Classic Rock Review

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The Doobie Brothers Takin’ It To The Streets (1976)

The+Doobie+Brothers+-+Takin'+It+To+The+Streets+-+LP+RECORD-439042From amazon.com

I’m not going to go over the same ground as the other reviewers… Gavin Wilson’s notes for this album are pretty accurate so you may want to read this first. I’d just like to take up a couple of point he makes which are not accurate for all you history buffs out there. At the end I give you my opinion of the album if you just want to skip down to that.

QUOTE “McDonald needed a vehicle to establish himself before going on to a solo career”

This statement is misleading in that it suggests that Mike only joined the Doobie Brothers to further his solo career – at the time in ’73/’74 Mike McDonald would have needed a crystal ball to have had this in mind. He joined the Doobies because he was asked by Pat Simmons over the telephone and he was not just ‘using the band’ as a stepping stone to a solo gig. Mike had been gigging around the West Coast for a couple of years – most notably with Steely Dan (which was on/off as anyone who knows Dan will understand – they went through more musicians that I’ve had hot dinners… approx’ 52 on Aja alone!). At the time he had had an abortive solo album released through a producer friend Rick Jarrard and he was living in a garage apartment surviving on oatmeal. He had pretty much given up on the idea of a solo career and was really looking for work as a session musician. Jeff Baxter, another Dan session man recommended him to Pat and that was that.

The whole idea of Mike going solo didn’t come until the Doobies fell apart around 79/80 and then it was out of necessity… it was either a solo gig or go look for more session work. Mike’s never planned anything in his life.. and he still believes to this day in synchronicity – fate leading him forward.

QUOTE “However much the band’s manager might want to thrust Simmons as the band’s new leader it seems that he needed a co-leader to bring out the best of his playing.”

The truth of this is that Pat is a very nice guy and a great musician but was not a leader in ’74. He was a hippy in the true sense of the word and this was not even his band remember – he came in a year or two after Tom Johnston had formed the band. Tom Johnston was the driving force behind the Doobs in the early days both in terms of direction, leadership and song writing. Following his well documented drug and health issues (he collapsed on tour with bleeding stomach ulcers that nearly killed him and spent 12 months recovering) the Doobies were in serious free fall.

You have to understand that these guys were all stoned half the time and all they could focus on was getting to the next gig to play a live set. They weren’t really a studio band at all so the idea of them all sitting down round a table and working out which musical direction to go after Tom’s sudden exit is frankly…. laughable.

Jeff Baxter, however, is a leader and has very strong ideas about what he wants to do. It was really his decision to employ Mike McDonald and it was part of his (later admitted) plan to take over Tom’s spot as leader of the Doobies. He realised that the Doobs had potential and with Tom gone were ripe for the taking. By bringing in his buddy from Steely Dan (McD) he gave his corner more strength. What is really ironic is that through the Doobies, Mike McDonald blossomed and developed a close bond with Pat Simmons and Tiran Porter which pushed Baxter out of the band a couple of years later. Baxter has commented on this power struggle and admits that once he realised he couldn’t lead the band he decided to quit

QUOTE “The only problem with those two classic tracks was they are both pretty much solo efforts”.

‘Takin It To The Streets’ WAS written before Mike joined the Doobies, in fact the words were part written by Mike’s sister as part of a college paper on Martin Luther King and social unrest in the U.S. It is no surprise that Mike’s musical inspiration for this track was Marvin Gaye and the album ‘What’s Goin’ On’ which pre-dated this album by 3 years. ‘It Keeps You Runnin’ and ‘Losin End’ were also pretty much written solo by Mike and these three songs really began a new direction for the band which would see them rise to chart success and Grammy awards with the next three albums, Fault Line, Minute By Minute and One Step Closer.

This album is a real mish mash of styles and rhyhms which done’ really knit for me. You have remnants of the past (Turn It Lose – Tom Johnstons rescued studio dub from Stampede), Mikes solo tracks over dubbed by the band, a kind of odd song ‘For Someone Special’ from bass player Tiran Porter that whilst OK doesn’t fit with anything, an attempt at a ‘pop’ song in ‘Rio’, Pat’s bluegrass influenced ‘8th Avenue Shuffle’ and a pre-psychodelia ‘Wheels oF Fortune’.

If you know the history of the band at this point in their career, it is glaringly obvious why the album should be this way. It is an attempt to tread water, an albums of bits and pieces put out under pressure from the record company whilst the band tried to come to terms with losing its core (Tom Johnston).

