Much like the first Best Of The Doobies album, this reminds me of a road trip across America when I was ten years old. The double-cassette of both albums that my Dad bought at a gas station was on repeat on the car stereo throughout that journey, and so this music is hardwired into my soul – it’s as American as fast food, diners, open highways and the hot backseat of a hired Pontiac.
I don’t think we listened to Volume 2 as much as the first one though. There’s definitely a drop-off in quality. Out goes Tom Johnston and rock n’ roll, and in comes Michael McDonald and a weird hybrid of rock n’ soul. In fact, to call it a drop off in quality is disingenuous to Tom Johnston. It’s a crevasse of a drop-off – we’re talking the heights of Everest to the depths of the deepest ocean trench. In fact, if you didn’t know the Doobies and you were played excerpts of both line-ups, you’d have trouble believing they were the same band. Chalk and cheese. Apples and oranges. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the transatlantic Fleetwood Mac from 1975 onwards.
This is the first solo album by moustachioed head Doobie Brother Tom Johnston. I picked it up in the sales racks at Real Groovy in Auckland, and I’m glad I did. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut when buying records, and it paid off this time.
I guess it wasn’t too much of a risk – Johnston was the driving force behind the first classic run of Doobie Brothers albums, alongside Patrick Simmons – and so you’d expect a solo album to be more of the same, at the very least. Any risk comes from the question of whether Johnston could still cut it, five years after he made his last meaningful contribution to the Doobs. After Stampede in 1975, he effectively stood on the sidelines, only appearing on a few songs on Takin’ It To The Streets (1976) and Livin’ On The Fault Line (1977) before being replaced by beardy MOR pusher Michael McDonald. The reason – chronic stomach ulcers and “exhaustion”.
Thankfully, Everything You’ve Heard Is True is just like an early Doobs record. It’s even produced by Ted Templeman. The only noticeable change is that the songs are a little less rocky – so you don’t get anything approaching China Grove. There’s plenty of soul though – and a lot of the tracks are little funkier than your typical Doobie Brothers fare.
The cover shows Johnston sat on a stool in a bar, lighting a cigarette. Behind the bar, amongst the nuts and bottles, and usual debris and clutter you find behind a bar, there’s a great little pun. A printed sign reads ‘OUR CREDIT MANAGER IS HELEN WAITE. IF YOU WANT CREDIT GO TO HELEN WAITE.’
The last Doobies album to feature Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, and with Tom Johnston now a distant memory, this is really now Michael McDonald’s band. You can still hear the influence of Patrick Simmons (especially on the awesome Steamer Lane Breakdown), but his parts are usually absent from the MOR-tinged McDonald songs. It’s almost as though there are two bands at play – one band doing session work at the bidding of Michael McDonald, and another band trying their best to sound like the Doobie Brothers of days gone by.
Compared with their earlier albums, Minute By Minute is pretty average, but the cover is awesome. I’m a sucker for black and white album covers showing a warts ‘n all band photograph, and this is up there with the best of ‘em – almost as good as the inner gatefold photo of the mighty Floyd inside Meddle.
Of course, it’s nice to see Baxter on the cover for one last time. It should be a rule that all rock bands have to have somebody in their ranks with a handlebar moustache.
I’ve always loved The Doobie Brothers because of Tom Johnston’s songwriting, but it wasn’t until I saw them live that I realised that Pat Simmons and his fingerpicking style is just as important to the band’s sound.
Simmons’ fingerpicking is most notable on their later hit single Black Water, but it’s all over this album. The interplay between what he brings to the table, together with Johnston’s voice and second guitar, really is the sound of The Doobie Brothers.
This debut is incredibly laid-back and it’s almost hard to believe that this band would go on to record some really big hits throughout the ‘70s. They almost sound too chilled-out to orchestrate anything as contrived as a pop single, and perhaps that’s more the influence of producer Ted Templeman than anything else.
I love this album. I think there are better Doobie Brothers songs scattered on other albums, but for a full album that gels well from start to finish, this is the one. The sleeve also has titties, in the photo on the inner gatefold, and that’s always a bonus.
Not too long ago, I saw The Doobie Brothers play in Auckland – the Tom Johnston Doobie Brothers this is; thankfully Michael McDonald was nowhere in sight (or sound). I was so excited that they were touring – I remember being at work when the pre-sale email popped into my inbox. I didn’t even know they still existed, let alone were touring the world, so I snapped up tickets as quick as I could, and we found ourselves in the third row in the Civic Theatre+.
Unfortunately, local TV evangelist Brian Tamaki was sat in the row in front of us, so you can’t have everything; but it was quite amusing when they played Jesus Is Just Alright from this album, and everybody started to point at him behind his back. Snigger.
This album is so Michael McDonald it’s almost impossible to listen to. The Tom Johnston-era Doobie Brothers were a great rock band, but from Takin’ It To The Streets, when McDonald took over lead vocals, their albums get increasingly towards the middle of the road.
This is the first Doobies album after Jeff “Skunk” Baxter left the band, but they seem to be very aware that they needed someone with a crazy name to play on the record, so instead they have a guy called Cornelius Bumpus on saxophone.
One Step Closer is their last studio album before disbanding (and eventually reforming in the late 80s). Patrick Simmons walked away from the band in 1981, and as he was the last original member left in the band, they called it a day. Michael McDonald was last seen drowning in a river of MOR sludge.