Terry Dolan

Terry Dolan

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When it comes to unissued albums from the '60s and '70s, it's sometimes difficult to objectively untangle the myth from the actual quality of the music. This self-titled artifact by Bay Area folk-rock singer/songwriter Terry Dolan (Terry & the Pirates) is a case in point. He established himself during the late '60s as a powerful live performer with a ringing, passionate voice, decent songs, and an intense strumming style on acoustic 12-string. Dolan cut a pair of Nicky Hopkins-produced demos that got regional airplay. Together with his live reputation, they secured him an album deal with Warner Bros. Hopkins was the set's original producer. He enlisted guitarists Greg Douglass and John Cipollina, bassist Lonnie Turner, drummer Prairie Prince, the Pointer Sisters, and Spencer Dryden on percussion. After completing four songs, he got called away by the Rolling Stones. Arranger/multi-instrumentalist Pete Sears was brought in to finish the record and recruited guitarist Neal Schon, vocalist Kathi McDonald, drummer David Weber, and Mic Gillette. (Douglass remained.) Completed in 1973, the album got a Herb Greene cover photo shoot, catalog number, press release, and bio. Three weeks before release, it was canceled and Dolan was dropped without explanation. Forty-four years later, it sees the light.

The original set contained seven originals and a cover of J.J. Cale's "Magnolia." Dolan's writing style balances sweet ballads and midtempo folk-rockers; it's wide open for jamming. (The outtakes reveal this in spades.) The first half employs Hopkins' signature loose rock & roll production style. Opener "See What Your Love Can Do" is steeped in gospelized backing vocals, while Dolan delivers the melody in grand rock troubadour fashion. Hopkins adds glorious illustrative piano and keys as the guitarists paint them with swampy slide blues and single-string fills. The choogling "Rainbow" and the sweeping, panoramic "Inlaws and Outlaws" (based on the changes of "All Along the Watchtower") are also highlights. Among the Sears-produced tracks are the cinematic "Purple an Blonde...?" and the thoroughly revisioned, harmonically creative charts on "Magnolia" (complete with Baroque-esque French horn). Unlike the other tunes here, Dolan's singing doesn't drive his supporting bandmembers but allows them to carry him. They are better for it, since his standard vocal approach is sometimes overly emphatic and repetitious -- as in a less soulful Van Morrison. Schon's playing is fiery, technical, and colorful on the second half, but the contrast of styles and interplay between Cipollina (stinging, labyrinthine, and psychedelic) and Douglass (flowing melodic country, folk, and blues) is what really resonates.

When compared to the treasure trove of albums by singer/songwriters and bands from the period (David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name is one example), this a middling effort. As a loose jam band effort from its time, it fares better. The package is deluxe with long essays, interviews, photos from the Greene shoot, artwork, and more. Dolan didn't live to see this record released (he passed in 2012), but would likely be proud of the care put into this presentation.

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