Tommy Bolin – Private Eyes

Guitar virtuoso turns the amp down low on sophomore solo effort

After Deep Purple Mk 4 had imploded, Tommy Bolin went about putting together his own group, known as the Tommy Bolin Band in 1976. Touring in support of Teaser, Tommy’s solo debut, soon Bolin began work on his next project, what would sadly turn out as his final album, Private Eyes. Sessions for the LP were held at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood over several days in June, with the band practically learning the songs in the studio while recording was taking place.

Co-produced by Bolin and Dennis MacKay, whom he had worked with in London the previous year, compared to Teaser, Private Eyes would be more low key – in other words no Jan Hammer, David Sanborn etc. But no matter, because Mark Stein (keyboards), Carmine Appice (drums), Bobby Berge (drums), Bobbye Hall (percussion), and Norma Jean Bell (saxophone), were each exceptional musicians in their own right, and easily capable of matching Bolin’s own unique talents.

First up is “Bustin’ Out For Rosie,” a bluesy pop tune that has class and sophistication written all over it, along with some classic guitar riffs courtesy of Tommy. “Sweet Burgundy” sees Bolin in self-reflective mode, attempting to put his mind at ease via a cascade of soothing tones and gentle slide guitar. He shakes the progressive-rock tree on “Post Toastee,” thanks mainly to a superb solo that would make both Hendrix and Jeff Beck quake in their boots (and yes the main riff does bare a strong resemblance to Cale’s “Cocaine”).

The funky “Shake The Devil” almost borders on prog-metal, except that we have a jazzy proggy interlude reminiscent of Dark Side Of The Moon, saxophone and all. “Gypsy Soul” comes and goes like a full moon above the Bahamas, after a few Tequila Sunsets, while the romantic “Someday We’ll Bring Our Love Home” was a less than cynical attempt by Bolin at being heard on popular radio.

He stretches out on “Someday Again,” a song replete with cinematic strings and soft acoustic strumming, followed by the country/blues/rock of “You Told Me That You Loved Me,” a Teaser outtake if there ever was. That the jam fades out at the end just as things were beginning to get interesting is a shame, since Bolin was one of the ultimates when it came to improvisation.

Private Eyes may lack some of the testosterone of Teaser, but that isn’t to say its virtues don’t stand on their own. Both the playing and songwriting are impeccable throughout, and through each spin, the listener will hear things they may not have heard the first, second, or third time over, because this LP is bursting with heart and soul. No doubt just what Tommy was intending.