Jeff "Skunk" Baxter - guitar; John Hartman - drums; Keith Knudsen - drums, vocals; Bobby LaKind - congas, vocals; Michael McDonald - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals; Tiran Porter - bass, vocals; Patrick Simmons - guitar, vocal
As The Doobie Brothers began the second half of the 1970s, they found themselves at a musical crossroads. In addition to the song contributions of Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald and bassist Tiran Porter would begin taking on songwriting duties, which would dramatically change the sound of the band. The electric guitar-based rock that established the group's reputation, gave way to a softer and more soulful keyboard dominated sound, with McDonald's voice rapidly becoming the focal point. Guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's Steely Dan-like guitar stylings emphasized this slicker new approach. The band's 1976 release Takin' It To The Streets (the first with McDonald on board) and 1977's Livin' On The Fault Line clearly signaled a change. However, it was 1978's Minute By Minute album that would propel the band into another realm of commercial success. This album signaled the second wind for the band and soon became a smash hit, topping the US charts and dominating radio for the better part of two years.
This partial December 1978 recording captures that pivotal moment in time, literally days before the release of the Minute By Minute album, and as such, will be of great interest to fans of the band. That album's material, with the exception of Simmon's self-proclaimed shit-kicker instrumental "Steamer Lane Breakdown," doesn't yet surface here, but the new approach is clearly being applied to the group's live performances.
The recording begins well in progress, with McDonald leading the band through a soulful cover of the Motown classic, "Little Darling (I Need You)," a track featured on the band's previous album, Livin' On The Fault Line. This is followed by "Neal's Fandango," a fast rocker with country overtones, written and sung by Simmons and inspired by the legendary Merry Prankster Neal Cassidy aka Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's Beat classic, On The Road. Following the romp through the aforementioned "Steamer Lane Breakdown," the group focuses on earlier material to close out the show. "Road Angel," the explosive jam showcase from the band's 1974 What Were Once Vices Now Are Habits album display the group at their instrumental peak. This prepares the audience for a blazing take on the band's most infectious early single, "China Grove" - always a crowd pleaser, which closes this recording.
After nearly a decade on the road, the band's energy and enthusiasm is back. Their soon to be released eigth album, Minute By Minute would experience huge success and signal the second great era for The Doobie Brothers. This recording captures the band literally moments before that occurred, when the new approach was truly starting to jell.
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