A little while ago I wrote about a 1976 Boz Scaggs album where I wondered publicly if it was the birth of Yacht Rock. And then I thought, “no obviously that would have to be the Doobie Brothers, they were likely first.” Though I have not heard Stampede the first Michael McDonald Doobies album does feel like a major part of the birth of Yacht Rock, though clearly Scaggs had them beat.
I know early Doobie Brothers from classic rock radio. (This era was too poppy to make it onto my classic rock station.) And I know this era from the Forrest Gump soundtrack. So I knew the general story and I knew what I was getting into. But, despite knowing that ahead of time, I am still kind of taken aback by how bloodless this is. The degree to which Steely Dan turned talented American musicians into wusses has perhaps been understated.
The songs are catchy and I understand why McDonald’s songs were chosen. (That interloper!) McDonald’s songs are clearly the most memorable and it’s interesting to imagine the set without them. (Would the record seem so catchy?)
But the whole thing is so unbelievably slick and safe. Everything is polished. Everything is just funky enough to convince a certain segment of the population that these guys got soul, but certainly not funky enough to resemble funk. And, frankly, the same thing can be said about the album’s “jazziness.” These jazz-influenced soft rock musicians appear to hate actual jazz.
As a recording, it manages to sound pretty good today so I guess that means it was produced well. But I don’t care.
Honestly the only thing that’s keeping me from rating it lower is the musicianship, which is impeccable as you would expect. But this is very much not my cup of tea.