The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

by | Jul 5, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab stereo-only SACD UDSACD 2043, 39:00 ****:

(Tom Johnston – guitar, vocals; Patrick Simmons – guitar, vocals; Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – guitar & steel guitar; Michael McDonad – keyboards, vocals; Tiran Porter – bass, vocals; John Hartman – drums; Keith Knudsen – drums, vocals.)

In 1976, the Doobie Brothers were at a creative and commercial crossroad. After several successful country-based rock albums, chance would force the group’s collective hand. Original vocalist Tom Johnston had taken ill, and the band needed a replacement. “Skunk ” Baxter, a relatively new addition to the band, recommended a St. Louis soulful singer and keyboardist, who recorded with the jazz rock band Steely Dan.  Michael McDonald would join the band to tour, and be invited to record on their upcoming album.

Bringing along some demos of original compositions, the sessions that produced “Takin’ It To The Streets” would take a huge leap of faith and redefine the band. With an infusion of soulful vocals and R&B/jazz arrangements, simultaneously, the band would alienate a good portion of its fan base, but attract a brand new legion of admirers.

This material is at once a tenuous integration of early 70s rock, with fresh, melodic jazz-tinged arrangements. The opening number “Wheels Of Fortune”(possibly excluded from Stampede) begins as a classic Doobie Brothers number, highlighted by the dual vocals of Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston. However, near the end there is a smooth and funky break with a sensuous electric piano solo. On the title cut that follows, McDonald cuts loose with a mesmerizing vocal that invigorates the sonic mood. This piece, the album’s centerpiece, announces the arrival of the New Doobie Brothers.

What makes this transition work is that there is change, but commitment to the roots of the players.  McDonald hits the mark again with an emotional rendition of “It Keeps You Runnin”, a medium-paced, bluesy opus with an intricate arrangement..  “Turn It Loose” is a well crafted guitar-based song that works. Simmon’s vocals on the album are a pleasing contrast   The Memphis Horns provide a subtle and uplifting accent, while the guitar licks of Baxter combine perfectly with the rhythm section.

It is difficult to change a trademark sound.  Not every song on Takin’ It To The Streets is transcendental. It is very difficult to change a musical group in a significant way. This time it worked.  And their sound is preserved in the utmost fidelity via Mo-Fi’s SACD remastering.

Wheels Of Fortune; Takin’ It To The Streets: 8th Avenue Shuffle; Losin’ End; Rio; For Someone Special; It Keeps You Runnin’; Turn It Loose; Carry Me Away.

— Robbie Gerson

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