The Doobie Brothers


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Brotherhood Review

by William Ruhlmann

The follow-up to a comeback is a crucial release. It determines whether an act will be able to maintain its restored status or fade back to the oldies circuit. The Doobie Brothers surprised many observers when they re-formed the early-'70s edition of the band in 1989 and returned to the winner's circle with the gold-selling Cycles and its Top Ten hit single, "The Doctor." Brotherhood, however, suggests that that success had more to do with the anticipation of longtime fans than a sustained relevance to the music of the early '90s. Teaming with Jerry Lynn Williams, author of the 1985 Eric Clapton hit "Forever Man," on three tracks, the Doobies sound like a number of other veteran performers, as well as their earlier selves. The Williams co-written "Is Love Enough" borrows the basic riff of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition"; "Under the Spell" recalls Journey in places; and "This Train I'm On" has a slide guitar part straight out of the Allman Brothers Band's "Ain't Wastin' Time No More." When they aren't impersonating another arena rock band, the Doobies are impersonating the Doobies, however. Consider the subject matter: Songs like "Divided Highway," "This Train I'm On," and "Rollin' On" (which is about a river) ape the travel metaphors previously used in such Doobies oldies as "Rockin' Down the Highway," "Long Train Runnin'," and "Black Water." Maybe that will reassure old fans, but the challenge for the Doobies in 1991 is not only to retain its existing audience, but also to attract a new one. Capitol may have hoped that the Williams-penned ballad "Our Love" would do that, but AOR radio latched onto the '70s-style arena rock of "Dangerous" instead. The result was that the album disappointed, and the reunited Doobie Brothers had to depend on road work.

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