Terry Dolan was a 60’s folkie from Connecticut who took himself to San Francisco in 1965 throwing himself into the burgeoning music scene there. While he never hit the headlines he had an uncanny knack for forging friendships and alliances with numerous musicians who did have successful careers with many of them regular members of his long lasting band Terry & The Pirates. Chief among these were John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins, the Quicksilver guitarist virtually a full time member and Hopkins sitting whenever he wasn’t off somewhere bashing the ivories for The Stones. Cipollina’s death in 1989 took the wind out of The Pirates’ sails, they only played sporadically after that and Dolan himself passed away in 2012. While The Pirates recorded several albums they were virtually unknown out with the Bay Area (aside from a fanatic following in Germany). Dolan himself had a shot at fame shot down when he was signed to Warner Brothers in the early seventies, recording this album in 1972. For reasons unclear it was never released leaving Dolan free to run what may have been the best bar band on the planet for the next 20 years.
The release is an obvious labour of love helmed by High Moon Records and Dolan’s fan and eventual friend Mike Somavilla who badgered Warners for years regarding these lost songs. It’s a handsome package with Dolan’s story and the tale of the album’s torturous recording fully recorded in the 48-page booklet included here. Aside from Cipollina and Hopkins (who produced half of the songs), it features appearances from Pete Sears (who produced the remainder), Lonnie Turner, Spencer Dryden, Neal Schon, Greg Douglass, Prairie Prince and The Pointer Sisters. San Francisco rock aficionados will need no introduction to these names and it’s these self same folk who are probably the target audience. Had the album been released as intended back in 1973 it’s likely that it would now be remembered with a fond affection with original copies somewhat desirable, as it is now it’s a time capsule that deserves investigation but sadly it’s not what one might call a lost classic.
That said it’s a fine album which captures the funkier roots type of rock that was replacing psychedelia, bluesier with a side of soul as played by the likes of Delaney & Bonnie and Leon Russell or even the grittier side of Elton John way back then. Piano (by Hopkins and Sears) dominate the songs with Dolan singing and playing acoustic rhythm. Cipollina, Douglas and Schon add stinging guitar runs and the female backing voices add a gospel feel to several of the songs. The album was recorded in two bursts. Side One (as was) with Hopkins producing and Cipollina on board, the second set six months later with Sears producing (Hopkins had been called away by his Satanic Majesties) with a smaller line up, Schon in place of Cipollina. Fans of the latter day Quicksilver Messenger Service will latch onto the first four songs as Hopkins does play a storm especially on the frantic Rainbow as Cipollina goes a wee bit apeshit on slide guitar. Dolan’s signature song Inlaws And Outlaws (which he recorded several times) is a powerful example of west coast rock romanticism with Dolan singing about Gypsies and outlaws and dreaming of living free with the music a claustrophobic clutter of squirreling guitar and Gospel harmonies. Angie (not the Stones’ song) is a love song to his wife that veers ever so close to MOR balladry but is saved by Dolan’s passionate vocals and some excellent bass playing from Lonnie Turner. Listening to this it is possible to imagine that, had it been released back then, that it might have been a hit as it hits all the buttons I remember from ’70’s Top Of The Pops.
Side Two (as was) opens with another strong ballad, Purple An Blonde…? that again has a powerful nostalgic pull for those who might have been listening to the radio back in those days and it’s not dissimilar to the songs that propelled Jefferson Starship into the charts in the mid seventies. It kind of fizzles out after this however with Burgundy Blues (dedicated to the J Geils Band) a rockin’ blues boogie while a cover of J.J. Cale’s Magnolia offers a fine vehicle for Dolan’s voice and features some fantastic keyboard playing from Pete Sears but it’s let down by some lumpen drumming.
An album then for fans of the era and of the players on the album but there’s an added bonus of six songs, all different takes from the first session that are well worth listening to with an alternative version of Inlaws And Outlaws particularly blistering and probably more akin to the music he ended up playing with his pals.