Having said that, it is also a remarkable album in that it marks a turn in the bands direction. It is historical in that it certainly rescued the faltering career of the Doobie Brothers. It’s worth buying just because it features the fledgling inspirational work of Michael McDonald and the truly great song ‘Takin’ It To The Streets’. This is THE album that began a major shift in popular Rock music away from the hard blues of Cream and Jimi Hendrix to the Ray Charles and Motown influenced Soul. Just a few years later Michael McDonald’s chords and vocal dubs would be copied across the board for nearly a decade from Christopher Cross, Toto and David Pack in the early 80’s to band like Go West in the 90’s. This album is where it began and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

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January 20, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Takin' It To The Streets | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute (1978)

28686185-28686188-largeFrom amazon.com

“Minute By Minute”, originally released in December of 1978, was the third official studio album from the Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald as a member of the band, and I think it’s clear that the third time was the charm, both artistically and commercially–although the previous two albums certainly weren’t without solid commercial success in the US, this one was a bonafide blockbuster, topping the US charts, having gone platinum within the first four months of its original release, and having gone triple-platinum by 1985.

I think the report of the band being dissatisfied with this album can be attributed to them feeling emotionally drained at the time of its recording/ release. The sessions weren’t exactly smooth sailing–in the booklet for the Rhino “Greatest Hits” CD, Michael McDonald recalls how the band did countless takes just for “What A Fool Believes” alone and that they “almost gave up”.

Without a doubt, the huge success of this album was deserved. It’s really amazing how much better of an album “Minute By Minute” is compared to the first two Doobies’ albums with McDonald–1976’s “Takin’ It To The Streets” and 1977’s “Livin’ On The Fault Line” respectively. Although respectable albums, the Doobies sound rather burnt out on “…Streets” and “…Fault Line” and often seem to be coasting on their (admittedly hugely respectable) instrumental chops to try and mask a lack of quality songwriting. With “Minute By Minute”, energy and enthusiasm are back in a big way–it’s like the band suddenly got a second wind.

Michael McDonald’s gasping, soulful vocals here pack a major wallop and are simply infectious, and he handles the lead vocals on a handful of classic tracks from this album. And of course, McDonald was one damn impressive songwriter as well–his album opening solo composition, the heavily syncopated “Here To Love You”, is one of his characteristic “soulful rants” as I like to call them, and it’s an irresistible, uplifting feel-good tune. “What A Fool Believes” was a huge hit, and with its crisp beat, rich & soaring harmonies, clever and incisive love lyrics, the sly key change on the chorus, and the extreme melodic catchiness, it’s a total classic–it’s true that you’ve probably heard it a ‘zillion’ times, but there’s no denying the brilliance of it. The jazzy, arrestingly hushed and moody title track is also classic hit. “Open Your Eyes”, with its pleading minor-keyed verses and extreme catchiness, is also a gem, and don’t forget about the grooving album closer “How Do The Fools Survive?”.

The greatness doesn’t stop there. On the previous album, it was as if the band was either afraid to rock out or had forgotten how to do so, but they come gloriously roaring back in that department with Patrick Simmons’ enthusiastic bluesy rocker “Don’t Stop To Watch The Wheels”, an irresistible song with a super fun guitar line and cool atmospheric stuff going on as well.

I’ll admit that not every song itself on the album is a classic, but still, “Dependin’ On You” is a fun feel-good tune, and “Streamer Lane Breakdown” is a solid, country-flavored instrumental that adds a welcome diversity. The minor-keyed “You Never Change” is admittedly a bit slight, and yet it’s still another piece of arrestingly catchy material. The quasi-ballad “Sweet Feelin'”, with vocals from Nicolette Larson, is rather fluffish, but it’s still catchy, under 3 minutes long, and nicely enjoyable.

So, despite some weaknesses, I have to admit I have a real weakness for this type of classy music, the kind of stuff that really holds up to repeated listening. Even “What A Fool Believes” is one of those songs that, despite its relentless airplay, has so much going on to make it one of those songs that’s always ‘worth one more listen’, as the saying goes. On the whole, “Minute By Minute” is a great and timeless album.

January 20, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Stampede (1975)

From amazon.com

the_doobie_brothers_stampede_frontStampede is the most under-rated of all Doobie Brothers albums. I found it in a cut-out bin (remember those?) not long after it was released in ’75, even though it charted to #4.

In most ways, I find it the most satisfying album to come out after Toulouse Street, much better than The Captain And Me, and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. The acoustic-electric charm that was present with Toulouse Street was the abundance of folk, jazz, R&B, swampy country, and rock all fused together into a “sound” which experimented with throughout the album in such a way that it never left you wanting for more. The Doobie Brothers would shift tempos, chord progressions, mutate the beat and warp the melody sometimes shifting total genre in a song.

These have always the been the best elements of their music, continued on The Captain And Me but not so much on an album which generally became more electric and save for a handful of songs, most of the material on Captain utilized formulaic 70’s rock. Vices…Habits started to lean more to what is found on Stampede and with the release of this 1975 mini-cult classic, fans like myself were back in the saddle with the Doobies where we loved them. On Stampede they diversified those elements of their sound even more than ever before, grabbing up chunks of the genres outlined above (from Toulouse Street) and infusing more country-rock, folk, and a heaping helping of hot funk!

