cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers

 

This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"We were the epitome of the hard-working. hard livin' rock & roll band." - (Pat Simmons - Doobie Brothers) .. .. .. "The Doobie Brothers are a mainstream rock band with a few crucial limitations and a knack of making good records despite their flaws." - (Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, May 1973) .. .. .. "If you want the hits and only the hits, then this is the Doobie Brothers album for you."(This review)

This is album retro-review number 184 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

There are a number of early 1970’s group’s that fairly wear the titles of “classic”. The album pulled from my record shelf (sorry, Crate) and being retro-reviewed features such a group!

I’m talking about The Doobie Brothers and this is a vinyl album is titled – The Best of The Doobie Brothers.

Released on the Warner Brothers label in the USA in 1976 it has the identifying code of BS 2978. It is an eleven track album.

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

A little history!

Drummer John Hartman arrived in California in 1969 where he was introduced to singer, guitarist, and songwriter Tom Johnston and the two proceeded to form the nucleus of what would become The Doobie Brothers.

Johnston and Hartman called their fledgling group “Pud” and experimented with lineups and styles as they performed in and around San Jose.

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
John Hartman – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Tom Johnson – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

In 1970, they teamed up with singer, guitarist, and songwriter Patrick Simmons and bass guitarist Dave Shogren and the Doobie Brothers were born

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Patrick Simmons – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Dave Shogren – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

One group that had impressed the boys was the Frisco band – Moby Grape. So without wanting to replicate that group, they loosely model themselves on the successful three-guitar, three-part vocal harmony sound, while blending of the folk-style finger-picking of Pat Simmons in with the rough-hewn rock licks of Tom Johnston.

An additional bonus for the fledgling group was that Johnston also had a vocal style that could best be described as “soulful”. This certainly gave the band its initial distinctive sound and helping to define what would become known as the “California Sound of the 70s”.

The band’s self-titled 1971 debut album, “The Doobie Brothers“, yielded no hit singles, and while garnering some interest was in the minds and ears of many listeners, a bit basic.

However, the subsequent 1972 album – “Toulouse Street” had in it the fabulous Listen To The Music, which was a killer of a track. it also spawned Jesus Is Just Alright, which showed that the group might just not be a one trick pony.

The group’s third album, “The Captain and Me” (1973) established the Doobies as concert headliners on the strength of the hits Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove.

Their fourth album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, which was released one year later, had another killer track, Black Water. This went on to become the group’s first #1 track, eventually sold more than 2 million copies.

In 1975, with the release of the “Stampede” album, they included a remake of the Motown classic Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While).

The addition of former Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, resulted in the Doobies becoming one of the most popular rock bands in the country.

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Stampede

 

Now, this album – Best Of The Doobie Brothers starts with their first album and finishes with their sixth album – Takin’ It To The Streets.

Of course not only did the Doobie Brothers continue on, to evolve, change membership and continue on with success, they are still playing today.

That is some indication of the longevity due to their ability to find an audience and keep it.

Doobie Brothers membership – 1970 – 1977

1970 – 71
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals

Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Dave Shogren – bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals

1971 – 72
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Dave Shogren – bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals
Michael Hossack – drums, percussion
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Doobie Brothers: 1971 – 1972 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

1972 – 73
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals

Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Tiran Porter – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
Michael Hossack – drums, percussion
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals

1973 – 74
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Tiran Porter – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
Keith Knudsen – drums, percussion, vocals
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals

1974 -75
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – guitars, backing vocals
Tiran Porter – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
Keith Knudsen – drums, percussion, vocals
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals

1975 -77
Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals (missed most of 1975 tour and the fall 1976 tour)

Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – guitars, backing vocals
Tiran Porter – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
Michael McDonald – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
Keith Knudsen – drums, percussion, vocals
John Hartman – drums, percussion, backing vocals
[Source: Wikipedia]


Track Listing:

Side 1
1. China Grove
2. Long Train Runnin’
3. Takin’ It To The Streets
4. Listen To The Music
5.
Black Water
6.
Rockin’ Down The Highway

Side 2
1. Jesus Is Just Alright
2. It Keeps You Runnin’
3. South City Midnight Lady
4. Take Me In Your Arms
5.
Without You

 

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
Rear cover: Including track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Sadly the tracks on this album are not laid out chronologically, which I think would have made a lot of sense and allowed the listener to have followed the progression of the group’s music development.

