Review by Garrett Jordan
Assigned by David Miller
My overall view on this album and its compositions could be summarized by my views on “The Grind,” the boogie rock number that kickstarts the album with a solid guitar riff. The vocal melodies in the verse and chorus are good but not outstanding, lacking the sort of special melodic twists that would implant them properly in one’s mind. Certainly, they are plenty satisfying while on, but I don’t find myself remembering them or humming them long-term. What really makes the song kick ass is the work of the explosive electric guitarist and the session musicians backing him. Bolin’s soloing in the last extended chorus of the song is excellent, as he screams bloody hell on the six strings. I particularly enjoy that ascending series of “wha Wha WHa WHAAA~AA~A” notes he ignites just before the song fades out. As for the session musicians, special note must go to the prolific Dave Foster and Jeff Porcaro, who respectively provide energetic barroom piano rolls and an excellent groove animating the song throughout.
Most of the album’s other compositions follow suit – good but not great vocal melodies and not terribly unique underlying instrumental backbones that are brilliantly enlivened by excellent instrumental prowess on the part of Bolin and his sessions musicians. Among the somewhat softer ballads on the album (they’re only somewhat soft when Bolin’s guitars always kick in one time or another on them), “Wild Dogs” is perhaps the best, with the strongest vocal melodies of the ballads and Bolin’s slightly restrained guitar work in the verses successfully painting the image of life in a run-down middle American town, as described in the lyrics. The weakest song on the album is “Savannah Woman” – the start-stop vocal melody and the Brazilian-ish rhythm in the verses are nice, and Phil Collins blesses this song with his presence on percussion, but the song only merits an occasional listen outside the album.
Among the vocal numbers, then, the title track stands out at the best cut on the album. Guided by a solid guitar riff through the verses, with Bolin spouting off some guitar fireworks throughout, it’s otherwise just solid chorus is amplified by the high-pitched squeals of Bolin’s guitar in between the lines of the chorus – it’s those squeals that really make the chorus explode into exuberance. “ She’s a teaser, and she’s not no heart at all. Dun dun wwWHHAA! dun dun WHAA!”
The best songs on this album apart from “Teaser,” however, are the numbers lacking vocals altogether – Bolin’s two instrumental numbers, “Homeward Strut” and “Marching Powder,” which sound like they were designed specifically for Bolin and his sessions musicians to launch fireworks on. “Homeward Strut” features a mid-section built on top a funky-as -hell guitar riff onto which much of the rest of the songs builds on, either with an excellent guitar-synth-duo riff played on top of the funk riff (strong riffs on top of strong riffs are always a winner for this reviewer), or with top-notch soloing from Bolin and Foster. “Marching Powder,” meanwhile, features the best guitar riff on the album and has an impressive buildup midway through, starting at a solitary bass line and expanding into another amazing Bolin guitar solo joined by David Sanborn’s saxophone, the drums and percussion meanwhile battering away so hard and with enough fills that they might as well be considered soloing here as well. Needless to say more, these songs kick serious ass. (I should also mention that the choices for synth tones across the songs are excellent – the synths still sound powerful and contemporary today.)
The electric guitar work is what elevates this otherwise simply good album to near-greatness. No wonder the great Billy Cobham of the Mahavishnu Orchestra selected Bolin as the guitarist for his solo debut. A 8 out of 10 for this great example of a solo guitarist’s skills, recommended especially for guitar lovers but really a solid album for any fans of 70’s rock out there.
P.S. 3-CD and 5-CD deluxe sets of this album have been released, featuring a wealth of outtakes and extended alternate recordings. I’ve not heard the additional discs, but it looks like a great deal to me.