Gem of the Week: “You Never Change”-The Doobie Brothers

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Song: “You Never Change”

Artist: The Doobie Brothers

Album: Minute By Minute (1978)

Between the time of the Cali-birthed blues-rock band’s formation in 1970 and its hiatus 12 years later, The Doobie Brothers’ lineup experienced a lot of alterations–but all of which usually seemed for the better.

The early years of Tom Johnston’s vocal leadership and Patrick Simmons’ ripping guitar solos signified an almost stubborn preference for rusticity–cozy but repetitive sounds that clung to deep-country roots and didn’t latch on to much else. Like the works of CCR and Lynyrd Skynrd, hits like “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” made obvious the group’s self-limiting comfort in the area of twangy, electric flavor, while steering clear from pop, funk, or any other blossoming genres of the time. Still, vintage Doobie Brothers LPs rocked out; from Toulouse Street to The Captain And Me, all of the guys’ instrumental proficiency was on display. On top of that, reliably simple lyricism fueled their rural image with scenic, Dixieland imagery.

And what started out as grungier, strictly-Southern rock business slowly bloomed into soulful, keyboard-heavy pop–and only part-time rock–with the addition of Michael McDonald in 1975. It was like the band had gone to church and packed up all of its gospel sounds with them.

So considering McDonald’s blue-eyed soul magic and Doobie vet Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s touch-of-country acoustic preference, it’s impossible not to lump the group’s latter-days roster in with the rest of the 70s’ essentials.

The band’s 1978 Minute By Minute album not only marks McDonald’s third year of membership, but rocks with such sundry musical influences that it truly [and smoothly] checks all genre boxes, from blues and funk, to rock, country, and pop. From the title track to sweet-as-honey melodies like “What A Fool Believes” and “Open Your Eyes”, the compilation warrants few–if any–skips.

And on the B-side nestles the particularly mopey gem, “You Never Change”. The leering track, a lover’s diss crooned by an embittered McDonald, runs on clacking percussion, shakers, and minor, bleating keyboards; from the first verse, the Brothers make you feel the burn; “You’re still playing that time-worn melody, play it now for old time’s sake once more/ When you want me, you won’t be usin’ me, like you’ve done a thousand times before…”.

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