While the album claims to cover the first 6 albums, what it means is that it covers the period from the first album through to 1967. There are no tracks included from that first album, the self-titled The Doobie Brothers.

The album kicks off with China Grove which was on the 1973 The Captain and Me album.

Despite it not being from the first Doobies album it’s not a bad track to kick off with. The track kicks off with dual guitars playing what can be described as “power chords”, a little unusual for the style of music the Doobies generally played up until then – but it certainly makes you sit up and listen and slips into a fine uptempo beat.

Written and sung by Tom Johnston the production is nothing special, however, years later the tapes were examined and it was found that substantially the track was laid down in one take, that is, there is very little multi-tracking or overdubbing.

“China Grove” is a township near San Antonio, Texas. Johnston thought he had created a fictional town for the song and later learned it really exists.

He explained that the band had been on tour passing through China Grove on the way to or from San Antonio, and he had seen a road sign with the name, but forgot about it.

The track reached number 15 on the Billboard Top 100, and number eight on the cashbox Top 100.

China Grove

The following track, Long Train Runnin’ was also taken from the same The captain and Me Album and reached number 8 on the Billboard Top 100 in the same year.

It has a distinctive bass line and a very pretty guitar strum throughout.

Track 3 is Takin’ It To The Streets.

This track came from the final album on this collection – their 6th album, also titled – Takin’ It To The Streets.

It was their first track that featured Michael McDonald on vocals. McDonald (ex-Steely Dan) was brought in because the touring toll had taken its toll on Johnston, and he was unable to perform.

While many people think McDonald’s even more soulful style of singing took the Doobies into a far better realm, I can appreciate this change in direction, but still prefer the sound the group had with Johnston at the helm.

Track 4 is one that I find irresistible. Listen To The Music.

What an absolutely out and our killer track. As mentioned previously, the track was lifted from the group’s second album – Toulouse Street.

It was really the first track that caught major attention on the radio, resulting in major airplay and giving the Doobie Brothers their first hit, albeit that it only peaked at number 11.

It did announce the Doobie Brothers as a music force.

Kicking off with a very similar opening strum to that used on Long Train Runnin’, although more down tempo, it is a perfect track to groove to. It has a magnificent hook that just begs to be sung along with.

I love the middle eight where the subtle flanging gives the whole track a feel of gentleness and being spaced out on a warm summers afternoon. The playing is more than competent, it’s darn fine and the overall production is of a very high quality.

Don’t you feel it growin’, day by day
People gettin’ ready for the news
Some are happy, some are sad
Oh, we got to let the music play
What the people need
Is a way to make ’em smile
It ain’t so hard to do if you know how
Gotta get a message
Get it on through
Oh, now mama’s go’n’ to after ‘while

Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
All the time

Well I know, you know better

Everything I say
Meet me in the country for a day
We’ll be happy
And we’ll dance
Oh, we’re gonna dance our blues away
And if I’m feelin’ good to you
And you’re feelin’ good to me
There ain’t nothin’ we can’t do or say
Feelin’ good, feeling fine
Oh, baby, let the music play

Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
All the time

Like a lazy flowing river
Surrounding castles in the sky
And the crowd is growing bigger
List’nin’ for the happy sounds
And I got to let them fly

Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
Oh, oh, listen to the music
All the time

Listen To The Music

The following track – track 5, is Black Water.

It’s another track I just can’t pass by with only a few comments. Kicking off with gentle chime bells, a subtle viola and some gentle acoustic guitar, this is a fantastic uptempo ballad.

Lifted from the 1974 (4th) album – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, it was the first of two number 1 hits for that year.

