The Doobie Brothers’ 50th Anniversary/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Brings A Sonically Enhanced Box Set

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Doobie Brothers | Quadio | (Rhino)
4 out of 5 stars

Why it has taken this long for California’s long runnin’ outfit The Doobie Brothers to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is unclear. But the band celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, which makes their official acknowledgment as one of America’s most popular, if perhaps not critically lauded, veteran outfits (and notably one that still tours) a logical milestone.

None of this goes unnoticed by record companies eager to cash in. That explains this quirky release combining four of the group’s early albums in quadrophonic remixes, now somewhat awkwardly dubbed “Quadio.” Since 1999’s comprehensive four disc Long Train Runnin’ box not only mined their best material but included an entire platter of rarities, Rhino instead dug into the vaults to unearth, dust off and repackage four channel remixes of Toulouse Street, The Captain and Me, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and Stampede, engineered over a decade ago and long out of print, for the occasion.

Rhino performed a similar repackaging job on the early Chicago albums, so this isn’t entirely unusual. Still, it would have been respectful to have freshly remixed these into full 5.1 or even Dolby Atmos to bring them up to date. Including rarities, lyrics and even video (the discs are Blu-ray) to the running order, while adding new biographical notes, would also have shown some initiative, especially due to the circumstances. This is clearly a far cheaper alternative.

That said, these albums were immaculately produced and recorded making their expansion into four channel sound a logical sonic enhancement. Musically, this prolific quartet of releases that spans 1972-‘75 displays the talents of the pre-Michael McDonald era ie: the Tom Johnston fronted Doobie Brothers. It’s where their commercial but not terribly slick combination of The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band and Crosby, Stills and Nash yielded not just a handful of timeless “Listen to the Music” radio hits, but plenty of quality deeper tracks. Credit producer Ted Templeman for sanding off the group’s rough edges displayed on their disappointing 1971 debut (not included), honing their focus and helping transform the Doobies into platinum selling superstars that appealed to both Top 40 radio audiences and 70s listeners looking for something more substantial. Co-founder (and only member that has remained constant through many lineup permutations) Pat Simmons’ folk and bluegrass leanings balanced Johnston’s bluesier soulful rocking. The combination provided a layered, identifiably American rock that has weathered the decades remarkably well.

While the individual albums have never gone out of print, those interested in hearing high quality audio (stereo and surround) of these chestnuts now have the chance. Anyone who might have dismissed The Doobie Brothers for generating the ultimate blue-eyed yacht-rock in the later Michael McDonald years are encouraged to explore the far tougher Tom Johnston-era material. It’s impressive how well the sets have held up. Songs such as the epic “I Cheat the Hangman” from Stampede, arguably the group’s creative pinnacle, are somewhat forgotten classics and the production on all of these was immaculate, especially for the time.

Happy 50th anniversary to The Doobie Brothers, one of America’s most often overlooked and underappreciated acts, and one that remains active, cranking out their scruffy, blue jeans clad American rock and roll to multiple generations of classic rock fans.                

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