Bill DeMain Writes: Is Terry Dolan’s star-studded debut the greatest rediscovery of 2016?

Terry Dolan

Bill DeMain on writes…

In 1972, Ter­ry Dolan made an album with mem­bers of the Stones, Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice, The Steve Miller Band and San­tana. For some rea­son, it’s remained unre­leased until now…

On April 24, 1971, the San Fran­cis­co Exam­in­er ran a piece titled “The Hit That Isn’t a Record.” It was about an unsigned local musi­cian named Ter­ry Dolan who was “doing the impos­si­ble – hav­ing a hit with­out mak­ing a record.” A demo tape Dolan had cut with Rolling Stones’ piano man Nicky Hop­kins had found its way into heavy rota­tion on two FM under­ground sta­tions, and one of the songs, Inlaws and Out­laws, was light­ing up the phones. The arti­cle would prove strange­ly pre­scient, because after the demo helped land him a deal with Warn­er Broth­ers, Dolan made a record that nev­er became a record. At least not until forty-four years later.

Music his­to­ry is pep­pered with lost albums, those vinyl equiv­a­lents of Atlantis – from The Beach Boys’ Smile to Prince’s Black Album. But what if not only a land­mark album went miss­ing in time, but along with it an artist and the poten­tial of an entire career?

Who knows what would’ve hap­pened with Ter­ry’s career had it come out in 1972?” says Mike Somav­il­la. “Who knows what his next album for Warn­er Broth­ers would’ve sound­ed like?”

Somav­il­la, a res­i­dent San Fran­cis­co music expert and fan, spent twen­ty-sev­en years, on and off, con­sid­er­ing these ques­tions as he worked to get Dolan’s lost album released. “I made it my life’s ambi­tion,” he says. “A long time ago, Ter­ry gave me a cas­sette of it, then when I moved out to the Bay Area in 1987, he gave me one of the orig­i­nal test press­ings. It was like get­ting one of the lost pieces of San Fran­cis­co’s music scene, the holy grail.”

That holy grail, co-pro­duced by Nicky Hop­kins and Pete Sears (a mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist fea­tured on Rod Stew­art’s ear­ly work), includ­ed a stel­lar cast of 70s-era west coast musi­cians includ­ing Greg Dou­glass, Prairie Prince, John Cipol­li­na and Neal Schon. Heard today, the album brings to mind clas­sics from that year like Leon Rus­sel­l’s Car­ney and Elton John’s Honky Chateau — a soul­ful singer-song­writer col­lec­tion giv­en rock and gospel mus­cle through ener­getic arrange­ments and Dolan’s pow­er­ful tenor voice.

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