If you know what “Creole” or “Gumbo” mean, when you get your hands on Stampede you have a musical Creole all stirred into the most wonderful Gumbo you could ever taste!

Johnston and Simmons both wrote more eclectic songs on Stampede which captured the diversity and genius of their best early works, Toulouse Street as a whole, “Clear As The Driven Snow”, “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman”, “Ukiah”, “The Captain And Me”, “Spirit”, “Black Water”, “Daughters Of The Sea”, and “Flying Cloud”. This was the material that really set The Doobie Brothers apart from their 70’s contemporaries, as they, unlike other classic 70’s acts, were one group which really fused together the elements that gave birth to this music.

The Bay Area of Northern California was, through the latter part of the 60’s and into the early 70’s, an encampment of musical ideology that utilized “fusion” in the creative spark. And that applies beyond the common genre of fusion jazz. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Country Joe & The Fish, and Big Brother & The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, were all vanguards of fusion rock in the counter-culture movement. Rock, blues, jazz, folk, gospel, R&B, far-eastern, latin, and other world-wide elements of music were infused into contemporary music and experimentation was the measure of success. In 1971, The Doobie Brothers drew all the best elements of this front line together to make a successful sound that was unique in its own right and polished to a winning accessibility. 1972’s Toulouse Street was the perfect presentation of this and in reality, the two follow-ups to that album fell short of recapturing the magic. Stampede succeeds where those two came up short.

Also, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter finally fully became a member of the band on Stampede, adding that incredible third guitar with its unique steel jazz sound. When all three guitarists get cranking on songs like “Neal’s Fandango” the explosiveness is unmatched even by standard bearers like The Allman Brothers or The Eagles. When Little Feat’s Bill Payne cuts in with a jazz piano bending the melody and turning it on its head, or when Superfly Curtis Mayfield tops a song with Memphis Horns and Motown Strings, or when Ry Cooder adds a bottleneck guitar to three jammers already in overdrive, and when Maria Muldaur caps dissonant and haunting strings and horns with a plaintive wail, you have a masterpiece as a finished product. This may be The Doobie Brothers best work of art, sincerely under appreciated!

STAMPEDE starts with an ol’ timey vaudeville piano (courtesy of Bill Payne as are all the piano keys) that jumps right into the “signature rock” of Tom Johnston, but this time, Tom mixes it hot and then downbeats the song half way through with some gospel backing kicked up with keen guitar licks and you know that Tom is back in the driver seat leaving the hamburger rock melodies (ie. Without You, Natural Thing) on the old plate and serving up a fresh steak! “Sweet Maxine” is kick-ass country rock, boogie, gospel, and rockabilly all rolled up into a big fat Doobie!

“Neal’s Fandango” cooks. There is no other way to explain it. Three guitars country boogie right through a song that has a firmly planted bass fingering and three-part harmony that starts in full highway speed and goes to warp drive. The electric guitar lead exchanges between all three, especially Skunk’s signature sound is immaculately conceived and executed. This is one of Simmons’ best compositions belying his jazz work with Skunk on the next album. The double-drumming here just adds to the pleasure and this is a prime example of what the Doobies are all about.

“Texas Lullaby” again demonstrates Tom’s best talents. He sings this old country home styled ballad with soul and heart. The strings envelope bass and country twang guitars with gentle caress and Pat and Tiran back him up nicely. Halfway through the song Tom lets Skunk play around a nice country-fried jazz lead before he finishes off the vocals to a pedal steel coda.

Then…Motown comes calling on the ranch. Tom’s “Music Man” goes soul right away with Curtis Mayfield flourishes and a funky R&B guitar accent. Choruses are gospel tinged and after two full minutes the string section and guitars carry the song to dizzying heights and exit. Another prime example of Doobie Brothers adventures in artwork.

Beautiful guitar work of Pat, Tom, and Skunk provides an intermezzo called “Slack Key Soquel Rag” (scored by Pat) before the Doobies go Motown again with the amazing cover of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s hit “Take Me In Your Arms”. With the same kind of revitalizing energy that they provided for blues covers on Toulouse Street, the Doobies hit the bull’s-eye dead center with this R&B classic. The Doobies really rock this one and when the guitar leads kick up the dirt, the result, with double-pound drums and bass, is anther of their best efforts. Released as a single, “Take Me In Your Arms” fell just outside the top ten but for album listeners this is just another chapter in the great adventure of Stampede.

For many fans, the centrepiece of Stampede is the incredible “I Cheat The Hangman”. Pat wrote this literally haunting ballad after reading Ambrose Bierce’s classic ghost story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” about a post civil war ghost who does not realize he is dead. The dual acoustic guitar melody, electric picks (Skunk haunts the haunting song with gorgeous accents), Bill Payne’s ethereal piano tinkling, eerie percussive effects, and frightening string overlays, build slowly into a terrifyingly beautiful story. The finale is compared to Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” by Pat and producer Ted Templeman, but one who is familiar with Alan Parson’s orchestral vision of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall Of The House Of Usher” on Tales Of Mystery And Imagination cannot help but draw a direct comparison to the work engineered and produced there!

