This is a regular opinion piece. It is purely MY OWN VIEWS and many will disagree with me, but that's OK, as responses and open debate are always a healthy thing. If anyone is offended by what I say, I apologise, but I just want to encourage a good healthy Tommy dialogue. Please share your views by contacting us via email or by posting on our Facebook page. ALL comments welcome!
My own personal view, plus I asked a few other people re the Bolin/Blackmore issue and - just for fun their 5 fave guitarists. Responses came from David Givens, Alphonse Mouzon, Tommy Stephenson, Nararda Michael Walden and more...
I purposely called this ‘BLACKMORE/BOLIN’ as opposed to ‘BLACKMORE VERSUS BOLIN’ – the omission of ‘VERSUS’ being my point. Personally I don't buy into the ‘Blackmore is better than Bolin’ or ‘Bolin is better than Blackmore’ camp, they were both very different guitarists in their own right and with very different styles of playing. Ritchie had that classical element while Tommy, much more the fusion/funk element. Funnily enough, I think Ritchie had a much more funky element than people appreciate! The Deep Purple Beat Club TV renditions of ‘No No No’ were – um, groovy, man! Ditto, THAT funky quiet bit with Coverdale during the ‘You Fool No-one’ at Cal Jam’.
Both guitarists were masters of the blues, Ritchie would often downplay this element in interviews, much, I think, to his detriment!
CLASSIC DEEP PURPLE
I guess this is where people polarise. Yes, my first introduction to the band was ‘Made In Japan’ which, if I have to be honest, is the pinnacle of a band in their prime. Ritchie is in fantastic form, and despite the fact that he was better, in a technical sense, later on, the spontenaeity and fire of his performances here make him hard to beat. Cal Jam was up there as well – obviously Tommy had a hard act to follow...
It's no secret, by the time Tommy joined Deep Purple, the band were on a downward spiral. However, to me, ‘Come Taste the Band’ was a massive move in a forward, more contemporary direction. It wasn't anything like the old Purple, it was fresh as f@#k, and still rocked solid! ‘CTTB’ was panned upon it's release, but it's getting it's due recognition to this day. The recent 35th Anniversary remix was praised by pretty much everyone as being ahead of it's time, precursors to bands like ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ etc, who I love, but, to me, not even CLOSE! We all know what happened next, lifestyle issues, changes in musical climate, etc. resulted in a disatrous world tour, Tommy and Glenn were the main gulity parties, but the band (hmmm, perhaps ‘BRAND’) had become a ‘commodity’ (as Coverdale hinted at in an New Zealand interview in November 1975). I personally think that without Ritchie's discipline (call it what you will) the band lacked structure, their performances fluctuated like a yo yo – any ‘SOLDIER‘ who had the missFORTUNE to listen through ‘Last Concert In Japan’ would duly testify! Unfortunately it gave the ‘Bolin Bashers’ plenty of ammunition!
My personal preference has and always will be Tommy. I'm not saying he's better than Ritchie, but I prefer his more jazzy/funky style and the big difference is that he's an all round musician who sings (very underated) as well.
MY FAVE TOP FIVE GUITARISTS
Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Bolin, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower
I’m not really a critic, but for me, the big difference between Ritchie and Tommy is that Ritchie is a pop composer and uses mostly major key melodic “hooks” to great effect in his compositions and in his guitar playing while Tommy is more jazz/blues/funk oriented and he harmonizes his work using minor pentatonic blues scales and he uses more syncopated timing. Apples and star fruit.
Top five guitarists? OK, off the top of my head: Jimi Hendrix, Sunny Sharock, Jeff Beck, Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery.
It is simple... Tommy was a much better all round player than Ritchie, who was stuck in the heavy rock style of playing, but could not play a lick of blues, jazz or any of the various genres that TB could on a moments notice. Ritchie was great what he did, but that is all he could do (and he was not the great human being that Tommy was either)!!!!!! I know this, due to the fact that Tommy arranged for me to come play with Rainbow... & Ritchie was an asshole to me, and many others around him. Just sayin;))))))~
(I then mention to Tommy (Stephenson) that he would've actually been a great inclusion in Rainbow)
Yes it would have. But he did not give any charts for the songs, and the gear he had for me was shit! I could not even hear myself play due to the stacks and stacks of amps that he had blowing right in my ear, without even monitors for me to hear myself... I got up and walked out on the “audition”... told him thanks but no thanks. I think he did all those things to insult Bolin and me!!!!!......
