As the lead singer of the Doobie Brothers from 1975-1980, Michael McDonald's soulful voice and skilled writing gave the group classics like "Minute by Minute," "Real Love," and the perfect "What a Fool Believes." After the group's 1980 album One Step Closer displayed a tension that was almost audible, it was no surprise that a split was in the works. 1982's If That's What It Takes is McDonald's first solo effort, and was recorded at the great recording studios like Warner Bros. and Sunset Sound and was co-produced by Ted Templeman and Lenny Waronker. The album's biggest hit, the moody and sleek "I Keep Forgettin'," continues McDonald's unflinching look at heartbreak, and it is more R&B-influenced than the previous Doobie Brothers work. The buoyant "I Gotta Try," co-written by Kenny Loggins, perfectly captures the early-'80s L.A. pop sound. While McDonald's pop acumen is no surprise, If That's What It Takes also offers McDonald the chance to do ballads. The poignant and spare "I Can Let Go Now" has some of his best lyrics. "Losin End," which first appeared on 1976's Takin' It to the Streets, gets recast as an even bleaker rumination with a suitably sorrowful solo from Tom Scott. The melodically complex "Believe in It" has McDonald doing some great, offhanded gospel-tinged vocals. This debut juggles tracks of merit and those of less distinction, but the bright spots make this essential.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Elias