“Précis” is a classical style guitar piece written and performed by Skunk. Another brief interlude before the final three songs chop more wood.

“Rainy Day Crossroad Blues” is another top form acoustic guitar blues work by Tom. Three guitars are now supplemented by the one and only Ry Cooder on bottleneck. It slides up and downbeats and shuffles itself right into your soul. The center stop gap with overlaid strings and pedal steel changes the hot shuffle to country ballad instrumental carrying the song to fruition and then Tom amps it up with a rocking soul “I Been Workin’ On You” complete with gospel choir backings (Venetta Fields three-girl unit that backed Take Me In Your Arms as well). The chord progression changes and lead guitar work in center field, leading to last verses with whistling develops another sure sign that Tom saved some of his best material for this album.

Pat Simmons’ “Double Dealin’ Four Flusher” finale rocks us right out of the album to hitting the play button for a second go. Pat wails vocals and guitar leads (shared with Tom and Skunk) while Bill Payne lays down honky-tonk piano boogie that just before the end of the song segues into a tight jazz improvisational piece and then jump starts the whole band into electric finish. The end result is The Doobie Brothers best overall album to share the spotlight with Toulouse Street, and the jazzy other side of the band, Takin’ It To The Streets coming up next.

January 20, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers The Captain and Me (1973)

The_Doobie_Brothers-The_Captain_And_Me-Frontal[1]From amazon.com

The Bay Area of Northern California was, through the latter part of the 60’s and into the early 70’s, an encampment of musical ideology that utilized “fusion” in the creative spark. And that applies beyond the common genre of fusion jazz.

The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Country Joe & The Fish, and Big Brother & The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, were all vanguards of fusion rock in the counter-culture movement. Rock, blues, jazz, folk, gospel, R&B, far-eastern, latin, and other world-wide elements of music were infused into contemporary music and experimentation was the measure of success.

In 1971, The Doobie Brothers drew all the best elements of this front line together to make a successful sound that was unique in its own right and polished to a winning accessibility. Their initial album went un-noticed in general, other than by the locals who knew them from live shows and from local chapters of The Hells Angels who had formed a particular strong following of the group.

It was 1972’s release of Toulouse Street that jettisoned The Doobie Brothers into the hands of soon-to-be admirers like myself. And based upon that wonderful music and the singles tossed out in conjunction with the release of The Captain And Me, this “second” masterpiece gave us even more of the wonder and awe.

The first noticeable feature of this band was the easy blend of acoustic and electric, not just a counter-balance of one to the other but a total homogenization of the two into a sort of Simon & Garfunkel meets Jefferson Airplane and they had twins and named them The Doobie Brothers. The other in-your-face fact was the songwriting was so crafty and elegant whether it was a driving rocker or a soft folk-jazz song. The band had some top of the mountain talent.

Two drummers playing off of each other, a bassist with pure busy and punchy bass lines in a distinctive tone with a unique picking style, three part harmony vocals that easily separated into tiger-leads, and two lead guitars! And all that before you noticed the Memphis Horns and Little Feat’s Bill Payne rocking the pianos! In the same way which Toulouse Street instantly grabbed you, The Captain And Me forged forward with their sound. This time they added an extra accent on the last syllable, they paid out of work Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter for some canny pedal steel.

Most Doobie Bros fans fall into one of three camps: the fans of the original Tom Johnston led group, the Michael McDonald influenced outgrowth group (often referred to as “Doobie Dan” by the former fans), and those (like myself) who love all things Doobie from inception to jaded. The Doobie Dan moniker stuck with them from Takin’ It To The Streets even though Jeff Baxter had actually joined the group a couple albums earlier and actually began his session playing on a few songs of this album, but it mainly came up after Michael began to write songs and sing leads after Tom left.

Yes, The Doobie Brothers did gravitate more to R&B influences after that, but the unique “sound”, the “it” that made The Doobie Brothers, the Doobie Brothers, that has always been, with or without Tom. You see, if you listen closely to Toulouse Street and this album, and pay particular attention to each song, then go play Takin’ It To The Streets and do the same again, I assure you, you will notice the thread there. The cosmopolitan Bay Area truth that bares open the San Francisco scene musically, the synthesis that fused elemental musics together to become the “voice” of a generation.

The reality of The Captain And Me compared to Toulouse Street, is that Captain was a rush order job based upon the sales of the former. Tom Johnston had to rework some “old” tunes to come up with the final set list. For me, the opening track on each side of the record album, “Natural Thing”, and “Without You” were both the weakest moments on the album along with “Evil Woman”. All these years late I have not changed my mind and therefore, Captain still takes a back seat to Toulouse Street. The real magic in this album, which is outstanding meat, are the well crafted everything else, including the two hit singles “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove” both of which are just groovy electric guitar songs, the former being richly endowed with that whole train rhythm thing. The ultra bluesy “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman” and the southern-rock blues of “South City Midnight Lady” capture more pure essence of Doobie Brothers than either of the opening side tracks.

