Even though The Doobie Brothers weren’t necessarily the “coolest” band around in the 1970s and early ‘80s, there’s no disputing the string of first-rate albums and bushel of hit singles they churned out during that span. The dozen years the band spent at Warner Bros. proved to be the most fertile stretch of their career, with more than 46 million albums sold and a dozen or more songs on the charts.
The phenomenal new boxed set “The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983” is a testament to that peak period of commercial and critical success. The 10-disc set features every album The Doobie Brothers recorded for Warner Bros. — from 1971’s self-titled debut to 1983’s “Farewell Tour” live set.
The Doobies started as a bar band in northern California before landing a deal with Warner Bros. in 1970. Their early sound, shaped by Tom Johnson and Pat Simmons had a distinct country-rock vibe that dominated their debut album, as well as “Toulouse Street” (1971), “The Captain and Me” (1973), “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” (1974) and “Stampede” (1975).
Those years also spawned signature tunes like “Listen to the Music,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “China Grove,” “South City Midnight Lady,” “Black Water” and “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While).”
Things took a turn toward blue-eyed soul and R&B with the addition of Michael McDonald to the band in 1976 and his fingerprints are all over “Takin’ It to the Streets” (1976) “Livin’ on the Fault Line” (1977), the multiple Grammy-winning “Minute By Minute” (1978) and “One Step Closer” (1980). The Doobie Brothers kept delivering hit singles during those years, including “Takin’ It to the Streets,” “It Keeps You Runnin’,” “What a Fool Believes” and “Minute By Minute.”
The band’s star had dimmed considerably by “Farewell Tour,” which proves to be a good-but-not-quite-great live set. It’s a nice showcase for the McDonald tunes, but not a comprehensive live representation of The Doobie Brothers’ entire catalog. That said “The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983” is more than worth the investment. (Jeffrey Sisk)