Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA
Easily one of the most distinctive voices of the 70s, Michael McDonalds soulful baritone can woo a crowd, evoke a tear (or two) and hustle up some serious rhythm and blues. For fans of the white-haired crooner its been seven long years since hes added to his diversified discography and over three years since he has performed before a Philadelphia crowd. It was with no surprise that he packed the house in Glenside and made good by delivering a richly textured and diversified package of old hits and new selections from his current release, Blue Obsession.
McDonalds ability to craft traditional pop, blues, and R&B started in the early 70s as a keyboard session man with Donald Fagan and Walter Becker (Steely Dan). His career took a swift climb after joining the Doobie Brothers in 1977 and hitting Grammy pay dirt with the groups eighth album, Minute By Minute. The string of hits that followed catapulted the Doobies into rock stratosphere. Suddenly in 1982, McDonald announced he was leaving to pursue a solo career. A year later "If Thats What It Takes" verified McDonald as a song writing master craftsman and launched his highly successful solo venture. Over the years hes worked with Quincy Jones (USA for Africa), Patti LaBelle, Kenny Loggins, Ambrosia, James Ingram, Christopher Cross, and many others. This very prolific era for McDonald is well represented in his live set with "Takin It To The Streets", "What A Fool Believes", "Minute by Minute", "You Belong To Me", "Real Love", "On My Own", "Sweet Freedom", "I Keep Forgetting", and "Ya Mo Be There".
The layers created in McDonalds show are intoxicating. They radiate a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies, time signatures, and a devotion to the music that influenced his life. Blue Obsession takes equal prominence as the keyboardist introduces the title cut, No More Love to Be Found and Build Upon it, all new compositions from an album long overdue.
Blue Obsession is the first disc released on Ramp Records, the California label co-founded by McDonald and singer/actor/artist Jeff Bridges, as well as producer/singer/songwriter/studio designer, Chris Pelonis. It is a pretty straight-up R&B record, quotes McDonald on his website. I like to think its not too different, except in recording technique, from the old Stax-Volt, Chess, and Motown Records.
The five-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, and keyboardist has defined his career by collaborations with other musicians. On this CD, McDonald seeks to showcase some new and shining talent by including Wendy Moten, Tommy Sims, Bernie Chiaravalle, Chris Pelonis, and a host of other musicians.
Joining McDonald on stage were Bernie Chiaravalle (g), Charles Frichtel (b), Marc Harris, his wife of twenty years Amy Holland McDonald (v), Vince Denham (sax), and Yvette Preyer (d), with whom he sang a duet on No Love to Be Found. McDonald closed the show with a rousing version of Neil Youngs Down By The River.
website: Michael McDonald