Cajun Woman has a beautiful guitar pluck and Midnight Lady just feels all folky and jazzy with that pedal steel from Skunk. “Clear As The Driven Snow” is real song-craft. Beginning with an acoustic guitar round of two circling guitars, the revolutions duly increase speed as the wind blows and when the drums beat in, The Doobies three-part harmonies carry us to the crescendo finale. The same kind of skills are utilized in the three segued final acts, “Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners”, “Ukiah”, and the title track. “Busted…” plays again with encircling guitars that typify a crossroads to “Ukiah” where the synthesizer accents on electric and acoustic guitars work much better than in “Natural Thing”. The melody is catchy, folky, and in a Creedence sort of way, the country is pleasantly electrified.

This “sacred land”scape works its way into your ears, you can actually smell the pines of Northern California. As the harmony vocals and guitars softly descend into “The Captain And Me” where encircling guitars once again stage our ceremony, the “starship” is ready to take off. Built around harmony vocals, banjos, acoustic guitars, and inspired drum exchanges, the song mutates per Doobie fashion into gospel soul rock. Tom has gone on record to say the song was composed at the last minute without any real meaning to the lyrics, but regardless of that fact, it is one of the finest compositions in their arsenal. So how about them apples?

The Doobie Brothers did find a formula for success as is apparent with just the first four releases: Toulouse Street charted at #21, The Captain And Me at #7, and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits went to #4 and Stampede also clocked in at #4.

I still consider Toulouse Street as The Doobie Brothers album because of the effect it had on me. Read my review of that one there. Critical responses call The Captain And Me or Minute By Minute (depending on your camp) their biggest and best, but each and every album has its own independent merits that makes it a great album, so unabashedly I think that the response to judgment of Doobies albums is entirely emotional and based upon the listeners own experience. I usually end up listening to them in this order: Toulouse Street, The Captain And Me, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, Stampede, Takin’ It To The Streets, Minute By Minute. Get it? And how do I rate them all? 5 big whopping stars for every one of them. Which one is my favorite? Today it is Toulouse Street, next Tuesday it might be Stampede.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers The Captain And Me | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour (1983)

the-doobie-brothers-farewell-tour-5104b6b044800From hawaiipublicradio.org

The Doobie Brothers have just released the tasty “Farewell Tour” 1983 album again, as a remastered, expanded collection. The original concert recording of their final show on the 1982 farewell tour includes a bonus four tracks from the Berkeley, California Greek Theatre date that wrapped up the Doobies for a brief time.

What you get on this newly released CD and DVD is a beat-down of Doobies hits that starts out “eighties-fast” – that… unusual phenomenon where most live acts from the seventies had those blazing fast versions of their classics throughout the eighties. Many of the songs seem to have that feel, as you relive the original album’s majesty, and relearn these sped-up live tracks that in some cases drastically rework the originals.

“Listen to the Music” leads the way, and the energy is on fire through the next track, “Sweet Maxine;” it continues with Doobie standard “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” which always is a crowd favorite of the biker-heavy audience. This was not just The Doobie Brothers, of course, but Michael McDonald, too.

Mike had joined the line-up in the mid-seventies and brought along a lot of melody, great vocals, keyboard playing, and a string of hits. His first real mark on this record is the “You Belong to Me” which pours out the soul, reminding this listener of the raw power Michael McDonald consistently brings to the table. The version of this jam is easily one of the stand-out tracks of the album.

The band blisters through “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)” with a kind of energy that shows off the tightness of the group at that moment; what you have here is the final date on a tour, plus being performed in their hometown, so the precision level is high. Everybody is firing on all cylinders from the get-go. “Long Train Runnin’” keeps the frenzy at full-tilt, with ferocious playing all around. “Black Water” delivers the sing-along session of the night, though at a Doobies show, there are a lot of moments to join in.

“Minute By Minute” is another chestnut of the Michael McDonald years; it leads into the “Slat Key Soquel Rag” and “Out on the Streets,” which is a nice dip into slightly deeper Doobie territory. What the album keeps doing is maintain the hit atmosphere, but occasionally take you on a deeper ride, like with these last couple of gems.

“What A Fool Believes” has always been one of my favorite Doobie Brothers songs. Maybe it’s the lyrics you can relate to, and put yourself into, through tales of missed opportunities and squandered love; maybe it’s the catchy phrasing and familiarity of the song, bringing you back in time via the nostalgia invariably created. It’s a dead-on smash live on this farewell tour recording.

The old classic spiritual remake “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Takin’ it to the Streets” burn with the soul of the band at high, with soaring guitar solos and climactic vocals. “China Grove” with Tom Johnston doing that legendary appearance he made with the boys, nailing his song, and the raging reunion with Porter, Hossack and Hartman on “Listen to the Music” as the finale.

