The Captain And Me
The Doobie Brothers
Released: March 1973
Chart Peak: #7
Weeks Charted: 102
Certified Double Platinum: 10/13/86
The Doobie Brothers are a mainstream rock band with a few crucial limitations and a knack of making good records despite their flaws. Their big hit of a few months ago, "Listen to the Music," displayed both: Leader Tom Johnston has a full catalog of compelling electric and acoustic guitar riffs, and in the single he puts a bunch of these to use, most importantly in his intro, a modified version of the beginning of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life;" the instrumental arrangement, spirited but buoyant, is practically irresistible, and the Doobies put it together with precision. What makes the song so irritating after repeated listenings (I've never seen a volume-raiser become a station switcher so quickly) are the affectedly funky singing by Johnston and backup and the shallowness of the song itself. "Ohohoh, listen to the music," and the rest of the things-are-getting-better-day-by-day lyric would wear down even the most optimistic AMer after two or three weeks of hourly exposure, and, once you get past the nice guitar chording and double drumming, there isn't much music to explore. Like all the music of the Doobie Brothers, it has its attractions, but you shouldn't ask too much of it.
The Captain and Me is the best of the group's three albums; it's greatly superior to the last, the overdone Toulouse Street, from which the single was taken, and it's better played, arranged and produced than the first LP, The Doobie Brothers, which had the best material. The Doobies have become an unusually polished recording group with an identifiable style: paired acoustic and electric rhythm work by Johnston and Pat Simmons, with Johnston adding well-placed lead lines for tension-building, a dense but never ponderous rhythmic punch provided by drummers John Hartman and Michael Hossack and bass player Tiran Porter, and, above all, the chugging rhythm, the slick, trebly Johnston lead vocals and group harmonies.
In the two best tracks here, "China Grove" and "Without You," the band changes things around by using full, ringing electric chordings instead of the usual acoustic and low-volume electric rhythm, and by keeping the lead singing rough and spontaneous-sounding. The sound on each track is so explosive that it won't occur to you to find out what the song is about, and de-emphasizing their basic material is something the Doobies should do more often (as it happens, "China Grove" turns out to have the strongest lyric on the album, once you've dug it out of the crunching chords).
Neither Johnston (who writes most of the songs) nor Simmons is more than adequate as a songwriter, and Johnston's whiny and emotionally thin singing doesn't do much to improve the material. But the Doobie Brothers have plenty of style, and that style turns what would otherwise be a throwaway into an entertaining album.
- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 5-10-73.
The lyrics on this disc are probably unimportant. At any rate, they are slurred or buried in sound -- but even that is unimportant. This is a fine sound band, strongest in their ensemble playing, inventive in their arrangements and the textures they weave with their instruments. They sound like a good many other good bands that can be found almost anywhere in the country whose inspiration comes mainly from Buffalo Springfield and its offshoots (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with Chuck Berry for the boogie-rock). They are not exactly imitative bands, just kind of umbilical: the individual members haven't yet become strong or independent enough to detach themselves and their talents from their musical idols. But that doesn't mean that they don't make some good music. The Doobie Brothers are halfway to something better and more exciting, but they are also pretty good right now.
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 9/73.
A good-time rock set from the group that scored so heavily with "Listen To The Music," this LP includes the bluesy rock style both vocally and instrumentally with which they have become identified. No gimmicks, no tricks, just rock. Best cuts: "China Grove," "Clean As The Driven Snow," "Without You."
- Billboard, 1973.
Their best early album features "China Grove." * * * *
- Dan Heilman, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
I can tell that the person who reviewed this record is a non-musician. Their opinion is clearly that of a layman with no musical training, or an ear for music, for that matter. Tom Johnston has one of the most easily recognizable voices in all of 70's rock music. Soul emanates from this white-mans vocals. It's okay to have an opinion. Just don't pretend to know what real musicians are supposed to sound like. Stick to listening and stop reviewing. At least, till you learn how to play an instrument.
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