Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tommy Bolin - 1972 [1999] "Energy"

Energy were formed in 1971 in Boulder, Colorado when Tommy Bolin and Bobby Berge left Zephyr. The members in the most well-known lineup were:
Tommy Bolin: guitar
Jeff Cook: vocals, harmonica
Tom Stephenson: keyboards, vocals
Stanley Sheldon: bass
Bobby Berge: drums

Other players included:
Kenny Passarelli: first bassist (quickly left to join Joe Walsh)
Jeremy Steig: flute
Gary Wilson: first vocalist (replaced by Jeff Cook)
Max Gronenthal: keyboards, vocals (replaced Jeff Cook and Tom Stephenson)
Russell Bizzett: drums (after Bobby left, then second drummer after Bobby returned)
Archie Shelby: percussion (intermittent)

Bassist Stanley Sheldon and his cousin keyboardist Tom Stephenson arrived in Boulder, Colorado separately. Sheldon had been playing in a psychedelic blues band in his home town of Ottawa, Kansas. Stephenson was from Kansas City and had been playing in horn bands in the style of Chicago. Tommy Bolin and drummer Bobby Berge were still in Zephyr, but that band’s end was near. Stephenson had not yet met Tommy, but knew people who knew him. Stanley Sheldon had talked to Tommy on the phone in late 1970, introduced by the singer in Sheldon’s band’s singer, but had not yet met him in person.

Sheldon’s band then moved to a house on the beach in the Pacific Palisades in California, supported by a backer. Zephyr were doing their last show opening for Mountain at the Santa Monica Civic Center, and Tommy and Stanley finally met face to face. This resulted in a jam with Stanley, Tommy and a drummer named Frosty from Lee Michaels’ band that Tommy knew. Tommy returned to Colorado, followed shortly by Stanley and his band after the withdrawal of their backer.

Tommy and Bobby were set on forming a jazz-rock fusion band, bolstered by Tommy’s experiences meeting players such as Jeremy Steig and Jan Hammer while Zephyr was recording Going Back to Colorado at Electric Lady Studios in New York City at the same time that Steig was working on his Energy album. Tommy and Tom Stephenson had finally met through Sioux City guitarist John Bartle, who had played with Stephenson in a band in Kansas.

At this point all the players in what would become the band Energy knew each other, but the first order of business for Tommy was to form an instrumental band with Jeremy Steig on flute, Bobby Berge on drums and Denver bassist Kenny Passarelli (who went on to play with Joe Walsh and Elton John). This lineup played some shows in Colorado including a residency at Chuck Morris’ club Tulagi in Boulder. Tommy, Jeremy and Kenny then went to New York City, where Steig’s name had more market power. Shows there included over a week at the Gaslight with Marty Morell on drums, ending on May 24, 1971. The last gig with Steig was played after a week at Slugs, in the East Village, a dangerous place where some of Steig’s friends were mugged on their way to that final show. Passarelli soon took a job offer from Joe Walsh. Passarelli has related that he was made to feel a lot less than comfortable during the period of the NYC shows, the competitive nature of the New York scene was brutal. Though it was short lived, audio from the the band provides some excellent examples of playing from the entire band. The music is very jazzy, but there are plenty of guitar excursions by Tommy that are held in high esteem by Tommy’s rock fans.

Tommy then went back to Colorado and got together with Tom Stephenson on keyboards, Stanley Sheldon on bass and Bobby Berge on drums. They chose the name Energy for the new band, taken from the title of the Jeremy Steig album. It was quickly decided to add a vocalist to enhance the band’s commercial appeal. The first vocalist was Gary Wilson, who can be heard on Energy recordings such as “Red Skies” on the CD Tommy Bolin: From the Archives Vol. 1. Wilson was more into soul and R&B than fusion, however, and was replaced by Jeff Cook, who had sung in American Standard with Tommy.

Manager Barry Fey set them up as backing band for some of the major big blues acts that came to Boulder, mainly at Tulagi but also for some road work. Along with names such as John Lee Hooker, Sugar Cane Harris and Chuck Berry, they played with Albert King, who would have a profound effect on Tommy’s blues chops.

