The Captain and Me
by The Doobie Brothers

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The Captain and Me by The Doobie BrothersThe Captain and Me is the third album by The Doobie Brothers on which they combine their trademark funk with just a touch of California folk and country-rock. Combined, this distinctive yet diverse record was their most substantial and consistent of their early years, offering differing sonic textures and enjoyable tunes for an overall fulfilling listen. The album is bookmarked by several songs from guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston, including the album’s biggest hits and the title song which combine funk and rock with just a taste of traditional blues. In between and some contrasting, folk-oriented songs by guitarist/keyboardist Patrick Simmons, which contain unique instrumental passages.

The group was formed in 1969 by Johnston and drummer John Hartman in Northern California. Simmons joined a year later along with bassist Tiran Porter and gained a strong following among local chapters of the Hells Angels. In 1971, the band signed with Warner Brothers and released their self-titled debut album to little commercial success. Later that year the band added a second drummer/percussionist Michael Hossack, completing the classic band lineup. The Doobies second album, Toulouse Street in 1972, fared much better on the strength of a couple of hit songs.

Warner put pressure on the band to move quickly on producing their third album along with producer Ted Templeman. They began reworking old tunes and improvisational pieces that they played live. The label did help out with the album artwork, providing 19th century garments and the horse-drawn stagecoach from the Warner Brothers film studios lot.

The Captain and Me by The Doobie Brothers
Released: March 2, 1973 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: Warner Brothers Studios, Hollywood, 1972-1973
Side One Side Two
Natural Thing
Long Train Runnin’
China Grove
Dark Eyed Cajun Woman
Clear As the Driven Snow
Without You
South City Midnight Lady
Evil Woman
Busted Down O’Connelly Corners
The Captain and Me
Band Musicians
Tom Johnston – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Patrick Simmons – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Tiran Porter – Bass, Vocals
John Hartman – Drums, Vocals
Michael Hossack – Drums, Percussion

“Natural Thing”, a decent melodic rocker with a funky flanged guitar and good harmonies, starts off the album. The song is notable for its synthesized horn effects, which were put together by programmers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who overdubbed individual notes to create the chords. Johnston’s “Long Train Runnin'” evolved from a long-time, ad-libbed jam called “Rosie Pig Moseley”. Templeman convinced Johnston to write words to the pure funk song, which also includes a distinctive harmonica solo by Johnston and a heavy presence by the dual percussionists. “Long Train Runnin'” became the band’s first Top Ten single.

Another charting hit was “China Grove”, one of the catchiest rock songs of the band’s career, built on a simple but effective riff along with exquisite production. Although the song’s title is based on a real town in Texas, the story is largely a fictional, with lyric’s again added by Johnston to an instrumental track titled “Parliament”. “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman” takes a different approach, much darker than previous material. It is blue-eyed blues with good guitar licks, electric piano, and strings – almost Van Morrison in its feel.

“Clear As the Driven Snow” is Simmons first contribution to the album, a bright and acoustic folk song in the manner of John Denver, save for the fact that it morphs into a decent jam towards the end while never leaving the signature acoustic riff. Simmons also wrote “South City Midnight Lady”, an almost country acoustic ballad, which adds a serene, almost romantic element to the album. Pedal steel guitar is provided by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, then of Steely Dan, who would later become an official member of the Doobie Brothers. “Evil Woman” is probably the weakest song on the album, an unfocused and under-produced song which could have went somewhere had it been better developed.

The album’s closing sequence begins with “Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners”, a short acoustic piece by James Earl Luft which into segues into “Ukiah”, a tribute to a small town in Northern California where the band frequently played in their early years. The song has a Chicago-style upbeat with driven bass by Porter and great lead guitar interludes. “Ukiah” acts as bridge song to title song finale, an acoustic Tune which trys to give the album a bit of a “concept” feel. Still, the song contains soaring guitars and harmonies which concludes the album on a high note.

In all, The Captain and Me is a potpourri of sonic phrases which best symbolizes the heart of the early Doobie Brothers sound. Although the band would achieve greater commercial success later in the decade, it was with a different sound and mainly different lineup.


1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.


7 thoughts on “The Captain and Me
by The Doobie Brothers”

  1. The Captain and Me was the finest compilation of classic masterpieces to be on a single work , IMHO.

    The clean and perfectly balanced mastering that ended up deserving the hi-res DVD-Audio mix later offered was rock and roll justice for any true classic rock aficionado. Their dual percussionist were seamlessly woven into the soundstage with excellence and accented songs such as “without You” as golden nuggets to the ear.

    IMO, when the band later enlisted Michael McDonald to attempt their recovery from The illness of their mainstay guitarist, It was a disappointing end to my enthusiasm with the band, despite the great talent McDonald showcased.

    The “…Vices…” LP was a good work for the continuation and evolution of the band’s great work, seeming to be a natural progression starting with Toulouse Street – and although top 40 radio wore out the big selling hits, I never grew tired of their exceptional talent.

    The Captain and Me LP was the pinacle of the Doobies with me.

  2. For me, ‘The Captain… was one of those seminal teenage awakening albums – you know, one listen and you’ve been taken to a place you never knew existed. I was then into my early stages of exploring the likes of Purple, Free, Roxy, and a regular listener to Fluff’s Saturday pm BBC show. So ‘Without You’ appealed, but it’s tracks like ‘Clear as the Driven Snow’ which make you appreciate the harmonies and clever finger work the band was capable of. All in all, a surprise album that still evokes the feelings from back then. I’ve wondered since whether if it was ever worth a trip to ‘Ukiah’.

  3. First of all, Patrick Simmons was not the keyboardist. He was the other guitar player and in his own right, should be in the pantheon of the greatest guitar players because of his diversity in styles. Very few guitarists can on the one hand, pick it like a Chet Atkins or Jorma Kaukonen and then morph into a hard rocker with acute note playing and virtuosity. The album itself is certainly a testament to what the Doobies are about. A meaningful band whose lyrics and riffs become indelibly implanted into the mind. While many bands have a uni-theme of love lost and despair, the Doobies actually take you on a journey with their expansive lyrics that capture the imagination–the sleepy, dreamy subterranean states of consciousness–going places where the everyman has been or yearns to be. You cannot categorize these guys into any narrow group. It is the totality of their message and delivery that makes them so unique and to see how great they continue to be, when many other bands have packed it in, is to have a precious jewel that keeps on shining and radiating goodness, family, love and the appreciation for living a noble life.

    1. thank you for the excellent review… Captain and Me has been one of my top 3 records ever since first hearing it in 1973…IMHO it is The Doobie Brother’s “Sergeant Peppers”… a masterpiece of compositional styles, sophisticated production by Ted Templeman, and outstanding musicianship that continues to inspire almost 50 years later… Only the Doobies effortlessly combined funky music with folk, hard rock, country, gospel music, and blues without anyone ever telling them that it couldn’t be done…Capt’n & Me is a truly inspiring concept record with excellent songs and harmonies… to be enjoyed and studied for generations

  4. Who is the sixth man pictured with the coach on the album cover ? First cassette tape that I bought way back in ’74, one of my favourite albums.

    1. Can’t see the fuzzy picture very well , but if my memory serves me correctly, it’s their producer Bruce Cohn ( also owner of Bruce Cohn vineyard) . Producer of great music and pretty good wine too !!!

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