On Dec. 1, 1978, The Doobie Brothers released their most successful album ever, Minute by Minute. The LP would quickly hit the top of the LP charts and reign there for five weeks.
I know purists who hate this era of The Doobie Brothers, accusing the band of evolving from a laid-back-but-tight, country-tinged, good-times-boogie band to become a slickly-produced pop group with light jazz undercurrents—more piano and horns than guitar-centric rock. I understand the argument, but I like both sounds (and, really, both styles can be heard on at least one or two tracks from every one of their albums).
The Doobie Brothers transition can be heard in 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets, when pianist Michael McDonald and guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (both formerly with Steely Dan) took lead roles in writing and arranging songs. They enhanced the R&B sensibilities that were present on previous records. By 1978, the band was a well-honed music machine, and with Minute by Minute, McDonald’s distinctive vocals became the signature sound for the band.
Baxter and drummer John Hartman, a founding member of the band, would leave after the album’s tour.
Minute by Minute generated three singles: the title track, “Depending on You” and “What a Fool Believes.” McDonald co-wrote the latter with Kenny Loggins (Loggins’ version of the song appears on his 1978 album Nightwatch). “What a Fool Believes” only resided at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week, but it would go on to win Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. McDonald would win a Grammy for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists and the band received Best Pop Vocal Performance.
One of my favorite songs on the album is the opening track, “Here to Love You.”
At its peak, I was tired of hearing this song’s almost-childlike melody. Thirteen years later, can I appreciate it?