Ten years after these tapes were recorded, budget label Pickwick somehow got hold of these demos that got the deal for the Doobie Brothers with Warner Bros, a deal rumored to have come from the band sending the tapes via U.S. Mail, not the personal pitch to A&R by people with connections. Whether that urban myth is true or not, these songs and performances are vital work by a band that really had something special. There is a raw freshness to this album which shows how strong the band was prior to recording the classic Listen to the Music. Contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, John Swenson, is to be commended for a revealing, six-paragraph essay that serves as the liner notes. There are great harmonies on Pat Simmons' "By Yourself," the leadoff track, while "Coke Can Changes" by Tom Johnston reveals the harder side of the group. The musical complexities of "Blue Jay," also written by Johnston, show why the band deserved a recording contract. Swenson adds a bit of hyperbole to the otherwise excellent liner notes, comparing the group to the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead -- and that is going a bit far; Swenson should have focused on their originality, instead. But the historical note that Jefferson Airplane/Moby Grape drummer Skip Spence introduced two of the members to each other, does add to the luster of their legacy, and the writer redeems himself with that gem. Every track is worthwhile: "Make It Easy" has a great riff and sublime backing vocals. While "Quicksilver Princess" and "Coke Can Changes" may be awkward titles, the music has a spirit and much substance. Their voices are great on these early demonstration tapes, and hearing "I'll Keep on Giving," the initial version of "Another Park, Another Sunday," their Top 35 hit (actually, the flipside of what would become their first number one song, "Black Water"), is essential listening. "Pauper's Diary is also a worthwhile tune. This album disappeared from the shelves rather quickly, which leads to wondering if Warner Bros or The Doobie Brothers or both litigated. It should be released on CD with Michael McDonald's Arista solo disc as a nice Doobie Brothers primer. It's also noteworthy that along with Lou Reed's early work, this is the best material released by Pickwick. Definitely worth finding and probably a collector' item.
Review by Joe Viglione