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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TERRY DOLAN - TERRY DOLAN (High Moon Records LP, CD, D/L). MARVIN GARDENS - 1968 (High Moon Records LP, CD, D/L).

Following the release of some great Gene Clark and post Elektra Love rarities, the very cool American re-issue label High Moon Records have dug at a bit deeper into the vaults and unearthed a couple of previously unreleased gems. Remastered from the original source tapes, complete with extensive liner notes and many archival photos, High Moon are due issue for the first time the 1973 debut album from SF Singer/Songwriter Terry Dolan that was recorded for Warner Bros. with a whole host of “heavy friends”, including Nicky Hopkins (The Rolling Stones, Quicksilver Messenger Service), John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service), Lonnie Turner (The Steve Miller Band) and Neal Schon (Santana, Journey), before being unceremoniously binned a couple months before it’s cited release date and a real rarity from “second wave” SF band Marvin Gardens.

Terry Dolan was an East Coast folkie with a penchant for soul-stirring Rock ’n’ Roll, his music equally informed by Leadbelly, Buddy Holly and the late 60s San Francisco rock scene. Moving to SF at the tender age of 21, Dolan quickly made a name for himself with his wild, electric energy and passionate performances. Catching the wave of West Coast singer/songwriters and based on the strength of a demo for his song 'Inlaws And Outlaws' he was offered a major record deal with Warner Bros. in ’71. However, Terry Dolan never achieved the mega-stardom of many of his peers from the San Francisco scene. One of the reasons for this was Warner Bros. inexplicable cancellation of his superb self-titled, debut album, a mere two months before its release date.…………..and it had started so well. With renowned Stones session pianist Nicky Hopkins on board as producer (the only time he ever undertook production duties for another artist), a band featuring a “Who’s Who” of the San Francisco music community was put together. Prairie Prince, founding member of Journey and The Tubes, played drums, and on bass, Lonnie Turner of the Steve Miller Band. Greg Douglass (who would go on to co-write 'Jungle Love' with Turner, and join The Steve Miller Band) and John Cipollina (from the pioneering Quicksilver Messenger Service), shared guitar duties. Rounding out the group were June, Bonnie, and Anita Pointer, aka The Pointer Sisters, singing backing vocals. This line up cut four fantastic tracks dominated by Hopkins distinctive piano playing and the excellent guitar interplay between Douglass and Cipollina.………………the four cuts recorded with this band have a great early 70s Soul/Rock feel in the vain of the Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell and Little Feat and it’s criminal that they were gathering dust in the Warner’s vaults for so long. ‘Rainbow’ has the vibe of Exile period Stones, with Hopkins rolling piano, soulful female backing vocals, understated but funky bass and drums and the guitarists channeling Taylor/Richards behind Dolan’s strong voice. Hearing ‘Inlaws And Outlaws’ for the first time, you can understand why the Warner Bros. A&R Dept. were keen for Terry Dolan to put pen to paper and sign to the label.….it is no doubt a lost classic from the early 70s. High Moon’s release includes bonus cuts of alternate takes from these sessions which includes a wonderful mix of ‘Inlaws And Outlaws’ sans the Pointer Sisters backing vocals that sounds like a lost QMS track with Douglass and Cipollina’s scorching guitar work a joy to behold.…………..then the first setback.

With only half the album in the can, Nicky Hopkins was called on tour by The Rolling Stones, and Dolan was forced to regroup. The unexpected departure of the producer/pianist Hopkins was a major setback, however, after a six month break and pressure from Warner Bros a new band was assembled to complete the album with English session man Pete Sears (having previously played with Rod Stewart, Trader Horne and Les Fleur De Lys and was later to join Jefferson Starship on bass and keys) at the helm for the second side of the record. Sears brought in guitarist Neal Schon, who would soon co-found Journey, drummer David Weber and Greg Douglass returned on guitar for one of the tracks. Compared to the mix of folk-infused, high-octane rock, that became the Terry Dolan sound, recorded with Hopkins, the Sear’s produced side lacks the same excitement and verve.……….it makes you think how good this album could have been had Hopkins stuck around to finish the record. There is a great cover of J.J. Cale’s ‘Magnolia’ that is as good as anything on this record, but side 1 has been top loaded with most of the albums great songs which the second side can’t really match, put it this way, you can hear the difference. However, overall there are enough brilliant tracks that make this record more than worth a listen………then the second setback.

