Tommy Bolin – The Ultimate: Redux

Intriguing, intimate odds and sods collection of the late guitar wunderkind

This 2008, three CD collection, titled The Ultimate: Redux, consists mainly of material found on previously released single-disc compilations (namely the long out of print From The Archives Vols 1 & II), however with so many collections produced over the years, the posthumous legacy of the late guitar genius can get quite confusing, even for hard core collectors (for anyone interested, a discussion on this topic can be read here).

Although calling it The Ultimate: Redux might seem a tad misleading, even to more serious collectors, because unlike Bolin’s official solo albums, the sound quality on Redux is hardly what one would call consistent, even for recording standards during Tommy’s brief career. What we get are acoustic/electric demos, live performances, and works-in-progress. Pretty much all of it is, as stated in the liner notes “rare historical musical moments from the life of Tommy Bolin,” and from that perspective, Redux largely fulfils what it sets out to do.

Unsurprisingly Bolin’s solo debut Teaser is well represented, with the title track of that LP, an acoustic home demo from 1973, coming across as more of a country-blues number, instead of the blues-rock glam-out Tommy would record later. Other demos, like “Alexis,” “Sweet Burgundy,” and the delicious Bang-era “Standing In The Rain,” offer a more personal insight into Bolin’s creative process.

Further highlights include early demos of “Wild Dogs” and “Dreamer” (both destined for his solo debut), and the frenzied jazzy “Crazed Fandango,” an outtake from Teaser. Several other cuts such as “Red Skies” and “Heartlight” cover his period with experimental rock outfit Energy, a band who never quite received the recognition they deserved, plus a decent handful of live recordings, the best of which are easily his performances at Ebbets Field (“Stratus,” with Jan Hammer, is particularly inspired), and give the listener an indication of just how blistering Bolin was on stage.

Perhaps The Official Bootleg Collection is a more apt description for this set, yet titles aside, The Ultimate: Redux remains an intriguing, and at times even absorbing tribute to one of the most exciting and talented guitarists of his or any other generation. Yes the sound quality will probably put some people off, but if you, like me, never tire of hearing his playing, then these three discs are essential.