A significant milestone is reached today with the Doobie Brothers and their album “Takin’ It to the Streets”. Why you ask, is this significant? It was the first album vocalist and keyboardist Michael McDonald joined the band on, after helping to fill in for the ailing Tom Johnston on a previous tour. For most of us, that’s an interesting fact, but for two of the people I love dearly in my life, they both have an unusual appreciation for Michael McDonald, so I guess I have to serve that interest accordingly.
Recruited by fellow Steely Dan alum Jeff Baxter, it is no accident that this album swaps out the guitar-based legacy Doobie Brother sound for a very keyboard-centric Steely Dan-ish sound. The first song, “Wheels of Fortune”, isn’t bad, but the title track, with Mr. McDonald on lead vocals, is definitely an upgrade. I have always admired his talent, even though it does sound like he sings with the microphone fully inserted into his mouth. The next song, “8th Avenue Shuffle”, starts with a great riff and hook, but somehow evolves into what sounds like a weird Broadway song. Following that, we have the imitation version of “It Keeps You Runnin’”, the song “Losin’ End”. Both have a very similar keyboard intro and again feature Michael McDonald on vocals. In case you were wondering, the real version of “It Keeps You Runnin’”, an even better song, is also on this album.
I like the next song, “Rio”, and although it is much different than the later song of the same title by Duran Duran, it has a nice groove to it. As if the album didn’t have enough of a Steely Dan vibe, the next song is “For Someone Special”, written and sung by bass player Tran Porter, who is doing his very best Donald Fagen impression on vocals.
Overall, it is nice to hear the first intersection of Michael McDonald, Patrick Simmons, and even a little Tom Johnston, who sings “Turn It Loose”. The old and new members seem to coexist in reasonable harmony as the Doobie Brothers continue to reshape their lineup and sound, and this was another entertaining listen from the band.