Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Once lost, now found.
The backstory on this more than 40-year-old album is as interesting — arguably more so — than the music it contains.
Terry Dolan was a 1965 East Coast, folk rocking transplant to the fertile San Francisco area, a move he hoped would help him soak up some of the mojo of that storied music scene. After gigging around for a few years, he was picked up by Warner Brothers — a label riding high on the singer-songwriter scene during that fruitful period — for a debut, set for a 1972 release. The sessions were recorded with some of the finest musicians in town including drummer Prairie Prince (later of the Tubes), the Pointer Sisters and, on side one, famed pianist Nicky Hopkins who also produced. Hopkins then left to tour with the Stones leaving multi-instrumentalist Pete Sears to finish the second side. The finished product was ready to go, complete with artwork, catalog number and liner notes, when it was suddenly and inexplicably cancelled, with Dolan simultaneously dropped from the label.
After 44 years the album has been rescued from the dusty vaults where it has languished, and this reissue certainly does it justice. The eight initial tracks have been remastereed, six additional outtakes have been added, the original artwork is painstakingly reproduced and the 50 page CD booklet with extensive liner notes, rare photos and interviews with those still living who were a part of the project (Dolan passed away in 2012) is the definition of thorough.
Whether the music deserves this elaborate attention is another story. The seven originals, along with a radically rearranged cover of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia,” are very much a product of their time. Dolan’s soulful vocals are committed but not terribly distinctive and his combination of folk, blues, rock and soul seeks to find a comfort zone between Van Morrison, Tim Buckley and Jackson Browne, although with nowhere near the raw talent of those icons.
Dolan’s abilities are clear on “Inlaws and Outlaws,” the album’s best track where his blue-eyed soul singing is pushed by the Pointer Sisters’ wailing backing vocals, John Cippolina’s (Quicksilver Messenger Service) snakelike guitar and a propulsive folk-rock groove that gains power and intensity over its five minute length. Two extra outtakes of the tune show he knew he had something here, and are worthy additions.
But much of this just seems like a solid bunch of musicians jamming on sketches of somewhat unfinished songs. Dolan’s ever-present acoustic strumming is the foundation on which the music is built, yet tunes such as the ballad “Angie,” (not the Stones tune) and the rollicking “Rainbow,” a showcase for Hopkins’ always energetic piano work that was such a vital element of the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver, aren’t particularly memorable. There is no denying the sheer reckless energy in evidence, especially on the Hopkins’ productions and the outtakes, which are the set’s most appealing aspect. While a few selections such as the opening folk-soul of “See What Your Love Can Do” eventually grab your attention, this is very much a relic of its era. There are plenty of sparks, yet few ultimately ignite material which is a notch above ordinary.
The lengthy notes repeatedly question how Warner could have cancelled this so-called “lost classic.” But next to all the incredible music around at the time, even just on that label, the decision doesn’t seem so unusual.
That said, there is a shambling uninhibited charm exuding from the recording which most current music just can’t muster up, making this worth a spin for those not expecting it to live up to the hyperbole of this reissue’s marketing.