What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

The Doobie Brothers

Warner Bros., 1974


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The weakest album of the original Doobie Brothers lineup pre-Michael McDonald, What Were Once Vices suffers from a simple lack of memorable songwriting.

To be fair, following up the uniformly excellent The Captain And Me would have been impossible anyway, and the new album was the band's fourth in four years. It is clear that the spark is a bit diminshed this time around, with only a couple of songs rising to previous heights.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As with Toulouse Street, this album looks to establish a mellow California country-meets-Southern rock vibe, and as such is free of the sort of drama that infused the best songs on The Captain And Me. The playing is there, as always, but without hooks the songs just sort of float by without making much of an impact.

There are some highlights. The outright jug-band country of "Spirit" features some inspired guitar playing, "Another Park, Another Sunday" and "You Just Can't Stop It" are minor gems and "Black Water," the band's first huge hit, parlays its down-home charm into a visual picture of that raft, ready for floatin', the Mississippi calling your name, no worries, no hurry. You can almost taste the sweet tea and feel the mosquitos. Perhaps the a cappella closing section is a bit silly, but it is still fun to sing aloud in the car, darn it.

But pieces like "Song to See You Through," "Eyes Of Silver" and the trio of rockers just don't measure up, sounding fine as they play but leaving little impact. The short instrumental "Flying Cloud" also is a middling album closer, sounding as if it was tacked on to fill space; the album should have ended proper with the excellent "Daughters Of The Sea," an underrated Patrick Simmons track with some bite and verve to it.

What Were Once Vices ends up as a treading water album, the kind that only the faithful really need to hear, be they Doobies fans or lovers of country rock. Those who take the time to dig will be rewarded with a small handful of good songs, but the bulk of this disc simply marked the time between The Captain And Me and Stampede, the band's final album with this sort of sound.

Rating: C

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