There’s no separating the unparalleled legacy of the Doobie Brothers from their latest release World Gone Crazy – not that anyone would want to. Nevertheless, the new album may be most remarkable for the extent to which it stands completely on its own. Yes, World Gone Crazy is another chapter in one of the great American music stories, but it’s neither comeback nor nostalgia. An exhibition of aggressive and emotional performances, evocative storytelling, unapologetic attitude and world class musicianship, the collection is its own justification.
In a sense, World Gone Crazy is an analogy for the Doobie Brothers as a whole. With founding members Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons, and 30 year-plus veterans John McFee and Michael Hossack, the Doobies have perfectly honored the band’s legacy with an offering that grows in unexpected new directions.
The songs on World Gone Crazy all feature Johnston and Simmons as writers and lead vocalists. Adding dimension to the project, in some cases there were co-writers involved, as well as some notable contributions or “guest appearances” by other vocalists.
Long time Doobie drummer Michael Hossack unfortunately passed away in early 2012, but his contributions on World Gone Crazy stand as a testament to his uniquely lyrical style of drumming. Producer Ted Templeman has said “He’s the first band member-drummer in a rock group that was as good as or better than any session player out there…”, and Michael’s drumming is the rhythmic backbone of the album, continuing a tradition that began with his drumming on the band’s first hit single, “Listen to the Music”.
Multi-instrumentalist Doobie veteran John McFee says “I just tried to do what I could on this project as a team player to serve the songs and the band”. Modest words from an in demand musician whose work can be heard on classic recordings with such artists as Van Morrison, Steve Miller, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Rick James, Link Wray, Glen Campbell, Huey Lewis and the News, the Beach Boys, and many, many others.
“This album has been in the mix for five years, but we didn’t seriously start putting the nuts and bolts together until three years ago,” Johnston says. Simmons adds, “We had been compiling songs with the idea we would eventually do a record. Our old producer Ted Templeman came by tour rehearsals one day and was impressed with how we were sounding. He asked if we were doing any new material or thinking about recording. And that’s where it really started.”
Aside from a few years of inactivity in the mid-eighties, the Doobie Brothers have continued to perform, create and record for over 21 consecutive years. “The Doobies have always been about playing live,” Johnston says. “We’re not a studio hot house group and we’re not a concept album band. We’ve always just brought in the tunes we had, put them together and made an album. That’s the way it’s been from the very first album and that’s still the way it’s being done.”
Reuniting with Templeman, whose first hit record as a producer included the playing of the Doobies’ own John McFee (Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album featuring the song “Wild Night”), and who produced all the band’s albums through 1980, greatly influenced the project. “I’ve got a lot of songs on my home studio hard drive,” Johnston says. “That was a boon of having Teddy involved. He came up to my house in Northern California and we went through everything.”