The Doobie Brothers Are Still Runnin’ Strong

Liberté is band’s first album of all-new music in 11 years

The Doobie Brothers are back with new music. After having listened to Liberté a few times, I find there is much to like about the band’s 15th studio album, their first with all new original tunes since World Gone Crazy from September 2010. Their most recent studio release Southbound, which appeared in November 2014, featured remakes of their biggest hits and some other songs recorded in collaboration with artists like Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith and Huey Lewis and Brad Paisley.

Released on October 1, Liberté was produced by John Shanks who has worked with a broad array of artists, such as Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi and Melissa Etheridge. Shanks also co-wrote all of the 12 tunes with either Tom Johnston (guitar, harmonica, vocals) or Patrick Simmons (guitar, banjo, flute, vocals), who co-founded the Doobies in San Jose, Calif. in 1970, together with Dave Shogren (bass, keyboards, guitar, backing vocals) and John Hartman (drums, percussion, backing vocals).

Doobie Brothers - Official Site
The Doobie Brothers (from left): Michael McDonald, Patrick Simmons, Tom Johnston and John McFee

The Doobie Brothers’ other core members are John McFee (guitar, pedal steel, violin, harmonica, banjo, mandolin, backing vocals), who has been part of the line-up since 1979, and Michael McDonald (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), who has been and off since he first joined in 1975. McDonald was not involved in recording Liberté. He rejoined the Doobies in November 2019 ahead of their planned 50th anniversary tour in 2020. It was postponed due to the COVID pandemic and finally kicked off on August 22 in Des Moines, Iowa.

When the Doobies first announced Liberté in early August, they released the first four tracks of the album as a self-titled EP. Previously, I included one of these tunes, Don’t Ya Mess With Me, in a Best of What’s New installment. As such, I will skip the rocker here. Let’s get to some of the album’s other music.

Here’s the opener Oh Mexico. Co-written by Shanks and Johnston, the rock tune has a vibe of early Doobies. Johnston sounds great on vocals. I also dig the tune’s neat slide guitar work.

Cannonball is an acoustic-oriented song co-written by Shanks and Simmons. While this doesn’t sound like classic Doobies, I still like it.

The American Dream, a nostalgic tune reminiscing of the top down and the radio on, and dancin’ in the streets, is another co-write by Shanks and Johnston.

One of my early favorites is the soulful Shine Your Light. The tune was co-written by Shanks and Johnston as well.

The last tune I’d like to call out is Just Can’t Do This Alone. Co-written by Shanks and Johnston, this tune reminds me a bit of Listen to the Music, the first hit the Doobies scored in 1972, a single off their sophomore album Toulouse Street.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Liberté. While it’s fair to say it’s no Toulouse Street or The Captain and Me, I find the album an enjoyable listening experience.

“How does any band know?,” Johnston said during a recent interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune. “You’re just trying to get it together and move forward. At the start of this band, we hadn’t done anything yet and we were playing bars like everyone else. Luckily, we did a demo tape that got us a record deal with Warner Bros. Our first album didn’t sell, but the second did. And the rest is history.” Indeed, 51 years and counting; or, if you exclude the band’s five-year hiatus between 1982 and 1987, it’s 46 years – still a mighty long time!

Sources: Wikipedia; Doobie Brothers website; San Diego Union-Tribune; YouTube


8 thoughts on “The Doobie Brothers Are Still Runnin’ Strong”

  1. I can’t wait to hear this, although I learned to not get my hopes up about reunion albums because they’re usually terrible. But I loved the old Doobie Brothers. I’m glad Tom Johnston is singing because he’s a great singer. And I’m glad Michael McDonald isn’t back. Not that he’s horrible or anything, but the Doobie Brothers were much better before him. I already know that there’s not even a chance that they’re going to come up with songs as great as China Grove or Long Train Running or Listen to the Music or Blackwater, but you never know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I hear you. I also prefer the old Doobies and their more rock-oriented sound over the more pop-oriented Michael McDonald era.

      McDonald actually is back, though he isn’t on the album. I think it’s primarily for their 50th anniversary tour.

      As I noted in the post, Liberte is not a “Toulouse Street” or “The Captain And Me,” though you can find traces of the old Doobies in some of the tunes. Overall, I still find the album an enjoyable listening experience.


    1. Thanks, me too! I caught them during their 2018 summer tour with Steely Dan and also thought they sounded great, as did Donald Fagen – unlike some accounts I had read before. In fact, I dug Steely Dan so much that I went to see them a second time in 2018 for a show dedicated to my favorite Dan album “Aja” – once again Fagen and band delivered a solid performance!

      In case you’re curious, here’s my review of the Doobies-Steely Dan show I attended:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice review, and it looked and sounded like a great show. I saw the Doobies at one of the local casinos, with the band JD & the Straight Shot opening. The front man for that band is James Dolan, who’s also CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. I’d reviewed their album “Good Luck and Good Night”, and as a thank you, their PR firm gave me two free passes to the concert.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. All the tunes I heard here sounded good. Pretty good job for a band that should be over the hill. I saw them open for Santana a few years ago. Still sound great. God knows where their audience will ever hear this album. FM radio is essentially dead.


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