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Doobie Bros - 1977 Livin' On The Faultline

ARTIST: Doobie Bros
ALBUM: Livin' On The Fault Line
LABEL: Warner Bros
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1990, Warner Bros, 3045-2 * 2009, Warner Bros, 927 315-2


LINEUP: Pat Simmons - vocals, guitars * Tom Johnston - vocals, guitars * Michael McDonald - vocals, keyboards, vocals * Jeff Baxter - guitars * Tiran Porter - bass, vocals * Keith Knudson - drums, vocals * John Hartman - drums

Guests: David Paich - string arrangements * Bobby LaKind - congas, vocals * Dan Armstrong - guitars * Norton Buffalo - harmonica * Victor Feldman - vibes * Rosemary Butler, Maureen McDonald - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 You're Made That Way * 02 Echoes Of Love * 03 Little Darlin' (I Love You) * 04 You Belong To Me * 05 Livin' On The Fault Line * 06 Nothin' But A Heartache * 07 Chinatown * 08 There's A Light * 09 Need A Lady * 10 Larry The Logger Two Step


Many of us have been bought up with the sweet Californian vibes of this long standing band through the 70's mainly, and briefly into the 80's. Having a wealth of great albums behind them already ('Toulouse Street', 'The Captain And Me', 'What Were Once Vices...' and 'Takin' It To The Streets'), the band forged on into the mid 70's, dropping their heavier pretensions in favour of a pure West Coast, R&B and jazz infusion flavoured sound. No doubt the inclusion of Michael McDonald as the band's singer/keyboardist - who first appeared on their 1976 album 'Takin' It To The Streets' was the main catalyst for their softer edge. No complaints from me, despite adoring their 1973 and 1974 albums ''The Captain And Me', 'What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits' which were far heavier than the sound on this album. McDonald infuses that classy aspect, bringing in the sound of Steely Dan, Ambrosia, and the jazz/R&B crossover of guys like George Benson and Larry Carlton. By this stage, it was clear that the Doobies were under the spell of McDonald, with little in the way of extended guitar parts from Simmons, Johnston and Baxter. In fact, Johnston's appearance on this album is token - though credited, I understand his part was limited.

The Songs
Lead off track 'You're Made That Way' is sooo cool, as a statement of west coast/jazz crossover music. McDonald sets the tone from the outset. The single 'Echoes Of Love' was a breezy well intended track, harmony vocals and some deftly placed keys still sound great today. McDonald's lvoe affair with Motown is resurrected on the Marvin Gaye cover 'Little Darling (I Need You)', another track to make the Best Of CD's that would follow years later. Echoes of Steely Dan sneak through on the understated 'You Belong To Me', a laid back tune which displays a new side to the Doobies sound. The title track 'Livin' On The Fault Line' is a pure workout that borders on technical master class. It's quite fusion based, and the vibes solo from Vic Feldman through the middle is very very cool. 'Nothin' But A Heartache' has some of the attributes of the opening track, big harmony vocals and some nice organ/rhodes work to embellish it. 'Chinatown' is quite different, bordering on Ambrosia's early prog sound with a dabble of Firefall to boot. The band add an orchestral aspect to 'There's A Light'. lightening up their sound even more - I don't think I detect a guitar in this song at all! 'Need A Lady' has a mild stomping beat, which infuses an urban street vibe mixed with a jazz/fusion presence. Not one of their best tracks. The closer 'Larry The Logger Two Step' is a brief 1 minute or so instrumental that will appeal to all the lumberjacks out there!

In Summary
'Livin ' On The Faultline' could be described as an album and a band in transition. With McDonald leading the way, it appeared that the rest of the band were prepared to fall in behind and follow suit. 1978's 'Minute By Minute' would prove to be the diamond in their discography, and third strike lucky, as it went platinum within four months of it's December 1978 release and went to the top of the Billboard album charts. However, though as successful as 'Minute By Minute was, it should not take away the efforts of McDonald's contribution to the two earlier albums he appears on, including this one..

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#1 | Eric on August 30 2008 13:43:40
My favorite Doobies album and in my opinion their best. I love the jazzy edge here.

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