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CD Reviews

America, Doobies release their hits

Published: Monday, September 10, 2001

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


***1/2 America The Complete Greatest Hits (Rhino)

Every time “A Horse With No Name” comes on the radio, someone inevitably asks if it’s Neil Young. Most soon realize that the song is not one that can be attributed to Young, but the real culprits are rarely recognized. The group that rightfully deserves the credit is America. It was this song that catapulted the trio (consisting of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek) into stardom in 1972.

Although most everyone has heard of America, many cannot even name one song of theirs. It seems that America has fallen into the back of listeners’ minds. With the release of The Complete Greatest Hits, America looks to change this. Not only are all the classics there, but also two new recordings (“World of Light” and “Paradise”), which clearly display that the group still has their sound in tact.

The tracks “Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man,” “Lonely People,” “Sister Golden Hair” and “You Can Do Magic” are just a couple of the famous songs that contain the classic America sound. The harmonies clearly sprang from the early- to mid-’70s, as they ease the listener into relaxation. The backing music combines some folk with smooth rock, giving off an aura of ease.

The Complete Greatest Hits captures America at its best. The band offers so much that it is a shame they are overlooked. Their numerous hits clearly influenced the music of the era. Hopefully, this release can do something for the band: At the very least, when “A Horse With No Name” comes on the radio, the true artists will get their just due.

—Jeremy Raelin

*** The Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits (WEA/Rhino)

Despite several breakups, hiatuses and member changes, The Doobie Brothers have been making top-40 hits and platinum albums for 30 years. Fourteen members have contributed to the band’s celebrated career. Their new “best of” installment, Greatest Hits, presents the group’s hits in a single disc package.

The band was formed in 1970 by lead singer Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons. Considered a post-hippie blues rock band, their early fan base included a devout group of motorcycle riders. The Doobies hit it big in 1972 when “Listen To The Music” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” entered the charts.

The group’s ’70s reign can be divided into two distinct periods: the Tom Johnston era and the Michael McDonald era. McDonald stepped into the band in 1975 after lead singer/ guitarist Tom Johnston was plagued with a stomach disorder and forced to leave. McDonald took over the major songwriting and singing duties. With him came a new sophistication: The music was more funky, jazzy and melodic, all due to McDonald’s unique vocal style and tone.

The Doobies sound chang-ed after their 1976 release of Takin’ It To The Streets, but their ability to make hits did not. With hits like “It Keeps You Runnin’,” the Doobies maintained their place on the rock charts.

This album combines all of the hits from the Johnston era and the McDonald era. Although some mediocre songs could have been omitted from the 20-track album, Greatest Hits gives a complete representation of the Doobie Brothers undeniable influence and success during the ’70s and early ’80s.

—Mike Meyer

***1/2 Murder City Devils Thelema (Sub Pop 2001)

The Murder City Devils’ named their second album Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts. The title sums it up; it’s all anyone needs to know about this band.

Their latest release, the six-song EP Thelema, picks up where last year’s stellar In Name and Blood left off. “I never heard a sad song I didn’t like” howls singer Spencer Moody on the opening track. The rest of the album certainly bears this out. It becomes abundantly clear that neither Moody nor the rest of the band — guitarists Dan Galu- cci and Nate Manny, bassist Derek Fudesco, drummer Coady Willis, keyboardist Leslie Hardy and roadie Gabe — have ever heard a sad song they didn’t like.

Thelema offers plenty of what fans have come to expect from the Devils. Groovy early ’70s guitar riffs mix with pounding drums, wailing vocals and Hardy’s spooky, Doors-like organs. This is music to drink whiskey to, dark and vaguely sleazy – the truck stop of the rock ’n’ roll world.

Onstage, the band looks exactly like it sounds. The Devils played to a packed crowd last month at the Middle East downstairs in Cambridge coming out in all black, tattoos as thick as flies. They’re due back in the area on October 13; the venue as yet is unannounced.

For all the dark clothes and darker music, this is surprisingly introspective stuff. Anyone who can’t hear the heartbreak behind Moody’s admonishment on the opening track, “I know that you know that I did/ And I know that you know that I do” should give a closer listen. If Moody follows that line with “so I’m going back to puking on lampposts,” that’s just the kind of band this is.

Thelema is a Murder City Devils primer, the band at their most basic, studio sessions, retakes and mixes shortened by organist Hardy’s bout with carpal tunnel syndrome. While diehards might find something missing, this is definitely a quality album from an even better band. Raise the Jolly Roger of rock ’n’ roll.

—Kilian Betlach

**** The Orb Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond the Call of Duty Part 2 (Ultra Records)

To understand this album one must understand that the Orb virtually invented the electronica category of ambient house, a soulful and laid-back version of electronica. Ambient is not a form of music for listeners to dance to; it’s made for a pure listening experience. The Orb realized that once the music slowed down it could be appreciated more for its complex beats and rhythms.

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