The band took the opportunity to save money when it came to finding places to rehearse. Bobby Berge relates that “Energy used to practice at Garth Weber’s farm, in the chicken coup! It’s funny that later on when I reunited with Zephyr for some shows in 1973 we practiced in a converted chicken coup at a different farm.”

Tommy played a number of different guitars, including the well-worn Fender Stratocaster with the Telecaster neck that he is often identified with. On other equipment, Rob Bagg remembers “I moved Tommy’s equipment for him on occasion during the time he was fronting Energy. I remember he had a Marshall speaker cabinet that had eight 12" speakers in it. What a bear to move. Later I found out that Jim Marshall only made a handful of these cabinets before switching to two 4x12" cabs in his stacks. They were originally sold to Pete Townsend of The Who and Bill Wyman of the Stones.”

Chuck Warriner tells the story of the fabled brown Strat: “I traded that brown 1956 Strat to Tommy in Dave Brown's kitchen at 948 South Vine Street when I first got to Denver and stayed with the Brown brothers until I set up my shop at 1st and Broadway. Dave put the Tele neck on at Tommy's request, and when I saw "Shoepolish" a week or so later I was surprised because an old Tele Neck and an old Strat neck pocket are not compatible."

Tommy also took part in many jam sessions around Colorado during this period. As remembered by Mike Reininger, who first saw Tommy with Energy at Massari Gym in Pueblo around Thanksgiving 1971, “In the early 1970s everybody jammed with everybody. Going out on Sunday night to sit in was a ritual. This is how Tommy met my brother Blaine (of Tuxedo Moon). They were jamming in Manitou Springs on a Sunday night. Tommy just loved to play. I hear stories of him jamming in music stores here in Denver. Trying out guitars all afternoon, drawing a crowd. He hung out at Colfax Music all the time I’m told.”

Michael Drumm, who went on to form the Tommy Bolin Archives with Johnnie Bolin in 1995, had become friends with Tommy while he was in Zephyr. A CU student, Drumm was working The Record Center, a hip record store in Boulder that Tommy visited often. By the time Tommy was in Energy they had become even firmer friends, and Drumm bought a 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck for Tommy to use to to record acoustic songs and demos.

Drumm relates that though Energy was a great band, they were not pulling crowds and making money like Zephyr had. Zephyr had been extremely popular with the adventurous young party crowd, but Energy was more of a players band with a smaller but very intense following.

Energy didn’t release any official albums or singles, but did complete a number of studio recordings, some of which appeared later on Tommy Bolin ArchivesCD releases. The first lineup of the band featuring Steig concentrated on long intense jams, often featuring Steig’s flute more than Tommy’s guitar. The band’s appeal was notably widened after adding a vocalist, beginning with Gary, then Jeff and later Max. The greatest amount of existing live material features Jeff Cook, and shows the band ranging from slow blues to rocking blues to hard rock to marathon fusion jams, often in one performance. Their studio output showed a band that would have made the big time if they had the power of a record deal. Some of the material written by Tommy with John Tesar and Jeff Cook went on to be used by Tommy in later bands. “Got No Time for Trouble” and “Praylude/Red Skies” were used in James Gang, “Lady Luck” with Deep Purple and “Dreamer” was used on Teaser.

Tommy’s appearance was beginning to change, partly with the influence of his girlfriend Karen Ulibarri. She dyed psychedelic colors into his hair and made stage clothes such as a silver lamé suit that he would wear into the James Gang days, and a pair of leopard skin-covered platform shoes. Tommy also pierced his ears and wore the feathered earrings that became his trademark for a while. Tommy was into glitter rock and loved David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album, so androgyny becoming an acceptable form of stage presentation.

The lack of getting a record contract resulted in the group’s eventual demise, as they were having trouble making ends meet and becoming frustrated at not being able to move upward. Jeff Cook has related a story about the band being seen by record company representatives at a club on Colfax in Denver. The reps were blown away by the first set and told the band that a recording contract was definite. The reps then left and the band then celebrated by getting wasted during the break, and when they returned to to play they found that the reps had stayed and their second set was haphazard and the reps were turned off.

In the first part of 1973 Max Gronenthal came in on keyboards and vocals to replace Tom Stephenson, who left to join Joe Walsh’s new band Barnstorm, and Jeff Cook who was given his release by the band. Though the band would prove to work well with Max, the end was near. Tommy recorded Spectrum with Billy Cobham in New York City in May, 1973 and started getting national attention immediately, which included some shots at the big time.

