Somewhere in the late eighties I bought the original "Last Concert in Japan" CD, a recording of the last Japanese performance of the not-exactly-legendary Deep Purple Mk. IV (Bolin-Hughes-Coverdale-Paice-Lord). I was never too critical of the album, though it was as clear as a very clear thing that Tommy Bolin's guitar playing couldn't hold a minutest of candles to Ritchie Blackmore (and that also goes for "Made in Europe", recorded when Ritchie already had his mind more on Rainbow than on the final few shows with Purple).

The past couple of years, some sort of Tommy Bolin appreciation offensive has taken place. In 1995 we had the release of "On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat", a double CD recorded during the American leg of their tour. It was pretty good, I mean the band had some really cool songs in their reportoire so it's difficult to go wrong there. Mk. IV also had some classic tracks, such as "Getting Tighter", "This Time Around" and "Love Child". Some studio jams were released on "Days May Come and Days May Go", and even there Bolin only pulls off the occasional commendable bit of guitar work.

On "This Time Around - Live in Tokyo" we get the entire concert that "Last Concert in Japan" seems to have been hastily distilled from. Properly mixed, this time, with the guitar louder as well. This gig was, so legend has it, the only one where Tommy Bolin played any good, what with his left arm being numbed from an over-enthusiastic heroin shot on earlier Japanese shows. Although I enjoy the general roughness and the inimitable pulse provided by Ian Paice and Jon Lord, "This Time Around" is not a lot better than the "Last Concert in Japan" album, other than that it has the full show. However, it also means that you can hear Bolin totally fuck up the guitar part of "Lazy" for example. And his guitar solo is pretty dreadful, too.

Now don't get the wrong impression here. I like the album quite a bit, and will be playing it quite a few times to come. It's just that I get kindof tired of people trying to show that Tommy Bolin was a viable choice. He wasn't. "Come Taste the Band" was OK, the guitar work at least solid, but I have not heard a shred of live music by Deep Purple Mk. IV that wouldn't make Ritchie roll over laughing. I am sure Steve Morse (even at such a tender age) would have done a much better job.



Written October 2001


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