Best Of The Doobies, by The Doobie Brothers
Best of albums can be immensely tricky to pull off well. In general, there is a fine balance that one has in creating greatest hits compilations. If you start making them too early, you leave off immensely important songs that come later in a career. If you start making them too late, you end up leaving off important early cuts of great fan interest and support just to put in a few songs to make sure that one captures the band’s career as a whole. It is hard to know when one needs to adopt a multi-cd approach and some bands manage to pull off the task better than others. So what kind of effort do we have with the Best of the Doobies collection? Here is a track-by-track review:
China Grove – An excellent song, this shows the Doobies in story mode with driving guitars and a generally excellent sound. This song was a big hit and is a good way to start a best of compilation.
Long Train Runnin’ – This is a song that is easy to know without knowing that one knows it. I always thought of this song as being “Without Love,” but the song has a different song. Again, the music is driving, the message of the song a powerful one, and this is an easy song to appreciate and enjoy.
Takin’ It To The Streets – Perhaps my favorite Doobie Brothers song personally, this is one where Michael McDonald’s smooth and gospel influenced style works amazingly well. A lot cleaner in terms of its mix than most Doobie Brothers songs, the vocal performance and powerful meaning of the lyrics are what gives this song its power.
Listen To The Music – Another early Doobie Brothers track, this one features some amazing instrument playing and some powerful singing. This was a big hit and certainly one of the favorites for the group throughout their history, even gracing the cover art of this particular album.
Black Water – An unusual hit for the band, this particular song is a throwback to the style of Southern music and features a lot of vocal interplay and a surprisingly spare instrumental track, far out of the usual style for the group. Still, it is an amazing song and one well worth appreciating.
Rockin’ Down The Highway – Continuing the band’s tradition of leaving off the ending g in words in their song titles, this is another driving song that expresses the hardworking goals of the band. This is a solid tune and was a hit as well and certainly belongs on any Doobie Brothers retrospective.
Jesus Is Just Alright – This song was certainly a successful one and it sounds good musically and has a solid hook, but I personally do not like this song a lot at all because of its presumption to say that Jesus is alright with us rather than asking whether we are being right with God and Christ, a much more difficult task.
It Keeps You Runnin’ – This song is a more obscure one, but it is an enjoyable song and gives Michael McDonald the chance to flex his vocal chops. It was a top 40 hit but not a big one, still it is a good song to enjoy and a lesser known gem in the band’s discography.
South City Midnight Lady – This song is a story song and it is perhaps notable for that, but the song doesn’t leave a big impression and it’s not too surprising that it was not kept around for later greatest hits compilations as this is clearly the weakest song here.
Take Me In Your Arms – This was an enjoyable song and another minor hit for the group. It shows off the band’s surprisingly romantic side and while that is not a common sentiment in the band’s songs it is certainly an enjoyable song and one with excellent singing and playing.
Without You – Another song in the relationship vein, this is a song that comes off rather well and is a great way to close the song. Even if this song wasn’t a hit, it certainly was among the best songs of the band in their relationship songs and is one well worth listening to and appreciating.
As far as best of collections go, this album is clearly an example where it is a best of released too soon. Given that the album only includes material from Toulouse Street through Taking It To The Streets, this is probably not the ideal one-cd best of compilation for the group, but if you want to listen to it along with the volume two released in 1981, or want to replace both of those albums with the Greatest Hits album that includes their material from Cycles and Brotherhood as well, this certainly does contain some great songs by the group, even if not all the hits that one might hope for.