After the band split, Tommy went on to join the James Gang as a replacement for the departing Joe Walsh. Tommy and Stanley would hook up again in Boulder after Tommy left the James Gang in August 1974. By the end of December they would also get back together with Bobby Berge in Los Angeles. Jeff Cook would continue to supply Tommy with song lyrics until his passing. In 1975 Tom Stephenson joined Tommy in guesting on the debut album from Moxy.

In spite of the lack of commercial success, the band is held in especially high regard by the band’s members, some considering it the musical highlight of their lives.

By 1972, Tommy Bolin had left Zephyr and was yet to join the James Gang. He had formed a band christened, aptly enough, Energy, but they broke up before releasing any recordings. Yet, time in the studio was spent, resulting in this collection of songs released 27 years after their recording. Some of the songs would be redone with the James Gang ("Red Skies," "Got No Time for Trouble") or solo ("Dreamer") in the next few years, while "Naked Edge" comes from the soundtrack to a mountain-climbing film called Break on Through, but most of the contents of the album see their first release here. The album is mixed: "Heartlight" and "Miss Christmas" are fairly generic hard rock, while "Hok-O-Hey" and "Eyes of Blue" have a very Allman Brothers sound/feel, yet all are elevated by Bolin's guitar playing. The neo-psychedelic "Limits," sung by keyboardist Tom Stephenson, is unlike most of Bolin's other work and the extended instrumental "Naked Edge" furthers this psychedelic jamming. "Sky Sail" is a cinematic piano/guitar duet and is a perfect album closer. In the end, the album works more as a compilation of Energy's various styles than as a cohesive album.

Track Listing:

  1. Red Skies
  2. Heartlight
  3. Hok-O-Hey
  4. Got No Time for Trouble
  5. Limits
  6. Eyes of Blue
  7. Dreamer
  8. Miss Christmas
  9. Naked Edge
  10. Sky Sail


Bass – Stanley Sheldon
Drums – Bobby Berge
Guitar – Tommy Bolin
Keyboards, Vocals – Tom Stephenson
Vocals, Harmonica – Jeff Cook

Lenny White - 1977 [2017] "Big City"

On his second solo album, Big City, Return to Forever drummer Lenny White leads an all-star cast on a jaunt through the diverse worlds of jazz fusion. The title track is a groove-oriented monster that unites the Brian Auger Oblivion Express with the Tower of Power horn section. While "Sweet Dreamer" is a soft ballad that features the singing of Linda Tillery, and "Rapid Transit" is a study in funk built around the bass playing of Verdine White, both songs benefit from the presence of Herbie Hancock on electric piano. Not to be forgotten, Lenny White shows off his penchant for sharp and accelerated drum cadences on interludes titled "Egypt" and "Ritmo Loco." Yet his leanings towards rock are taken a bit too far with Ray Gomez and Neal Schon trading epic guitar solos on "Dreams Come and Go Away" as well as "And We Meet Again." Fortunately the gap between sonic freak-outs is bridged by the exceptional "Enchanted Pool Suite," which features Miroslav Vitous on acoustic bass, Jerry Goodman on violin, and Jan Hammer on Minimoog.

With a guest list of over a dozen (including Herbie Hancock,Neal Schon and Jan Hammer) one might think 'Big City' would be a somewhat overwelming album musically. And in many ways it can be-Lenny White's ambitions on this album were quite spacious as usual but he had a pretty good idea what it was he wanted to do. With the title song his intent was very clear:his music hear was going to be based in the groove and this one has plenty of funk-even Lenny Pickett of TOP shows up and his horn really adds to the overal spice of the tune! "Sweet Dreamer" is a simply beautiful,gentle ballad sung by the strong,husky singer Linda Tillery and has a wonderful humanitarian message delivered with great dignity-Herbie Hancock's dreamy solo is icing on the cake. After a couple brief orchestral interludes Herbie's back for a solo of a different color on the heavy fusion funk of "Rapid Transit",one of my favorite songs here.Another guest is emediatly identifiable guest is Verdine White who wraps is popping vamps aroun Lenny's thundering beats. A brief little blip after sure got my attention-the Afro-cuban electronica of "Ritmo Loco" where Lenny plays all the instruments (mostly percussion) and a moog drum solo that sounds a lot like a synthezier. Neil Schoen's presense here is best summed up by the wild "Dreams Come And Go Away". "Enchanted Pool Suite" presents us with an elongated fusion jam that goes from string section to jazzy funk interludes featuring Jan Hammer's keyboards that work so well with Lenny and keeps it right through the finale "And We Meet Again". 'Big City' joins the lost list of "all star fusion albums" the most famous of which is George Duke's Reach for It,Narada Michael Walden's Awakening and Norman Connors' You Are My Starship-all of which are worth checking out and all of which jump to the head of the class. This at least have one the idea that sophmore slump would'nt be a problem for Lenny White.

