Doobie Brothers - The Captain And Me

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain And Me


I am biased, there’s not a dud song on this album one iota, there’s enough to suggest that perhaps The Doobie Brothers and Bread were the true AOR pioneers before Boston in 1976.

Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: The Doobie Brothers
ALBUM: The Captain And Me
LABEL: Warner Bros
YEAR: 1973
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Tom Johnston – guitars, harmonica, vocals * Patrick Simmons – guitars, synthesizer, vocals * Tiran Porter – bass, vocals * John Hartman – drums, percussion, vocals * Michael Hossack – drums, congas, cymbals, timbales
Additional Musicians: Bill Payne – piano, organ, keyboards * Jeffrey ‘Skunk’ Baxter – guitar, pedal steel guitar, steel guitar * Ted Templeman – percussion * Nick DeCaro – strings arrangement

TRACK LISTING: 01 Natural Thing * 02 Long Train Runnin’ * 03 China Gove * 04 Dark Eyed Cajun Woman * 05 Clear As The Driven Snow * 06 Without You * 07 South City Midnight Lady * 08 Evil Woman * 09 Ukiah * 10 The Captain And Me



Over the many years of collecting music, there have always been a handful of LP’s (less so CD’s) for which I have tagged and coined the phrase ‘foundation album’. These are albums that have remained true to me despite the passing of time. Examples: the first two Boston albums, Journey‘s ‘Infinity’, UFO‘s ‘Strangers In The Night’, Uriah Heep‘s ‘Demons And Wizards for starters, plus this 1973 beauty from Californian rockers The Doobie Brothers.

I knew a good melody even at a young age. Being all but 10 years old (actually 9 when this was released), it has remained a cornerstone of my collection years later. The lads from San Jose were a staple part of my household and upbringing thanks to my older brother’s good taste in rock music back then.

Albums such as this one, ‘What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits’ and ‘Toulouse Street’ getting regular airplay. What intrigued me about this band was that they could play many distinct and different styles and you wouldn’t even know it was the same band.

Hit singles such as the 1972 pairing of ‘Listen To The Music’ and ‘Jesus Is Just Alright’ paved the way for greater success, ‘The Captain And Me’ offering up two further hit singles which would become oldies and classic rock staples to this day. The pairing of Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons operate at both ends of the musical spectrum, Johnston’s rock style balanced by Simmon’s country and folk presence.

The Songs

Listening to the lead-off track ‘Natural Thing’, you can hear traces of keyboards through the intro, while the guitar melodies keep this modest tune in the bright and breezy category. An understated start for the excitement yet to come.

The pairing of ‘Long Train Runnin’ and ‘China Grove’ need no introduction to the GDAZE readers I’ll bet. Both huge hits all around the world and easily recognisable as primetime Doobie Brothers material.

‘Dark Eyed Cajun Woman’ would have to be the silkiest song here, the equivalent of black forest chocolate sliding down the gullet with a strong cup of Moccona coffee at the ready. I love the extended solos through the song, and this has been a very good friend to me over the years.

‘Clear As The Driven Snow’ takes a stab at folk rock, perhaps a throwback to the late 60’s with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills And Nash with a dab of Poco.

The song comes to life during the back-half, the tempo lifting immeasurably.. the chorus ‘Spin me around, turn my head down, take me down slow, don’t let me go’ is pushed through an echo chamber, the electric guitars appearing at the end for an unlikely but winning crescendo. According to Tom Johnston, this track is about substance abuse and nothing to do with the weather.. lol!

‘Without You’ is without doubt my highlight for this album. It’s got the power riffs and rabble rousing vocals making for an ideal arena rocker. ‘South City Midnight Lady’ is a track I’ve loved for many decades. Still do. The pedal steel accompaniment and acoustic guitar makes for a grand listen, a huge contrast to the song preceding it.

A big brash sounding rocker, ‘Evil Woman’ is every bit as mean and nasty as the femme fatale featured on this track. Hard to believe that the Doobie Brothers actually touched on heavy metal with this track, perhaps encouraged by producer Ted Templeman to let fly, something he would enable Van Halen to do five years later.

To paraphrase Ripley: ‘Believe it or not’. One of the loveliest and lightest moments on the album is the west coast/country rock flavoured ‘Ukiah’. If Steely Dan and the Atlanta Rhythm Section were to have a love child then this would be it.

‘The Captain And Me’ ends this captivating affair on an acoustic note.. ‘deep as the river, wide as the sea, changin’ the ways of the captain and me’.. Great lyrics on this one, the chorus melodic enough to resemble Starcastle at their best, while the uptempo percussion section has borrowed heavily from Santana‘s influence. A fantastic song all round.

In Summary

I might be biased, but I don’t think there’s a dud song on this album one iota. Though the musical soundscape might change from song to song, there’s enough to suggest that perhaps The Doobie Brothers and Bread were the true instigators of AOR before the arrival of that classic Boston record in 1976.

Heresy? Opinion only I jest, but a review of melodic rock from 1970 through to 1975 doesn’t really offer a lot of true contenders unfortunately, other than the two I mentioned plus a batch of obscure outfits that someone like Eric might care to remind me of.. lol!

As for the Billboard charts, the album made it to #7 and remained in the charts for a year while the singles ‘Long Train Runnin’ and ‘China Grove’ reached #8 and #15 respectively. A great album, and followed up by just as good a memory as ‘What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits’.


Entire Album (Select Tracks)

Natural Thing

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