Thursday, 13 October 2011

"Livin' On The Fault Line/Minute By Minute" by THE DOOBIE BROTHERS (2011 Edsel 2CD Reissue and Remasters with Two Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…No More Loneliness…No More Emptiness..." 

Two fantastic albums from the Michael McDonald years with The Doobie Brothers – beautifully musical and beautifully produced – 1977's overlooked "Livin' On A Fault Line" and the award-winning goliath that was 1978's "Minute By Minute". Both albums are chockfull of musical goodies and Soul-Rock moments. Here are the 'Echoes Of Love'...

UK released Monday 26 September 2011 (4 Oct 2011 in the USA) – "Livin' On A Fault Line/Minute By Minute" by THE DOOBIE BROTHERS on Edsel EDSD 2107 (Barcode 740155210731) offers two albums onto 2CDs (with two Bonus Tracks) and breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 (35:12 minutes):
1. You're Made That Way
2. Echoes Of Love
3. Little Darlin' (I Need You)
4. You Belong To Me
5. Livin' On The Fault Line
6. Nothing But A Heartache [Side 2]
7. Chinatown
8. There's A Light
9. Need A Lady
10. Larry The Logger Two-Step
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 7th studio album "Livin' On The Fault Line" (and 2nd with Michael McDonald in the line-up). It was released September 1977 on Warner Brothers K 56383 in the UK - Warner Brothers BS 3045 in the USA

Disc 2 (45:52 minutes):
1. Here To Love You
2. What A Fool Believes
3. Minute By Minute
4. Dependin' On You
5. Don't Stop To Watch The Wheels
6. Open Your Eyes [Side 2]
7. Sweet Feelin'
8. Steamer Lane Breakdown
9. You Never Change
10. How Do The Fools Survive?
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 8th studio album "Minute By Minute" – a Number 1 record in the USA and a Grammy Winner in several categories. It was released December 1978 on Warner Brothers K 56486 in the UK - Warner Brothers BS 3193 in the USA 

11. Here To Love You (Single Remix)
12. What A Fool Believes (12" Remix)

The booklet is a great deal more substantial than what’s gone before – 24-pages of original album artwork (including inner sleeves), UK and European labels pictured, the lyrics, musician credits and an informative 6-page history by ALAN ROBINSON on both albums and their impact. It’s superbly done. But the really big news is the fabulous new SOUND...

I've had all 10 of the 2006 Japanese Remasters (in 5" card repro sleeves) to have the music - but here the PHIL KINRADE remaster at ALCHEMY in London is stunning and far better. The clarity is amazing. It helps of course that the original production on each album by Ted Templeman was so razor sharp in the first place (he's long been associated with the band and more famously with Van Halen).

Music - when the Doobies made their tentative steps into change with "Takin' It To The Streets" in 1976 – the old Tom Johnston riffage crowd were appalled (some even riled against the new hybrid Soul/Rock sound with derogatory tee-shirts telling the band where to get off). But by the time the new line-up got to 1977 and their second album with Michael McDonald as lead vocalist (Johnston was gone by then) – the transition was complete and a different chapter truly begun.

While its Number 1 follow-up "Minute By Minute" always gets the lion's share of critical plaudits (and rightly so) - I've always felt that "Livin' On The Fault Line" is a bit of a lost gem frankly – a genuinely classy Rock album with a Soulful heart. It also began the great complimentary template that made "Minute by Minute" such a satisfying listen 'overall' – Michael McDonald melodies sitting sweetly alongside Patrick Simmons and Tiran Porter songs with a bit of Keith Knudsen and Jeff Baxter thrown in for good measure too.

Once again Produced by TED TEMPLEMAN and featuring string and horn arrangements by David Paich of TOTO - "Livin' On The Fault Line” opens with the gorgeous melody of "You're Made That Way" – a song co-written by McDonald with their Drummer Keith Knudsen and one-time Steely Dan guitarist Jeff Baxter. That's followed by the chipper synth-bopper "Echoes Of Love" where band founder member and Lead Guitarist Tom Johnston takes the main vocals – then matches perfectly with McDonald on the choruses. The lovely "You Belong To Me" is one of 3 McDonald songs (this one co-written with Carly Simon) – "Nothin' But A Heartache" and the beautifully mellow "There's A Light" are the other two (Norton Buffalo plays Harmonica on "There’s A Light"). There are fantastically slick-rhythms coming at you in Side 2's "Chinatown" – a Patrick Simmons song that has gorgeous musical breaks and moments. They even have a successful go at Holland-Dozier-Holland's Marvin Gaye hit on "Little Darlin' (I Love You)" – an association with 'Motown' McDonald would turn into two cover-version albums in 2003 and 2004 called (not surprisingly) "Motown" and "Motown Two". The jazzy Patrick Simmons title track "Livin' On The Fault Line" features the Vibes of Steely Dan sessionman Victor Feldman in a very "Aja" kind-of-way and sounds incredible. The LP ends with an acoustic instrumental called "Larry The Logger Two-Step" in crystal clear audio.

Then comes the "Rumours" of 1978 – "Minute By Minute". Even now the opening Michael McDonald track "Here To Love You" sends chills up my arms – fantastically musical. The Grammy-winning "What A Fool Believes" (a co-write with Kenny Loggins) sounds huge and "Dependin' On You" is a brilliant hybrid of the old sound meeting the new. It's an album that still stands up and is an embarrassment of riches really. The 7" remix of "Here To Love You" (tagged on a bonus track) was originally on the "Long Train Runnin': 1970-2000" 4CD Box Set by Rhino in 1999 - while the 12" Remix of "What A Fool Believes" is a travesty best left alone.

There’s no sign in this reissue campaign of 1980s "One Step Closer" (their last studio album before disbanding) or the 1983 live double "Farewell Tour" which had the exclusive "Olana" on it – maybe at a later date.

So there you have it. Doobie Brothers fans have waited decades to see their band’s back catalogue on Warner Brothers be given the right reissue treatment - and England's Edsel label (who have struck a licensing deal with WEA) has done them proud.

To sum up - great music that transitions from Rock to Soulful-Rock, superb remaster audio quality, really good presentation and a dirt-cheap price into the bargain. The Doobie Brothers have always been an Ace Band and the overall quality of their albums from the 70ts still stands up big time. I’d say buy the whole damn lot frankly...

PS: there are 4 releases in this series to date (all with bonus tracks):
1. The Doobie Brothers (1971) / Toulouse Street (1972) on Edsel EDSD 2105
2. The Captain And Me (1973) / What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974) on Edsel EDSD 2015
3. Stampede (1975) / Takin' It To The Streets (1976) on Edsel EDSD 2016
4. Livin' On The Fault Line (1977) / Minute By Minute (1978) on Edsel EDSD 2107

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