The Very Best Of The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers

Warner Bros./Rhino, 2007

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Combining all three incarnations of the Doobie Brothers, The Very Best contains pretty much all the music the casual fan will ever need.

It's tough to argue with the track selection, although casual fans may be confused as to why this is two discs, when the band only has one discs's worth of hits. The first platter is basically an expanded version of Best Of The Doobies, a chronicle of the band's first six albums - their classic period - featuring 10 of the 11 songs from that disc and six extra album tracks.

These songs are some of the best classic rock of the decade, and time has been kind to them despite what some may consider radio overplay. The guitar crunch of "China Grove," the boogie gospel "Jesus Is Just Alright," the stylistic mashup "Takin' It To The Streets," and the driving acoustics of "Long Train Runnin'" and "Listen To The Music" retain both a laidback charm and a subtle power, drawing the listener in without working too hard to do so.

The band's signature sound of this period incorporated boogie and Southern rock, of course, but with hints of R&B, country, folk and flat-out rock, the songwriting was unpredictable and high quality. Witness the effortless "Black Water," the moving "South City Midnight Lady," the innocous first single "Nobody," the jaunty yet melancholy white soul of "It Keeps You Runnin'" or the haunting, string-laden "I Cheat The Hangman," among the finest songs of the group's career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The collection balances all the band's albums pretty nicely, meaning that the first disc is rounded out with a few album tracks from Stampede and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits; unfortunately, they are the wrong ones. "Sweet Maxine," "Another Park, Another Sunday," and "Eyes Of Silver" are simply rehashes of better songs; better would have been "Daughters Of The Sea," "Ukiah" from The Captain And Me, and "Toulouse Street" from the album of the same name.

Disc two is split between the Michael McDonald period and the band's reunion albums of the ‘80s and ‘90s. While McDonald came on board with Takin' It To The Streets, of which three songs close out Disc 1, he took over with Livin' On The Fault Line and the million-selling Minute By Minute. These albums saw the band's sound go in a completely different direction, moving far away from boogie and rock and into a pop and blue-eyed soul direction, crafting a handful of catchy tunes but nowhere near the brilliance or staying power of the band's original sound.

A handful of these pop hits are gems, most notably "What A Fool Believes," "Real Love," and "Minute by Minute," but the rest is faux R&B, a lame attempt at Motown on songs like "Little Darling (I Need You)," "Echoes Of Love," "Minute By Minute," and "One Step Closer." The middle half of the disc gets lost in a sea of mediocrity; the nadir is the band's Sesame Street piece "Wynken, Blynken And Nod," although "Here to Love You" and "You Belong To Me" can surely be skipped without a second thought.

The final six songs cover the band's reunion albums (the ones with Tom Johnston instead of Michael McDonald, who had gone solo to produce gems like "Ya Mo Be There"). Although "The Doctor" remains a nifty single, the rest is simply warmed-up leftovers of better songs.

There are single-disc Doobie compilations out there that tell the story just as well, although without the benefit of album tracks and the entire discography. The Very Best, although bloated on the second half with dull music, gives a balanced overview of all the band's albums while providing all the major and minor hits; it certainly doesn't feel like anything is missing. Those who enjoy this are encouraged to check out the band's early albums, especially The Captain And Me and Toulouse Street, but for those who want the radio hits and maybe a little bit more, this is the best one can hope for.

Rating: B

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