This album was one of the best releases from the now defunct Nemperor Records. The composition "Rapid Transit" features one of the best pianos solos from Herbie Hancock ever recorded. This CD should be in every fusion afficianado's collection.

"Big City" is far more throughaly funky and far less self
indulgent then alot of Lenny Whites solo work and therefore can be seen as an overall high water mark in his catalog.Nothing
on this album is dull or overdone and the funk level is set on
HIGH so if you want some Lenny White in your collection,get this!

This is White's second solo album ,the first one was Ven. Summer.
This is the ex-drummer from the great Chick Corea band Return
to Forever. His fame with them was on the CD Romantic Warrior.
(get this too ,amazing!!) The is much better than his first,
White uses an all-star cast to make this cd Groove!!! Great
CD,worth getting.

How long I have waited to see the great Lenny White's work available on digital media. I just died and went to heaven!!! This album is a funky masterpiece that has been hidden from view in the the digital world far too long!!! I still have my vinyl copy under lock and key as well as armed guards on duty round the clock!!! If anyone even thinks about stealing my "Big City" LP all I have to say is make sure your insurance premiums are paid up and you may as well say good-bye to your family, because when I catch you with my copy of Lenny Whites "Big City" the undertaker will have work to do!!!

Tracks Listing:
1. Big City
  2. Sweet Dreamer
  3. Egypt
  4. Nocturne
  5. Rapid Transit
  6. Ritmo Loco
  7. Dreams Come And Go Away
  8. Enchanted Pool Suite(Part I-II)
  9. And We Meet Again

Line-up / Musicians

Lenny White Synthesizer, Bass, Piano, Arranger, Conga, Drums, Keyboards, Timbales, Moog Synthesizer, Producer, Oberheim, Horn Arrangements, Roto Toms, Announcer, Mini Moog, Arp Strings, Moog Drum
Verdine White Bass  
Tower of Power Horn
Miroslav Vitous Bass, Bass (Acoustic)
Neal Schon Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Soloist
Marcus Miller Bass
Bennie Maupin Saxophone, Sax (Soprano)
Patrick Gleeson Synthesizer, Keyboards, Producer, Brass, Brass Arrangement, Arp Strings
Ray Gomez Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Arranger, Guitar (Electric), Performer, Soloist
Jerry Goodman Violin
Onaje Allan Gumbs Piano, Keyboards
Jan Hammer Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Mini Moog
Herbie Hancock Keyboards, Piano (Electric)
Paul Jackson, Jr. Bass
Paul Jackson Bass
Greg Adams Trumpet
Lamar Alsop Violin, Viola
Brian Auger Organ, Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric)
Raymond Beckenstein Flute
Don Blackman Performer
Alex Blake Bass
Al Brown Viola
Emilio Castillo Sax (Tenor)
Clive Chaman Bass
Louis Colin Harp
Michael Comins Violin
Harry Cykman Violin
Harvey Estrin Flute
Barry Finclair Violin
Paul Gershman Violin
Mike Gibbs Piano, Orchestration
Mic Gillette Trombone, Trumpet
David Earle Johnson Conga
Gary King Bass, Drums
Harold Kohon Violin
Stephen "Doc" Kupka Sax (Baritone)
Lennox Laington Conga
Walter Levinsky Flute
Jesse Levy Cello
Alex Ligertwood Guitar
Guy Lumia Violin
Charles McCracken Cello
Homer Mensch Double Bass
Jack Mills Guitar, Soloist
Marin Morganstern Violin
Marvin Morgenstern Violin
David Nadien Violin
Lenny Pickett Sax (Tenor), Lyricon, Soloist
John Pintavalle Violin
Max Pollikoff Violin
Alan Shulman Cello
Linda Tillery Vocals