To compare the differences between Ritchie and Tommy to me seems pretty simple really, while they both are/were amazing guitar players and musicians in their own right, they simply had two completely different styles and feel in their playing
Blackmore is more into the heavy rock feel almost a heavy metal feel if you will. An amazing player he is his heavy, sweet licks, you can’t help but know he has taken the stage and is in control. For any player to try to duplicate his style and feel is difficult at best. Blackmore, indeed is still to this day a force to reckon with when it comes to rock guitar.
Tommy, however had his own style and charisma about him and his music. He had a way of combining the rock licks everyone loves and waits to hear with a sweet jazzy sound with a blues undertone that is almost impossible to reproduce to a tee. Tommy’s playing reaches deep inside your very being and touches your soul. I dare anyone to listen to him and not feel his music in your soul and feel the goosebumps. Tommy was a special soul that had the ability to reach inside of you and feel him. That feeling is still there for me every time I hear him. A sweet, blessed, talented, person that is still here with us in his music.
My five top guitar players? That’s a tough one indeed. There are so many out there
Tommy of course tops the list for me, Jeff Beck definitely, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, I could go on and on
Both guitarists are great, but very different.I hate to compare musicians because I've always had that done with myself and Cobham. That “Opinion” should be left to the fans and not the professionals to compare. Im curious to hear what people will say about Tommy & Blackmore.
Tommy and Ritchie are very different players and you can’t really compare the two or say one is better than the other. To me, Ritchie is a Blues based Rock player with Neo Classical influences. He leans towards the heavier, darker side of Rock. Especially in the early Rainbow days. He sometimes would even go off by himself on his solo’s for long periods of time with very little, if any, accompaniment. Later in his career he did write more commercial type songs and then he is now heavily into his renaissance phase.
Tommy was a Blues based Rocker but with Funk and Jazzy/Bebop flavors. He was heavily into Reggae and World beat rhythms too. Country, Folk and whatever else you could think of were well within his reach. His solo’s were never the same on any given night and you can tell he liked to be driven by the other musicians he was playing with at that moment. Two things I love about his playing were the sense of abandonment and emotion he would express. He would just let er rip and see what happens!
They both dug the bitey/edgy Strat tone cranked up loud. I don’t think Ritchie used too many effect pedals. Tommy’s favorites were his Echoplex, fuzz and phaser.
I don’t think Ritchie played much with a slide either but Tommy did fairly frequently.
Regardless of their differences, they are both two of the greatest ever. The saddest part is that we didn’t get to hear everything that Tommy had to offer. Ritchie has had a long and successful career. I’ve heard that he’s resurrecting Rainbow for a few show’s in 2016. Let’s hope there’s more!
Oh, my top 5 guitar pickers. Tommy Bolin, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Robin Trower, Michael Schenker
Blackmore and Bolin are totally different like you say, I like Tommy because he plays more of the jazz/fusion thing plus he uses his echoplex which to me is Tommy's trademark, but Blackmore is classicly trained and I always loved he’s classical side but he could play great blues as well they are both great players in there own right and have a style of they’re own. I grew up listening to Blackmore before I even knew of Tommy so to pick top 5 guitarists is a hard one for me, but I’ll give go.
1. Ritchie Blackmore/Tommy Bolin /Jimi Hendrix sorry but I can’t choose between them.
2. Jimmy Page (in his day)
3. Joe Satriani.
4. David Gilmour.
5. Gary Moore.
There’s so many others I would’ve liked to have picked which I love like Steve Vai, Larry Carlton, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Luthkater, Brian May the list could go on and on but that was a very hard 5 to pick.
I’d like to add Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan as well lol
Don’t believe in top five too much love to go around! Apples and oranges!
I can tell you who changed my life?
It starts with my love for Jimi who died 1970 the year I graduated high school.
Mahavishnu, Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Carlos Santana, RAYMOND GOMEZ, Corrado Rustici, Sandy Torano, Mathew Charles Huelitt, Robert Fripp
And so many beautiful ones!
Liked although I didn’t play with... Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell
Oh! I did produce George Benson.
Narada Michael Walden
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