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers
1974 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Look there is so much to like about this track, from the beautiful harmonies , especially when it moves into a Capella form – almost a roundel style of singing , through to the superb instrumentation which really demonstrates that the group had thrown off the shackles of being a basic 3-chord outfit.

What a terrific track!

Oh, and the viola playing is a striking performance by Ilene “Novi” Novog who is simply referred to as Novi!

Black Water

The final track on side 1 of the album is Rockin’ Down The Highway.

Well named as it is certainly that by nature. Lifted from the second album Toulouse Street, I don’t believe it was ever released as single and so it certainly didn’t chart.

Yet it is one of those tracks where it is very difficult (impossible) not to move your feet in tempo with the track. A classic “Doobie sound”, both instrumentally and vocally – it is a party rocker that would have been played at many parties back in the 70’s.

Turn the album over and on side 2, track 1 is Jesus Is Just Alright By Me.

What a fantastic track!

Taken from the Doobies 1972 Toulouse Street album, it is one of the few tracks on this album not written by anyone in the Doobie Brothers.

It was originally written as a gospel song by by Arthur Reid Reynolds and first recorded by Reynolds’ own group, The Art Reynolds Singers. It was picked and played by a number of group’s, mainly because the street slang in the US during the 1960’s used the term “all-right” as meaning “cool”, or it’s more blander interpretation – “very good”.

A good rework was done by the Byrds on their Easy Rider album (1969), and while “rocked up”, their version was still quite down-tempo compared to the version recorded by the Doobie Brothers.

Their version reached number 35 on the Billboard Top 100. Now there is no point beating around the bush, the song has a strong religious message and it might seem a bit odd that the Doobies released it, rocked up or not.

Were they in fact hiding their religion behind the drummer (so to speak)?

No!

According to Tom Johnston, “The funny thing about that, we weren’t anti-religious. We weren’t anything. We were just musicians out playing a gig.

We didn’t think about that kind of stuff very often. We would be out playing that song when that came out as a single, and all these One Wayers, which was a big movement at that time, would be at the show, and they would run up to the stage with their fingers pointed straight up. A

t first we didn’t get it, and we finally said, ‘Oh, I know what’s going on.’ So when we would play that song, they would go nuts. They would throw scriptures on the stage, that sort of thing. Little did they know they were trying to enlist the support of the wrong guys.”

Look, I find myself singing along and there is no debate, the track really does rock and is bright, uplifting and the vocal harmonies are as good as on any of their tracks.

yet I never think of it as a religious piece, I think of it as a damn fine rockin’ piece of Doobie Brothers.

Isn’t that enough?

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo

Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright

I don’t care what they may say
I don’t care what they may do
I don’t care what they may say
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo

Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright

I don’t care what they may know
I don’t care where they may go
I don’t care where they may go
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah!

Jesus, he’s my friend
I said Jesus, he’s my friend
He took me by the hand
He let me far from this land
Jesus, he’s my friend!

Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright

I don’t care what they may say
I don’t care what they may do
I don’t care what they may say
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah

Jesus Is Just Alright

Track 2 is It Keeps You Runnin’. 

This track is a down tempo track lifted from the 1976 Taking It To The Streets album. It garnered a lot of fan support, but it isn’t one of my favourite Doobies tracks despite it being considered good enough to be in the movie Forest Gump.

It is followed by track 3South City Midnight Lady.

Taken from their 3rd album, the 1973 The Captain and Me, this is a really nice gentle country ballad.

South City Midnight Lady is about a drifter and a prostitute. It’s also a beautiful and powerful song with a theme of redemption. The song paints a picture of the drifter in the middle of another hopeless night at the end of another hopeless day.

Up all night, I could not sleep
The whiskey that I drank was cheap
With shaking hands I went and I lit up my last cigarette.

Interestingly Jeff Baxter, who at this time was still with Steely Dan, played pedal steel guitar on the track. He would soon become a Doobie Brother in 1974.

In what was cutting edge use of the new synthesiser technology in 1973, check out the great synthesised effect of a woman whispering at the end.

South City Midnight Lady

The last to final track is track 4 Take Me In Your Arms.

