Rhinofy-Michael McDonald

Note: I neglected to include my Dukes Of September Spotify playlist with the last missive, you have to click through, you have to hear Boz’s version of "Love T.K.O."

"Sweet Freedom"

Did you see that Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines flick? You know, the one from ’86, entitled "Running Scared", from when we still believed movies could change the course of culture but didn’t mind mindless diversions like this, before it became all about the mindless diversions?

I miss Gregory Hines. I used to see him on "Ed Sullivan" with his brother and dad, long before he became an actor. As for Billy Crystal… His peak was "City Slickers", even more than "When Harry Met Sally", even though the latter is a better flick. This was in that period between being a standup and becoming a national treasure the oldsters embrace but the little kids disdain.

And I could recite the entire plot, but let me just say Billy and Gregory are Chicago cops and they’re sent to Key West… Don’t ask.

And when they’re down there, there’s a time-honored montage, of the good life, that will make you want to stop reading this and immediately fly to Florida. That’s what movies do so well, make us want to live another, better life.

And the music playing during this extended sequence is… Michael McDonald’s "Sweet Freedom".

And this was totally unexpected. In the theatre was the first time I heard this. There was no Internet, no plethora of information. And I became enraptured. I’m still enraptured. And you cannot listen to this on Spotify, but you can listen to a zillion covers. That’s what you don’t realize, if you’re not on Spotify, your imitators are. So you might as well be.

All the little extras will entrance you. Even before Michael starts to sing, you’re hooked…

No more runnin’ down the wrong road
Dancin’ to a different drum

Yes, listening to this track you’re on the right road, you’re free and easy.

Cowritten by Rod Temperton, "Sweet Freedom" sounds like it’s straight off of "Thriller", heavily produced and just right. Listen.

"I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)"

It may be hard to believe, but once upon a time, Michael McDonald was one of the biggest stars in the business. It was his turn in the Doobie Brothers, more specifically "Minute By Minute", his work on the multiple hits from that album. But my favorite McDonald cut is from the uneven follow-up, "One Step Closer", "Real Love". From the crunchy keyboard intro that sounds like munching cereal to the second keyboard to the changes to McDonald’s vocals to the lyrics, "Real Love" is a forgotten masterpiece. And that’s what we’re all searching for, just one minute of real love.

"I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)" was the follow-up to "Real Love", it was the first single off of "If That’s What It Takes". And it delivered. Even if the album didn’t completely…

I keep forgettin’ we’re not in love anymore

I’d just broken up with my live-in girlfriend. We got together numerous times after we stopped living together, had conversation, had sex, but I knew it was not forever, even though so much of it was so right. This record came out after we’d pretty much permanently disconnected, even though we did hook up again and try a couple of times thereafter, and by this point most of the pain was gone, but memories don’t fade that fast, you wonder…what have I lost, have I missed out, should I go back?

Meanwhile, this song was cowritten by Ed Sanford, who had a hit in the midseventies with his partner Johnny Townsend entitled "Smoke From A Distant Fire". And ultimately Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were given credit too, because of the similarity to their hit "I Keep Forgettin’", which I’m gonna include in this playlist. You’ll hear the similarity, but many have skated on less resemblance. And however parallel the songs might be, only one had the vocal of Michael McDonald…which makes this track unique.

"I Gotta Try"

This is the other killer cut on "If That’s What It Takes".

Maybe it’s true what they say about it
Maybe we can’t make the ends meet
Maybe we’ll all have to do without it
Maybe this world’s just incomplete

Life is about fighting the conventional wisdom, doing what they say can’t be done. And this song is an inspiration, it goes through my brain decades later, it makes me believe I can do what can’t be done, that I can make it.

Some see the road as clear
Some say the end is here
They say it’s a hopeless fight
But I say I gotta try
Oh, I gotta try baby

Ain’t that the way it is.

Meanwhile, there are so many good verses and changes here. And don’t miss the backup vocals of Kenny Loggins, who cowrote it and included his take on his own album "High Adventure", kind of like Cary Simon put her take of her cowritten with McDonald song "You Belong To Me", which appeared first on the Doobies’ "Livin’ On The Fault Line", on her album "Boys In The Trees".

Unfortunately, Kenny saps it up, Jim Messina always kept this side of him in check. Still, you can’t deny the magic of a great song. And this is one.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

McDonald put out a stiff second solo album, had a hit duet with James Ingram on "Yah Mo B There", and then faded away. This one-time backup singer for Steely Dan seemed to function best as a member of a troupe, put him out front and he just can’t seem to shoulder the responsibility. But as part of an ensemble, he kills, as he is doing right now with the Dukes Of September. And at his nadir, about a decade ago, he reinvented himself as a Motown soul singer, and did it quite well, listen to this as evidence. You’ll love listening to his Motown albums, but I’d be lying if I said they were necessary.

"I’ll Wait"

To say "1984" was a smash would be to underestimate it, to understate the facts. It was a Van Halen victory lap that was unforeseen that lasted for longer than the year that titled the album. And sure, "Jump" was the single that wouldn’t die, but "Hot For Teacher" was nearly as big, because of the MTV video if nothing else. And "Panama" was huge. But my second favorite cut on the album, the one no one ever talks about, but is so damn right, is "I’ll Wait".

It was cowritten by Michael McDonald… How do you like that!!

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