Bonus tracks fill-out the disc, including the absolutely lifting version of “Real Love” included. Such soulful vocals, and everyone shining, especially showcasing how much our Maui ohana, guitarist and good friend Pat Simmons and brother Michael McDonald, bring to the Doobies party. Nice work boys.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour (1983)

18727From amazon.com

Review The Doobies’ Farewell Tour CD (from 1983) is an terrific live album that contains many fan favourites from their catalogue of hits – it’s just not long enough! As mentioned in an earlier review, there’s enough material for a double CD, but Warner Bros. decided to limit the concert to a single disk. Too bad!

Consequently, some of the cuts are a little shorter than I would like (“China Grove” and “Don’t Start Me Talkin'”, in particular), but this deficit is made up for by extended cuts of “Long Train Runnin'”, “Jesus is Just Alright”, and a great lengthened version of “Steamer Lane Breakdown”.

On the positive, though, the band is in fine form with Michael McDonald and Pat Simmons doing most of the vocals, the talented John McFee on his array of stringed instruments, Keith Knudsen on drums, Bobby LaKind on the congas, and Cornelius Bumpus on the sax, synth., & organ, plus a cameo by Tommy Johnson on “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove”. The renditions of their songs have all been updated without losing the appeal of the original versions. (Much like later their later live CD’s “Rockin’ Down the Highway – The Wildlife Concert” and “Live at Wolf Trap” – both outstanding, by the way!)

I found the going tough when I tried to find this CD and would suggest getting it quick if you want a copy. For years, it was just in available in Japan, but is now making it’s way to the states. The price is becoming somewhat inflated over the past few months, though, so “buyer beware”!

For Doobie “complete-ists”, like myself, you’ll want to search until you can find “Farewell Tour”, for fans those who want something similar to this CD, but easier to find, you’ll be just as happy with either (or both) of the two aforementioned live albums.

Review I Bought the Vinyl and Cassette in 1983, Sometime later paid high dollars for the Japanese CD edition. Now all of these years later it finally makes a US CD debut, but no Bonus tracks. What a disgrace. A lot of critics or fellow DB’s fans have put this album in the back of there closets. Some would say overly produced or what ever there reasons are.

My opinion is the cuts that were chosen from the live shows for this album were not the best ones. The actual shows were 2 + HR’s, now I understand you could only put so many songs on vinyl. But if you saw any of the video broadcast HBO and A&E 60 min and 74 minutess you would’ve seen better live versions that should’ve ended up on this set. Also songs like “Here To Love You, Take Me In Your Arms, It Keeps You Running, Real Love, Keep This Train Rollin. The long jam version of Listen To The music from the Berkley show with all members on stage and many others that could’ve made this a 2 CD set. Or at the very least add 2 or three extra songs.

It seems as though the DB’s have not gotten the respect that many other bands from the 1970’s have gotten, in terms of RE:issues of there original albums IE remastering or bonus tracks, demos and Unissued songs from that session. Minus the box set Disc 4, there is really not a lot available on the DB’s. And to think Blondie is in the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame and no DB’s as of yet HMMM. Anyway, I think this is a good live album, great arrangements of the songs live, yes lacking volume levels or a better remastering and extra songs. A good live album by quality artist, at least Rhino put out and maybe they will put a full 2 HR+ DVD out sometime down the road, from this Tour, the DB’s deserve it…You know the WB vaults are full of rare live/studio stuff -Mike Sippie

Review It’s good that this album is finally available on CD in the US. From what I’ve seen this album has been slammed by critics and treated as almost a non-entity in the Doobie catalogue.

That’s just unfair, because this is a GREAT live album. Every Doobie fan (except maybe those who are Johnston-era only fans) needs to have this. This is everything a live album should be. Many live albums have versions of songs that are just carbon copies of the originals, adding nothing to them and sometimes even subtracting from them. But you won’t hear that kind of thing here. Many tracks on this album add new twists to the originals, and some (Steamer Lane Breakdown, You Belong To Me) are actually more definitive versions of the songs.

Of course this is a historically important collection as well, in more ways than one. There are two Doobies originals that were first heard here (including “Olana,” which later appeared in studio form on the box set, but the definitive version is on this album). There is the lead vocal debut of (the late) Keith Knudsen, on “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” (sounding a lot like Pat Simmons and a lot UNlike Keith’s vocals on SIBLING RIVALRY).

The second Doobies live album, Wildlife Concert, repeats most of the songs that were on this album. With only a couple exceptions, it is the FAREWELL TOUR versions, not the WILDLIFE CONCERT ones, that I listen to.

If you’re a McDonald-era or “all-eras” Doobies fan, get this.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street (1972)

182607_1_fFrom dailyvault.com

Although it had its charms, The Doobie Brothers only hinted at what this band could accomplish, a fact proven on the sophomore follow-up Toulouse Street.

