Tommy Bolin and Friends: Great Gypsy Soul (Samson/429) 

Stellar guitar heroes gather to celebrate a semi-obscure rock pioneer on this new release, which pairs decades-old recordings by the late Tommy Bolin with contemporary six-string slingers such as Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Joe Bonamassa, Nels Cline, Peter Frampton, Steve Morse and others.

Bolin was a revered '70s-era rock-jazz-funk guitarist, singer and songwriter who toured and recorded with both Deep Purple and the James Gang, made two remarkable solo albums and played on influential fusion sessions for Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon. This, he accomplished by the time he was 25, when he died of a drug overdose.

Thirty-six years later, co-producers Haynes and Greg Hampton use some of Bolin's working tapes and outtakes as the foundation over which some of today's hottest ax men play.

The mixes can be a little rough, and the graft doesn't always bear fruit. But when it does, the results are explosive. Trucks especially tears it up on the fusion excursion "Smooth Fandango," and Haynes adds some nice Bolin-style sonic touches to "Teaser." The most delicious track is "Savannah Woman," on which jazz maestro John Scofield's elegant licks perfectly complement the number's breezy tropical vibe.

Bolin's original vocals remain on most of the tracks. But former Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes howls convincingly on "Sugar Shack" and "Lotus."

One is tempted to wonder: Since Bolin's original recordings hold up surprisingly well, why didn't players of this caliber simply record an all-new tribute album?

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