favorites ‘Ruby and the Red Hots’. She has a strong clear voice and employs her own phrasing here; a traditionalist might think she's falling behind the melody. But she is truly right there, just feeling, and expressing the feelings, in her own way. A soprano sax is used as the lead instrument; a solo at the beginning and in the middle. With a nice interplay between sax and guitar to close the song. This is truly a more ‘pop’ take on this song than you've heard before. It would be great on a slow, sunny Sunday morning while you relax and enjoy a cup of....
AND THEN QUADRANT IV JUMPS OFF THE CD AND STRAIGHT DOWN YOUR THROAT! I'll get you for that Russ. Man, they just hit this thing full stride right out of the gate, and it is a hopping version, no doubt about it. Like the original after drinking a 2 liter Red Bull! Holy Schnikes! Its short (@ 2:30), but powerful.
Next up is ‘You Know You Know’. Tasty. John spoke a little about this. This one really feels like the musicians are really getting into the collaborative thing here. You'll like this.
‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ is one of only 2 non-Tommy songs. The male vocalist I believe is the bassist Kevin Cooper. A throaty bluesy reading. The vocals on this are not unlike those on the Rocky Athas version of Tommy's ‘Slow Driver’. Not a standout version of a song that's been done a bazillion times. But very well done and very enjoyable. Well within the comfort zone.
‘Red Baron’ – Dis da kine, bruddah! The very best track on this CD. I do not exaggerate in saying I think this is the one cut better than the original. I'm no longer hearing musicians. This is seamless and strong. If any song on this CD garners airplay this will be it. This song alone is worth the price of the CD.
Next up is ‘San Francisco River’. Never one of my favorites because it always seemed like a couple of mismatched musical ideas forced together. But it is working here. I'm not sure which of the guitar players listed is playing here, but this is the song that will most remind you of Tommy's playing. Kind of gets a little improv-y at the end.
The last of the Bolin songs is ‘People, People’. Once again Ruby's voice is the focal point here. I think the Tenor sax (as opposed to the strong Soprano influence on ‘Dreamer’) is really well done, and you can really feel the influence of RB's long time musical collaborator, keyboardist Wayne Peet. Naturally he is a big influence throughout, but I get the feeling this is probably his arrangement. (note: actually this is Russell's arrangement) Once again the vocal phrasing will seem a little odd to someone who has only heard the original. But it is not meant to duplicate the Lp, but interpret it. And a fine job it is.
The CD finishes with the Wayne Peet tune ‘Tearjerker’. This is apparently something Wayne and Russell did in the past, and re-interpret here. At almost 10 minutes I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Good Stuff by some dynamite musicians.
At 52 minutes or so, you're not gonna get gypped on quantity. Rest assured you will not be shortchanged in quality either. A welcome addition to the Bolin scene.
Bill Peterson passed away in 2014 and will always be remembered for his support regarding anythhing Tommy related
Percussionist Russell Bizzett, toured & recorded with Tommy 1974 - 76.
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