Positioned somewhere between Creedence Clearwater Revival and the early Eagles, the sound of this music draws on a variety of sources – blues, Caribbean, gospel – and gives it a Southern rock twist by way of California. That may seem a contrived way to describe all this but it’s accurate, and time has only sharpened the diversity of the music and how well it flows together.
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Heard with fresh ears in their album-length versions, classic rock staples “Listen To The Music,” the bracing “Rockin’ Down The Highway” and the gospel-inflected stomper “Jesus Is Just Alright” are better than you remember. The group interplay is solid and the vocal harmonies – a forgotten strength from these guys – strengthen these warhorses. “Jesus is Just Alright” in particular is still a joy to listen to, an infectious, non-pandering tune with great guitar work

The best song here is the title track, an acoustic paean to love, New Orleans, and the spell of a fading summer’s evening when something slightly mystical is in the air. An elegant flute solo divides the verses to round out the piece. A side note: When the band hand-picked their favorites for their Doobie’s Choice album, this one made the cut, but none of the aforementioned hits did.

The guys attempt a boogie funk hybrid on “Cotton Mouth” and a Caribbean feel on “Mamloi;” the former is moderately successful, the latter trite and irritating. A cover of “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” is Allman Brothers lite, not too bad, while “White Sun” also bleats along pleasantly, the CSN&Y harmonies canceling out the goofy lyrics. Finally, the seven-minute “Disciple” plows through territory already covered for three minutes before turning into a guitar showcase; it obviously wants to be an Allman-esque epic but falls just short, though it sounds fine as it plays. “Snake Man” is a fun closer, a jaunty two-minute blues-inspired tune. One wonders if it could have been developed into something more, but alas.

Toulouse Street is miles ahead of the band’s debut and would only be bettered by its immediate successor, The Captain And Me. Worth checking out if you enjoyed the hits and wanted to dig a little deeper into the band’s back catalog. At the very least, try to get “Toulouse Street” somewhere and listen to it at dusk.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974)

the_doobie_brothers-what_were_once_vices_are_now_habits(2)From mofi.com

What could the Doobie Brothers possibly do to follow-up the excellent The Captain and Me? Plenty. They started by inviting the Memphis Horns to inject more soul into their trademark, Southern-styled boogie rock. Next, they secured the services of Steely Dan virtuoso Jeff “Skunk” Baxter to supply guitar and pedal-steel parts.

And for extra spice, the band recruitedArlo Guthrie to play autoharp. The results? What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, the group’s most diverse album to date.It’s just one reason Mobile Fidelity is proud to include the 1974 effort in its phenomenal Doobie Brothers catalog restoration series.

Of course, no record is worth its salt without sharp songwriting. Fret not. What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits overflows with one memorable tune after another. It’s a true collective effort, with the material reflecting the musical strengths of each of the members. Picking up where the disbanded Creedence Clearwater Revival had left off, Tom Johnston contributes the rousing “Pursuit on 53rd Street” and “Down in the Track.” Patrick Simmons’ “Black Water” advances swamp rock, and gave the band its first Number One hit.

The Doobies also mine the country-rock vein like nobody’s business. “Tell Me What You Want (And I’ll Give You What You Need)” and “Another Park, Another Sunday” cross roots rhythms with edgy melodies. And the instrumental “Flying Cloud,” contributed by bassist Tiran Porter, finds the Doobies further expanding their sonic palette while remaining faithful to their loose, good-time themes.

By every stretch, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits defies easy categorization yet soars on amiable vibes designed to satisfy the listener. Having reached #4 on the Billboard Album charts, it’s safe to say the public was indeed impressed.

Mobile Fidelity’s engineers had the same goals in mind when mastering this 70s rock classic from the original master tapes. And so the Doobie Brothers’ dual-drum approach now resonates with a punchiness it never previously possessed.Johnson’s high-pitched vocals no longer hit an artificial ceiling or lurk behind a veiled curtain.

The Memphis Horns’ brassy accents carry, and the all-important midrange sounds immediate, transparent, and dynamic.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers The Captain And Me (1973)

MI0001751733From superseventies.com

The Doobie Brothers are a mainstream rock band with a few crucial limitations and a knack of making good records despite their flaws. Their big hit of a few months ago, “Listen to the Music,” displayed both: Leader Tom Johnston has a full catalog of compelling electric and acoustic guitar riffs, and in the single he puts a bunch of these to use, most importantly in his intro, a modified version of the beginning of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life;” the instrumental arrangement, spirited but buoyant, is practically irresistible, and the Doobies put it together with precision.

What makes the song so irritating after repeated listenings (I’ve never seen a volume-raiser become a station switcher so quickly) are the affectedly funky singing by Johnston and backup and the shallowness of the song itself. “Ohohoh, listen to the music,” and the rest of the things-are-getting-better-day-by-day lyric would wear down even the most optimistic AMer after two or three weeks of hourly exposure, and, once you get past the nice guitar chording and double drumming, there isn’t much music to explore. Like all the music of the Doobie Brothers, it has its attractions, but you shouldn’t ask too much of it.

