Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

1976 – Part 3.5: Doobie Brothers – Takin It To The Streets

It’s a great album title but people hated the cover, thinking it was lazy.

“Takin’ It to the Streets” came out in 1976 and it’s the first to feature Michael McDonald on lead vocals. If you own the “1984” album by Van Halen, you will see Michael McDonald listed as a co-writer to “I’ll Wait”.

Tom Johnston was the leader and main songwriter in The Doobie Brothers. But in 1974 while touring, he fell ill and he had to reduce his involvement with the band. This got the label nervous as they didn’t want the band to continue without Johnston and the other members considered calling it quits.

But newbie guitarist Jeff Baxter suggested calling up a friend and fellow Steely Dan graduate Michael McDonald to finish the tour. McDonald thought that once the tour was over, he would be on his way, but was then asked to come into the studio to work on their next album.

Producer Ted Templeman (another familiar name for Van Halen fans) started going over the songs the band had available, but he knew they needed more and McDonald was asked to contribute his own songs. Which were very different sounding to what the Doobies played and if the band recorded em, would take the band in a different direction.

And that is what happened. So let’s see how the bridge between the Johnston and McDonald era sounded.

The musicians for the album are Tom Johnston who was still around to contribute and he played electric guitar, lead and backing vocals on the track “Turn It Loose” and vocals on “Wheels of Fortune”.

Patrick Simmons played electric guitars and lead vocals on a few songs,

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is on electric guitars.

Michael McDonald played all the piano and synths as well as lead and backing vocals.

Tiran Porter on bass, backing vocals and lead vocal on “For Someone Special”. Drums were provided by John Hartman and Keith Knudsen.

The album had a The Memphis Horns section and various other musicians playing congas and violas and what not. Even Templeman chimed in with some percussion.

Speaking of the Production team Donn Landee (another familiar name for Van Halen fans) was there as Engineer.

Wheels of Fortune

The clean tone riff to start the song rocks and grooves. Almost funk rock like. Dare I say it, Steely Dan like.

Written by Patrick Simmons, Jeff Baxter and John Hartman, it’s still the old Doobies sound.

Vocals are provided by Tom Johnston.

Changin’ wheels of fortune
Drivin’ us on and on
Winnin’, sometimes losin’
As soon as it’s here it’s gone

Living from payday to payday is the only way for a lot of people.

Takin’ It to the Streets

The Michael McDonald era begins. The title tracks is solely written by McDonald. Its piano driven, and it funks and sort of rocks.

I also like the bass playing from Tiran Porter. Check it out.

And the solo is driven by The Memphis Horn Section. Yep horns and not guitar.

I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see
Takin’ it to the streets

People have taken to the streets to protest a lot these last 15 years, but it’s still the same rubbish.

8th Avenue Shuffle

Guitarist Patrick Simmons wrote this one. It’s a blues soul funk tune, with some wonderful bass playing. Hell, it could appear on an Eagles album and not be out of place.

Losin’ End

Another track written by McDonald. It does nothing for me.

Next.

Rio

A track written by guitarists Simmons and Baxter, with vocals provided by Simmons and McDonald.

A Charlie Watts style drum beat starts the song, and when the Latin percussion comes in, I felt like I was listening to an Al Di Meola cut.

This track is the definition of “Yacht Rock”.

For Someone Special

Written by bass player Tiran Porter and the vocals are delivered by Porter himself.

The 70’s acts all had capable musicians who could play and sing.

The bass plays the main riff here, while the guitars and keys decorate. It’s trippy and I feel like he’s venting his feelings about Tom Johnston.

To reach down inside
And push that nightmare away
Now I’m glad that it’s over, it’s over
Now I can play

It’s always difficult for a band when a person who is like a band leader steps away. And the label does it’s best to make the other members feel worthless.

It Keeps You Runnin’

Another cut written by McDonald by himself, the lone wolf.

Not a favourite.

Turn It Loose

Johnston definitely gave the band a rocking edge. So even though he was done with the band, he did deliver this excellent cut.

People all around me
Everywhere I go
I thought I had a grip on things
Now I just don’t know

I’m not a big enough fan to know everything about The Doobie Brothers, but Johnston was seen as the driving force of the band and one of the main writers by the press and the label.

So when he disappeared, no one knew what was going to happen.

Carry Me Away

Written by Simmons, Baxter and McDonald. It’s just too much like a 70’s TV intro theme song.

In the end the album has more of a jazz, urban, soulful, funk than rock tunes and a new era started.

Michael McDonald and The Doobies.

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8 thoughts on “1976 – Part 3.5: Doobie Brothers – Takin It To The Streets

  1. I read Templeman’s book and all about the recording of this album. Michael saved the band, but did take them in to a new direction and a big Top 40 direction at that. I did love that they had so many singers as I do enjoy when a band has more than 1 singer as it keeps things more interesting.

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