Another serviceable period piece that didn’t deserve its ultimate fate.
Imagine the thrill of being picked up by a major label and sent into the studio to record an album with Nicky Hopkins in the producers’ chair and a handful of ace Bay Area-musicians enlisted to flesh out your artistic vision. Then imagine Hopkins gets called away by the Rolling Stones (minor setback) and a new producer is brought in to help complete the album. Despite the loss of Hopkins, you still have members of the Steve Miller Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, the Pointer Sisters and former Santana/future Journey guitarist extraordinaire Neal Schon. Upon completing the album, you then had the cover photo taken by renowned Bay Area rock photog Herb Greene, seen a catalog number assigned and press materials sent out. It would seem only a matter of time before fame and true rock stardom came calling.
Yet in the case of Terry Dolan, the prospective dream turned just as quickly into a cruel nightmare. Just weeks before his self-titled debut was to be released, Warner Bros. inexplicably dropped the album. Providing no explanation, the album then disappeared back into the vaults, remaining on the shelf of the record industry equivalent of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, nearly 45 years later, Terry Dolan is finally being released as it was intended, augmented by a handful of alternate takes and mixes as is the wont of such releases.
Given the hype surrounding its somewhat legendary status and the players involved, one would expect something of a minor masterpiece just waiting to be discovered. Yet as is too often the case, the mere idea of an album like this ultimately proves far more appealing than the album itself. This isn’t to say Terry Dolan is an outright, overhyped failure, rather it simply sounds pretty much like any other similarly-styled album released in the early ‘70s by a band that no one but perhaps its original members and the most fervent of crate-diggers remember today. Thematically, lyrically, melodically and musically, Terry Dolan is very much a product of its time, one that sounds as dated as the hundreds of other albums released around this same period that have fallen into obscurity due to an inability to transcend a very specific time and place.
As a whole, the album’s not a total wash. “See What Your Love Can Do” is a monster of a lost classic rock single if ever there was one. Unfortunately, it’s about the only truly memorable moment on the album, a mix of soulful rock and driving Top 40 pop hook along the lines of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With.” From there, much of Terry Dolan adheres to the law of diminishing returns, each successive track becoming that much more facelessly innocuous and harmlessly pleasant but no more memorable than the last.
While there are a handful of appealing tracks scattered throughout the album—“Angie” in particular is a nice early-‘70s piano ballad—the remainder is little more than your typical period-sounding singer-songwriter-with-a-rock-bent fare. Because of this, there’s a certain derivative feel present throughout, each track reminiscent of either a more well-known hit or serving as a melodically interchangeable extended jam that could be applied to any of the other tracks on the album.
“Magnolia,” in particular, is very much reminiscent of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” right down to its seven-and-a-half minute running time, lone, mournful horn and acoustic guitar/piano intro. It’s not an overt case of musical thievery, but the similarities are a bit too strong—perhaps thanks to the Nicky Hopkins/Rolling Stones connection—to outright dismiss. Yet, where the latter relies on a protracted crescendo into a triumphant outro chorus, “Magnolia” instead simmers without ever truly boiling over into something more profound.
The many alternate takes here show just how inconsequential many of these tracks are as “songs.” Rather than offering a clearer picture of Dolan as an artist, they serve as vehicles for the myriad guest musicians to delve into a series of extended jams built around the same few chords. Fans of the era and the parties involved will no doubt be intrigued—Neal Schon in particular delivers a number of very Neal Schon guitar solos—but all others would be well served spending their time elsewhere.
Ultimately, Terry Dolan isn’t a total disappointment, but it’s a far cry from the lost masterpiece it has been touted to be, as the central figure, with his sub-Dylan vocal affectation and less than demonstrative vocal presence, becomes largely lost in the mix. In this way, Terry Dolan is yet another serviceable period piece that didn’t deserve its ultimate fate. Considered in-period, it may well have fared better than some 40 years after the fact.