Terry & the Pirates, fronted by singer/songwriter Terry Dolan and featuring lead guitarist John Cipollina, were a staple of the San Francisco Bay club scene of the 1970s and '80s. The group can be looked at as one that might have received national recognition with a few breaks or as a local act that attracted greater notice because of the semi-famous names who played in it at one time or another, starting with Cipollina, a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and including pianist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Greg Elmore, also of Quicksilver, as well as Greg Douglass and Lonnie Turner. Over the years, the group released several albums, mostly on tiny European labels, but it never really got out of the Bay Area, and the importance of Cipollina can be estimated by noting that the band broke up after his death in 1989. In 1990, Dolan assembled Silverado Trail, an album of previously unreleased tracks, and Return to Silverado, compiled by San Francisco rock experts Mike Somavilla and Mick Skidmore for the Acadia imprint of the British Evangeline label, is a vastly expanded version of that 11-track collection. Somavilla and Skidmore have added three songs to the Silverado Trail material, plus an entire CD's worth of live recordings, resulting in a 29-track, two-disc set running nearly two hours and 20 minutes. It's by far the longest representation of Terry & the Pirates on record, and it demonstrates the band's strengths and weaknesses. Drawn from six different lineups, with Dolan and Cipollina the only constants, the undated tracks show a consistency in terms of performance (if not sound quality); this is a cohesive bar band that knows how to jam on country-rock and blues-rock. Not surprisingly, it often recalls the sound of Quicksilver Messenger Service, sharing Cipollina's signature stinging guitar leads and, on certain tracks, Elmore and/or Hopkins as well. The weakness of the group actually lies with its frontman. Dolan has a gruff voice and an enthusiastic manner, but his songs never seem to be much more than vehicles for the soloing. Often, as on "Silverado Trail" and one of his better-known songs, "Inlaws and Outlaws," he seems to have composed while thinking of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," and the arrangements often are reminiscent of a better-known act that was around at the same time, Dire Straits. The live disc gives a good sense of the band's live work, with covers of such bar band favorites as "I Put a Spell on You" and "Train Kept a Rollin'," plus an extended group instrumental, "Spontaneous Combustion." Throughout, however, it is Cipollina who dominates. He really earns his featured billing on the album cover, showing, as he did throughout his prolific career, that to a very large extent, any band in which John Cipollina played was a John Cipollina band.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2