Lenny White - 1978 [2015] "Astral Pirates"

One of Lenny White's finest, most essential albums, The Adventures of Astral Pirates is a jazz-fusion masterpiece with a futuristic science-fiction theme. Star Wars was number one at the box office when, in 1977, White produced this disc with Al Kooper, and perhaps Elektra was hoping to cash in on the film's popularity. If you open the record's foldout cover, you can read White's tale of sci-fi battles that take place in the fifth millennium A.D. But you don't have to be a sci-fi fan to appreciate the mostly instrumental songs on this imaginative, risk-taking album, which finds White blending a jazz/rock/funk foundation with elements of everything from Middle Eastern music to Asian music. This set isn't the least bit predictable, and it could easily be described as "the sound of surprise" -- critic Whitney Balliett's term for jazz -- even though no one will mistake it for straight-ahead bop any time soon.

'Lenny White's Adventures Of Astral Pirates' is the drummer's fourth solo album. There is some of the best drumming, jazz, rock or otherwise, on this recording. There is very syncopated, punchy jazz-funk and there is heavy, heavy metallic rock with lightning fast drumset playing on this disc. Highly recommended for anyone serious about playing drums or interested in how experimental recorded music was in the 70's. This album was originally released in 1978. A versatile drummer, Lenny White is still best-known for being part of Chick Corea's Return To Forever in the 1970's. White was self-taught on drums and he largely started his career on top, playing regularly with Jackie McLean (1968) and recording "Bitches Brew" with Miles Davis in 1969. White was soon working with some of the who's who of jazz including Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Gato Barbieri, Gil Evans, Stanley Clarke and Stan Getz among others. As a member of Return To Forever during 1973-76, White gained a strong reputation as one of the top fusion drummers, but he was always versatile enough to play in many settings.

 Fusion Jazz at its prime! I wore this record out!! I played the song Revelation and the Great Pyramid every day for two years (1978-1980), I cant tell you how many metal, rock ,jazz concerts hearing the sound guys use this album while setting and and breaking down. This is a must have album for all musicians!!! Play it ,you will get it! Please play Universal Love if you are wanting to be enlightened or you are having a bad day for real !! Universal Love is one of the best songs ever written !

'Lenny White's Adventures Of Astral Pirates' is the drummer's fourth solo album and I was very skeptical right from the start.My first Lenny White CD purchase was 'Streamline' and that's probably my favorite of all his albums,and between CD's and vinyl I have most of them,including this one.I am not a huge fan of White's early solo albums-he spends a great deal of time imitating Billy Cobham's spastic fusion drumming style and fills every available space with his instrumentation-much as he also did with Return To Forever.So on 'Astral Pirates' his drumming is very loud,but at the same time is more controlled and explores the sci-fi theme of this music.And the louder numbers are also saddled with simple funk numbers that came to full flower on the next outing.Not only that but this is probably his better crafted material thus far,even the fusion pieces.The presence of more vocals on this album gives White's music a sense of individuality that it didn't tend to have earlier when he was trying to imitate the styles of other fusion drummers instead of working on being his own musician.So in the end I have a vinyl LP copy of this album (not the Wounded Bird CD issue spoken of) but an album is an album and for all interested I strongly suggest that for a good introduction to early Lenny White you should pick this up-it's a great sampler from his fusion side rather then his funk side.For that I suggest 'Streamline'.

Track listing:

1 Prelude: Theme For Astral Pirates 1:20
2 Pursuit 2:58
3 Mandarin Warlords 5:06
4 The Great Pyramid 2:30
5 Universal Love 3:30
6 Remenbering 0:34
7 Revelation 3:25
8 Stew, Cabbage And Galactic Beans 3:51
9 Heavy Metal Monster 4:39
10 Assault 3:36
11 Climax: Theme For Astral Pirates 7:42


Bass - Alex Blake
Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer - Lenny White
Guitar [Lead] - Nick Moroch
Guitar [Rhythm] - Jeff Sigman
Keyboards, Vocals - Don Blackman
Synthesizer [Programming] - Patrick Gleeson