By September ’72, the album was completed and Warner’s assigned it a catalogue number: BS 2669. The record was slated for a February ’73 release, however, with no explanation ever provided, just two months before it was to hit the record racks of the world, Dolan’s debut album was cancelled, and he was dropped by the label. Adding insult to injury, Warner Bros. failed to inform Dolan of their decision. Listening to this record 43 years on, the only theory that we can offer is that by the time the record was completed Warner’s felt that it did not fit with current trends.…in the early 70s musical styles and fashions changed at such a pace, maybe the label felt this was no longer a marketable record.………..otherwise it seems a pretty drastic decision to dump a record that close to release. It was a strange decision as there at least five tracks from the original eight tracks that are fantastic and have stood the test of time, with ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Inlaws And Outlaws’ as good as anything from that era. Terry was devastated, but determined to forge ahead. Less than six months after being dropped by Warner’s, Dolan formed Terry & The Pirates, who’s revolving and evolving lineup (featuring many of the musicians on his record) became a beloved fixture of the Bay Area music scene over the next 30 years, but when he passed away on January 15, 2012, Terry’s unreleased album had still only been heard by a handful of people. Now, 43 years later the music still brims with soul and passion and with this first-time-ever release of Terry Dolan’s debut album, the world can finally hear what a mistake Warner’s originally made.

Lavishly packaged, the long lost Terry Dolan album is available on vinyl or as a deluxe custom Digipak CD with a 28-page, magazine-style LP booklet (48 page in CD) packed with rare photos, posters, a definitive essay on the album’s history, and personal recollections by friends and the musicians involved with the cover and artwork by legendary rock photographer Herb Greene. The CD includes with 6 bonus tracks from the original sessions with a download code included with the LP to access the additional bonus material. Due for release on the 25th of November this previously unreleased gem will be available from all good record stores/on line retailers with pre-orders being available from High Moon Records directly.

1968 captures virtually all recorded evidence of Marvin Gardens, a dynamic and mesmerizing band that existed for only a couple years at the tail end of the 60s and in order to create a full albums worth of material for a band that only ever put out one single, High Moon have done some serious digging in the vaults finding tapes of never-before-heard Warner Bros. audition demos, the aforementioned extremely rare, self-released, seven-inch EP (only 100 were pressed) and an inspired live performance from the legendary Matrix club in San Francisco   Marvin Gardens were one of the “second wave” San Francisco bands that took up the slack in the bars and clubs when the SF scene’s heavy hitters (Jefferson Airplane, the Dead and QMS ) graduated to the halls and ballrooms and were a real melting pot of musical styles mixing Folk Rock, Blues, Gospel, Rag-Time/Vaudeville and Acid Rock with a large repertoire of material, including songs by Buffy Saint Marie, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, Hoagy Carmichael and an eclectic and seemingly-endless range of pre-war Blues, Country and Folk numbers………….Marvin Gardens were never going to expand your mind but after a few beers and smokes they were guaranteed to be great entertainment.

They had the rawness of early Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & The Holding Company, the Country/Folk feel of The Charlatans all mixed with the more populist sensibility of the Lovin’ Spoonful……….nothing stunningly original, but they had a secret weapon…………lead singer Carol Duke. She was a wisecracking lesbian from Lubbock, Texas, with a deep knowledge of folk music, the vocal power and conviction of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, and a spine-tingling pop-melodic purity that rivalled Mama Cass and Carole King………Duke was a natural. Backed up by a band that could switch styles at a drop of a hat, Melvin Gardens were a amalgamation of the SF scene circa 68. The Warner Bros. demos don’t offer anything different to what you may have heard before, it’s a cool mix of styles that were popular at the time but seeing that Grace, Cass and Janice already had record contracts there is no surprise that Warner’s passed on signing the band. However it is the live recording where Marvin Gardens shine………..mixing traditional Gospel (‘Gloryland’), up-beat Folk Rock (‘I Know You Rider’), old Blues done Rag Time style with kazoos and slide whistles (‘Titanic’), Trad. Folk/Blues and Acid Rock wig outs, Marvin Gardens tear through a fully entertaining eleven song set with the stand out songs being a slow burning version of the old Hoagy Carmichael jazz standard ‘Baltimore Oriole’ and a Airplane-esque cover of Buffy Saint Marie’s ‘Ananias’ complete with searing Acid Rock soloing. With their catchy folk melodic sensibility, primal rock instincts, and lead singer nonpareil, Marvin Gardens could have continued to grow as artists and make a serious mark locally and nationally. But they never “made it” past the ’60s or even much beyond the Northern California music scene. Apart from a handful of dedicated local enthusiasts and a warm embrace by the Gay Biker Club scene ('Whips And Leathers', their sole original was a celebration of that nascent movement), the band never achieved escape velocity. They gently fizzled out and went their separate ways, like most groups do, without a fuss. Destined to be no more than a footnote in the story of the 1960s SF music scene, but thanks to some die-hard fans, archivists and true believers, one of the coolest bands you’ve never heard of is finally getting its debut. High Moon Records has created the ultimate document of a group that should have been a bigger deal and still very much deserves to be heard.

Like all High Moon Records releases, 1968 has been beautifully packaged with original cover and back art by legendary underground cartoonist Larry Welz and a 24-page, magazine-sized booklet where the liner notes include an insightful essay by Ugly Things’ writer Mike Stax with reflections from band members and associates. Due for release on 11th November, 1968 will be available on LP, CD and as a download from all good record stores and on-line distributors………………….pre-orders being taken now at the High Moon Records website.  

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