Delving into the sounds of Motown the Doobie Brothers recorded this Holland, Dozier, Holland track for the 1975 Stampede album. It seems as though the guys wanted to sit down and actually recreate the Motown sound which they considered (appropriately) as being very slick.

It seems as though early efforts brought forth some humour when Patrick Simmons is reported to have commented, “At first the band sounded like the Grateful Dead doing the Four Tops.

But as the I Ching says, “Perseverance brings good fortune”!

Take Me in Your Arms reached a U.S. Billboard Hot 100 peak of number 11 in June of 1975 and number 10 on Cash Box.

It has that hallmark Doobie Brothers uptempo sound with the addition of strings. However I think it is in the overall sound and song delivery that the influence of Motown veteran Paul Riser, who was enlisted to arrange the track, that pours forth and gives the track a fantastic edge.

If you don’t move to this track, you are either dead, or your feet are nailed to the floor – oh, and I love that guitar break!

The final trackWithout You, was taken from the album, The Captain and Me.

With it, we finish the album with a power chorded track filled with the multiple harmonies of the the Doobie Brothers.

The track was actually the B-side of Long Train Running. Lacking a little in “space”, except the middle eight which somewhat saves the track for me, it’s still a fine piece of music and brings this “Best Of album” to a decent conclusion.

So where does that leave us?

Well there are Doobie Brothers fans that like all their music, and there are those that believe it was around 1976 onward that the group really hit it’s peak.

Then there are the third group, of which I fall into, who fervently believe that while the production may have improved as the years went on, it was those formative years from 1971 to 1975/76 that were their halcyon days.

Apart from my belief there was an excitement and even a small degree of rawness that gave their music a vital edge. The other piece of evidence can be found in recent concerts, where it is a lot of the tracks found on this compilation that get the most requests.

The Ultimate Classic Rock web site posted the top 10 Doobie Brothers tracks of all time.

Guess what? Only two tracks were post 1976!

 

cream of the crate: album review # 184 – the doobie brothers: the best of the doobie brothers

One outstanding musical crime is, that the Doobie Brothers have not yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite lesser acts having been bestowed that honor!

So, the field is wide open, and when you try to put the Doobies into a category you find . . . well they are pop, rock, country, soul and a few more styles as well.

Maybe all that along with great vocals and an easy going style, is the reason they became so popular.

In terms of buying Doobie Brothers albums I have to say my favourite single album is Toulouse Street.

But that’s not to say other albums don’t have great music. So in some ways this Best Of The Doobie Brothers album might be the way to go, certainly If you want the hits and only the hits, then this is the Doobie Brothers album for you.

It’s pretty well available throughout ebay and Discogs, and it isn’t expensive but keep away from Amazon, who want US $178.00 for a 2013 vinyl re-release!


VIDEOS:

Youtube proves to have a wealth of live video clips of the Doobie Brothers, so I have chosen some of the performances of tracks on this album they weren’t discussed in length.

 

Long Train Running

 

Black Water

 

Takin’ It To The Streets

 

Take Me In Your Arms


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright

#160. Ray Brown and the Whispers – Hits and More 1965 – 1968

#161. Guitar Junior – The Crawl

#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One

#163. Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Blues

#164. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)

#165. The Loved Ones – Magic Box

#166. Various Artists – On The Road Again [ An Anthology of Chicago Blues 1947 – 1954]

#167. Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits 

#168. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust [The Motion Picture]

#169. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

#170.  Chain – Two Of A Kind

#171. Bob Marley – Legend

#172. Koko Taylor – What It Takes

#173. Stevie Wonder – Original Musiquarium

#174. Various Artists – The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

#175. Noeleen Batley – Little Treasure

#176. B.B. King – The Best Of

#177. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

#178 – Memphis Slim – I Feel So Good

#179. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Live at Budapest

#180. Flowers – Icehouse

#181. Joe Tex – The Best Of

#182. Chicago [Transit Authority] – Chicago Transit Authority

#183. Deep Purple – The Deep Purple Singles