The Captain and Me is the best of the group’s three albums; it’s greatly superior to the last, the overdone Toulouse Street, from which the single was taken, and it’s better played, arranged and produced than the first LP, The Doobie Brothers, which had the best material. The Doobies have become an unusually polished recording group with an identifiable style: paired acoustic and electric rhythm work by Johnston and Pat Simmons, with Johnston adding well-placed lead lines for tension-building, a dense but never ponderous rhythmic punch provided by drummers John Hartman and Michael Hossack and bass player Tiran Porter, and, above all, the chugging rhythm, the slick, trebly Johnston lead vocals and group harmonies.

The first two tracks are variations on “Listen to the Music,” with those syncopated lines and dumb lyrics (‘We all got to be loved…” and “Without love/Where would you be now?”), and there’s a third variation later on. There are a couple of quieter tunes by Simmons: one, “South City Midnight Lady,” a rather pretty whore-with-a-heart-of-gold song in country-rock dress, the other, “Clear As the Driven Snow,” in which the group adds wind sound effects and jingle bells in an attempt to evoke a mood that’s already amply provided by a lovely Johnston guitar solo. There’s also an ugly high-energy track complete with shrieking, echoed harmonies, a Redbone-“Witchy Woman” takeoff (this may be a new genre), and the title song, a more lyrical version of the standard Doobie rhythm number.

In the two best tracks here, “China Grove” and “Without You,” the band changes things around by using full, ringing electric chordings instead of the usual acoustic and low-volume electric rhythm, and by keeping the lead singing rough and spontaneous-sounding. The sound on each track is so explosive that it won’t occur to you to find out what the song is about, and de-emphasizing their basic material is something the Doobies should do more often (as it happens, “China Grove” turns out to have the strongest lyric on the album, once you’ve dug it out of the crunching chords).

Neither Johnston (who writes most of the songs) nor Simmons is more than adequate as a songwriter, and Johnston’s whiny and emotionally thin singing doesn’t do much to improve the material. But the Doobie Brothers have plenty of style, and that style turns what would otherwise be a throwaway into an entertaining album.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers The Captain And Me | | Leave a comment

The Doobie Brothers 1st Album (1971) & Toulouse Street (1972)

MI0001786007MI0001907850From seaoftranquility.org

If ever there was a band that has proven virtually impossible to place in a specific genre then it has to be The Doobie Brothers who have been termed country, pop, soul, funk and rock over the course of their forty year history. These latest reissues courtesy of Edsel pair two albums apiece across four double CD sets taking in the bands first eight studio releases from the period 1971 – 1978.

The addition of a good selection of bonus cuts and detailed liner notes ensures that this is a project that has been given due care and attention, serving as both a comprehensive introduction for newcomers and offering value for money for long-term admirers.

The bands eponymous debut album (1971) featured the line up of drummer John Hartman, guitarists and vocalists Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston and the soon to be departed bassist Dave Shogren. Having spent some time touring around California the Doobies had developed a following amongst the Hells Angels chapters and the cover image shows them posing in leather-jacketed attire and looking suitably moody. Like so many debuts the music itself evidences a group that was still developing its sound and style and the overall feel is very loose and laid back with Johnston and Simmons trading acoustic licks on the ballads “Travelin’ Man” and “Closer Every Day” .

The album also marked the start of a long and successful partnership with producer Ted Templeman who has been at the helm throughout their career. Creedence-esque chugging rhythms are in abundance with lead track “Nobody”, “Greenwood Creek” and Randy Newman’s “Beehive State” amongst the other highpoints. Unreleased demos and an early version of later hit single “Long Train Running” (entitled “Osborn”) increase the total number of songs to a weighty twenty-one.

Commercial success came the way of the Doobies with Toulouse Street (1972) aided by the Billboard #11 chart single, Johnston’s “Listen to the Music”, that would arguably go on to become their signature song. Expanding to a five-piece Tiran Porter had assumed bass duties and the addition of Michael Hossack began the bands trademark “dual drummers” sound.

Toulouse Street is an altogether much heavier record than its predecessor as they shift through the gears on epic blues rock workout “Disciple” and the urgent “Rockin’ down the Highway”. Marking the differences in approach between himself and Johnston, Simmons two contributions are the reggae flavoured “Mamaloi” and stretched out harmonies of the title track. Elsewhere they diversify even further by adding horns to Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me To Talkin” and flirting with gospel on second single “Jesus Is Just Alright”.

Whilst the debut is certainly appealing in parts Toulouse Street proves to be the more consistent effort ensuring that the band were regarded as one of the most original new artists of the period. This review is just the start of our Doobies reissue coverage and the remaining Edsel releases will be featured here very soon.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | The Doobie Brothers The Doobie Brothers, The Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street | | Leave a comment