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Tommy Bolin & Friends - 'Great Gypsy Soul' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/03/aa/fe/2847_tommyBolinAndFriendsgreatgypsysoul_1350403434.jpg Hot

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The collection proves what an enormous talent Tommy was.

There can't be many people who have had as many albums released posthumously as Tommy Bolin, especially when there was so little material left to release. After spells with bands like The James Gang and one cracking album with Deep Purple, Tommy died some way short of his 30th birthday, meaning his legacy was a compact, but nevertheless brilliant one.

His 'Teaser' solo album remains one of my favourite records, an eclectic masterpiece spanning multiple genres and styles in one flawless effort. 'Private Eyes' followed that, and since Tommy's death, half a dozen compilations of out-takes, alternate versions and God knows what else have been issued, along with a large collection of live material of varying quality. Now we have Tommy Bolin & Friends? Refreshingly however, this puts a different slant on things.

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'Great Gypsy Soul' features eleven of Tommy's songs, with no fewer than eight from 'Teaser', enhanced by contributions from a wide variety of stars. 'The Grind' opens proceedings, beefed up by the additional guitars courtesy of Peter Frampton. Tommy's playing and vocals are left alone though, keeping the essence of his work alive. A similar treatment is given to 'Teaser' where Gov’t Mule axe man Warren Haynes plays along with Tommy - Haynes also acting as co-producer of the project with Greg Hampton. These understated additions help to breathe new life into Tommy's work, and Aerosmith's Brad Whitford follows suit with his contributions to 'Wild Dogs'. Toto's Steve Lukather adds a classy treatment of 'Homeward Strut' to the collection, whereas Deep Purple's Steve Morse gives a performance more to the fore as he jams along with Tommy on 'Crazed Fandango'. However, it's on the occasions when a new vocalist arrives that the magic happens.

Tommy's old friend Glenn Hughes steps up to sing terrifically on 'Sugar Shack' and the finale of 'Lotus', which features Glenn's Black Country Communion bandmate Joe Bonamassa on guitar, is special. The star of the show, for me though, is Myles Kennedy, who gives a phenomenal rendition of 'Dreamer'. Tommy was never the greatest singer and Kennedy's vocals on this excellent number takes it to a whole new level.

The collection proves what an enormous talent Tommy was, and fans of his work, like me, will no doubt enjoy these new 'collaborations', imagining "What if…" For those unaware of Tommy's work, the plethora of stars on this album should be enough to tempt you to listen to what all the fuss was about. Great fun.

James Gaden

Great Gypsy Soul

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