A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.
For soulful pop it doesn’t get much better than a Hot Stamper pressing of Michael McDonald’s first album. The bottom end has real weight, the top is extended and sweet, the vocals are breathy and present, and the energy is off the charts. Just listen to how rich and full-bodied the midrange is!
With the right pressing the highs open up and his vocals JUMP out of the speakers. He’s RIGHT THERE.
The next step is to check to see if you have punchy, well-defined bass, a key element in this rhythmically complex music. With plenty of presence in the vocals and punch down below, you have a copy that can hold its head high, with sound that really brings this music to life.
Let us not forget that this is also one of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records. His work here is pure genius. Play this album next to Katy Lied: I think you will find the comparison instructive. If That’s What It Takes and Katy Lied are the pinnacle of achievement for Jeff on the drums.
A True Desert Island Disc
I’m proud to count Michael McDonald among my favorite recording artists. He made this Desert Island Disc and single-handedly turned the Doobie Brothers into a band I could enjoy and even respect. This is a Must Own if you like the later Doobies and the kind of highly-polished but heartfelt and intelligent pop records they excelled at in the ’70s.
One of the top guys at Warners and Reprise, LEE HERSCHBERG engineered this album as well as a great many others. You’ll find Herschberg’s name in the credits of many of the best Frank Sinatra, Ry Cooder, Doobie Brothers and Gordon Lightfoot albums, titles we know to have excellent sound on the best copies — not to mention an album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. His pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night even.
The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is on the list as well: The Three (Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Joe Sample), along with most of the other Direct to Disc recordings released on Eastwind.
Playin’ By The Rules
I Keep Forgettin’
I Gotta Try
I Can Let Go Now
If That’s What It Takes
No Such Luck
Believe In It
AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review
As the lead singer of the Doobie Brothers from 1975-1980, Michael McDonald’s soulful voice and skilled writing gave the group classics like “Minute by Minute,” “Real Love,” and the perfect “What a Fool Believes.” … 1982’s If That’s What It Takes is McDonald’s first solo effort, and was recorded at the great recording studios like Warner Bros. and Sunset Sound and was co-produced by Ted Templeman and Lenny Waronker.
… The album’s biggest hit, the moody and sleek “I Keep Forgettin’,” continues McDonald’s unflinching look at heartbreak, and it is more R&B-influenced than the previous Doobie Brothers work. The buoyant “I Gotta Try,” co-written by Kenny Loggins, perfectly captures the early-’80s L.A. pop sound. While McDonald’s pop acumen is no surprise, If That’s What It Takes also offers McDonald the chance to do ballads. The poignant and spare “I Can Let Go Now” has some of his best lyrics. “Losin End,” which first appeared on 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets, gets recast as an even bleaker rumination with a suitably sorrowful solo from Tom Scott. The melodically complex “Believe in It” has McDonald doing some great, offhanded gospel-tinged vocals. This debut juggles tracks of merit and those of less distinction, but the bright spots make this essential.