The first Doobie Brothers album for ten years is a time capsule from the Nixon/Ford era. Working again with Ted Templeman, who produced their golden age of hits and West Coast anthems, they deliver a textbook set of what their borderline-superannuated fans want. Ageism is not cool, kids, but a glance at the accompanying retrospective DVD shows a lighting crew working ridiculously hard to veil the fact that the Doobies are now, shall we say, weathered. (Saga would consider them unsuitable cover stars.) It'd be absurd for them to discover a new dubstep/grime direction, so this is hoary bearded vintage boogie for people who found Lynyrd Skynyrd a little too experimental.
Without a USP, the Californians - not brothers - cleaned up in the Almost Famous world; all flares, whiskers and no pretention. Songs like Long Train Runnin' and Listen to the Music laced their country-rock with an enjoyable dash of funk; later, they appropriated Michael McDonald and rode a second wind with the soulful What a Fool Believes. McDonald guests on one track here, as does Willie Nelson. It's as close, in essence, to a greatest hits album as you can get while not being one. Every song is sufficiently similar to their canon to give their people a rush of recognition. Electric and acoustic guitars play off each other, harmonies are honed; everything is so relaxed it makes the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac sound like F* Up.
Lead single Nobody is actually a re-recording of a flop off their 1971 debut. It's a decent groove, albeit one you can envision Jeremy Clarkson shaking his jeans to. A Brighter Day essays a reggae-soul lilt, while Chateau, ZZ Top-lite, turns the amps up to a risque eight. The title-track has these millionaires bemoaning "tryin' to make my monthly rent". It's a slick production, though the ill-conceived Young Man's Game brags of "30 long years bringin' people rock'n'roll" and disses "those rock'n'roll critics talkin' yak yak yak". Dudes, it's 40 years, and the critics forgot you half that time ago.
In the Doobies' heads, and on this album, it's forever California 1974.