The release of the Doobie Brothers' latest CD, "World Gone Crazy," has signaled a sort of renaissance for the legendary rock band. Recalling early classic albums like "Stampede" and "The Captain and Me," it's their strongest, most widely appealing recording in many years and a remarkable achievement for a band that has rocked us since the 1970s.
Their first studio release in 10 years, "World Gone Crazy" reunites the Doobie's primary composers, Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons, with producer Ted Templeman, who had helped shape their seminal early works. With Templeman's expert guidance, they've crafted one great song after another.
Sounding rejuvenated, from a full-tilt rocking foundation they venture far afield, embracing influences from folk, funk and gospel to Latin, Caribbean, New Orleans and country, with the nostalgic title track even making waves on country radio stations.
Maui’s Pat Simmons
John McPhee (from left), Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and Michael Hossack.
Photo courtesy of the Doobie Brothers
"We were lucky enough to have Ted Templeman on board to produce this record," says Simmons. "It's been 28 years since we last worked with Ted. As usual, we just wanted to have fun in the studio. It was most important to produce an album that would continue our legacy and stand up to our past performances. The feedback we have gotten on 'World Gone Crazy' has surpassed our expectations and allowed us the luxury of having new music to play for our audiences. It's very exciting for us."
One of the album's most moving songs, the gorgeous ballad "Far From Home," was just released as a single and it's already charting in the Top 40 on Adult Contemporary radio. Co-composed by Simmons, the song was initially inspired by thoughts of his son heading out to college.
"It's what everyone goes through saying goodbye," Pat explains. "I've had the same experience with all my kids, when they've reached a certain time in their life and they've gone away. It's always tough when you're saying goodbye, and you know they're coming back. As we were writing it, we discussed what we thought it represented, and it was more than just people we knew. The image in my mind was soldiers going away."
The Doobie Brothers and War perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Yokouchi Pavilion.
Tickets are $45, $65, $85, and $125 for premium and table seating (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Gates open 5:30 p.m. During the show, an autographed Doobie Brothers guitar will be auctioned off for charity.
For more information, call 242-7469.
The band has launched a contest involving an accompanying video for the song, with fans invited to contribute their own videos that illustrate emotional moments of passage in their families' lives. Proceeds will benefit an organization that assists servicemen and women after they've returned home from military duty. The grand-prize winner will have the opportunity to be reunited with loved ones at a Doobie Brothers concert. The contest closes on Friday.
"We talked about doing something that could get our fans involved," says Pat. "So we're going to make a collage of images. We're looking for videos from our fans that portray a bittersweet parting, or a joyful reunion."
Another standout track features country legend Willie Nelson making a surprise appearance, co-composing and singing with Pat on the wonderful "I Know We Won," which also features Maui's "Hutch" Hutchinson on bass.
"Willie has done so much for so many people on Maui," Pat notes. "We were his backing band at the MACC and also at a show on the Mainland. We've talked about writing a song together for a long time. I had a track I was working on with a first verse, about looking back at life and what it was like when I was a kid. I gave it to Willie and he wrote a second verse and chorus and it was very cool. I was going for a positive vibe and he took it beyond, into life being a game to win. Originally I wasn't even thinking of Willie singing on it. But then I thought it would be cool to have his voice on it. I love what he's done with Gail (Swanson) and Marty (Dread) here."
Another surprise is the Latin-infused track "Old Juarez," composed by Johnson, which would perfectly fit a contemporary Santana album.
"It's not exactly 'Long Train Runnin',' but it is reminiscent of some stuff we've done in the past," says Pat.
Other special guest stars on board include former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, who sings with Pat on the soulful, ultra-smooth, Steely Dan-flavored "Don't Say Goodbye," joined by his wife, Amy Holland, and Maui's Gail Swanson on backing vocals, and the late Norton Buffalo on chromatic harmonica.
"It's a bossa nova, but I didn't realize it at the time," Pat notes. "I'd been listening to music from Mali and it was going to be more of a chant thing. I played it for Ted and he loved it. He said it was so haunting.' And Ted said it would be really neat to hear Mike's voice on there. He was in town and I called him."
Among the classic-sounding, good-time rockers are "Young Man's Game" and the blazing "Chateau," which depicts their early days playing a rowdy biker bar nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
"I was kind of thinking about a ZZ Top-type track," Pat explains. "It was going to be an anti-war song, but Ted said it reminded him of the Chateau. It was the first place he heard us play. He flew up with another Warner's producer, Lenny Waronker. They were wearing slacks and sweater vests and button-down collars, kind of conservative, and there's a dozen Hells Angels parked in front, and everyone was smoking weed and drinking heavily. We're blasting away with our amps all the way up and the bikers were crazy and stomping around. I looked back at Ted and Lenny and their eyes were as big as silver dollars. And they signed us after that. Ted never forgot the Chateau, and the song reminded him of that experience."
Formed in San Jose, Calif., in 1970, the Doobie Brothers created a distinctive rocking sound based on twin lead guitars and two drummers. The release of their second album, "Toulouse Street," propelled the band into the national spotlight, with catchy songs like "Listen to the Music" and "Rockin' Down The Highway." Their appeal increased with the follow-up "The Captain and Me," but it was an unusual track on their fourth album, "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits," which solidified their mass popularity.
Initially released as the B side of a single, Simmons' song "Black Water" produced the band's first No. 1 hit. At the time it was the fastest-selling single in their record label's history.
One of the most popular rock bands of the 1970s, the Doobie Brothers produced many memorable songs - hits like "Black Water," "Listen to the Music," "China Grove," "Long Train Runnin' " and "What a Fool Believes."
Blending acoustic and electric guitars with tight harmonies and often adventurous arrangements, the Doobies produced a string of exceptional albums raking up record sales of more than 50 million, with their "Best of the Doobies" collection amassing 10 million-plus sales.
Some of this history is captured on a 30-minute DVD documentary on the band, co-directed by Simmons, which is include with the deluxe version of "World Gone Crazy." The doc offers a taste of a larger project in the works.
"I started on it a couple of years ago," Pat reports. "I have 10 hours of film, let alone hours and hours of videotape. When we signed our new record deal, they said they would love to include some. So we put together a little half-hour version. Now I'm doing a feature with more concert footage."
The deal with HOR Records also includes a new concept album with the band recreating its hits joined by special guests. Musicians participating so far include Hootie & the Blowfish's Darius Rucker and Pat Monahan from Train.
"It's moving forward," says Pat. "It will be fun to do."
And then there are a few solo albums in the works.
"I have three visions," he explains. "One is to do an island-style record with slack key and songs about living here. I also want to do a jazz thing with original songs with some more sophisticated stylings and chordal structures. And I've thought about an electric blues album with some older songs and new ones."
Heading to Maui performing as a six-piece band the current Doobie Brothers lineup features founding guitarists/vocalists Simmons and Johnston; longtime guitarist John McFee, who first played with the Doobies on their 1980 album "One Step Closer"; former Doobie bassist John Cowan; Mark Russo, saxophonist with the Kenny Loggins Band; keyboardist Guy Allison (Don Henley, Boz Scaggs); and drummer Tony Pia of The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
"We're so fortunate to still be playing," Pat concludes.
"It's pretty awesome to still be enjoying what I'm doing after all these years."