Much like fellow blue-eyed soulsters Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald has only recently started to get his propers. The episode of What’s Happening?! featuring McD and his fellow Doobies is regarded as a cult classic, fellow karaoke-ers have discovered what a freaking difficult song “What a Fool Believes” is to sing, he got a spot on the “South Park” soundtrack some years ago (proving that he has a sense of humor), Justin Timberlake gave him a shout during his recent spot on SNL’s “Weekend Update”, and over half a century after jumping off the Doobie Express and onto the Solo Train (not to be confused with the Soul Train…I’m not sure if he ever made it there), you’ve gotta admit that almost all of McDonald’s work is fantastically sung, and he had at least a five-year run of good material.
Even if you don’t count the 66,000 pop songs that he sang backup on during the Eighties, there’s still “Yah Mo B There” and “Real Love”, “Sweet Freedom” and “On My Own” (both from the McD-heavy summer of ’86). There’s also lesser-known gems like “I Can Let Go Now” and “I’ll Be Your Angel”. Of course, there’s also “I Keep Forgettin”, the song that kicked off his solo career back at the end of ’82. This sorrowful ballad (which charted Top 10 pop and R&B) is sung so passionately that you can’t help but feel for poor deluded Michael by song’s end. Some folks listening may find it to be soft-rock pablum, I consider it one of the decade’s best heartbreak songs from an underrated album-“If That’s What it Takes” was essentially the American answer to Phil Collins’ similarly underrated solo debut “Face Value”.
This song alone makes me forgive all of those crappy Motown covers compilations. It also makes me forgive the God-awful video. C’mon Mike, you know like I know that there ain’t one note of acoustic piano anywhere in that damn song.
Now would you expect so much soul from a guy who looks like he would win a “bear” competition at your local gay bar?