Our Michael McDonald Albums Ranked article takes a look at the solo albums released by one of the greatest blue eyed soul singers in classic rock history. With one of the most distinctive voices in rock and roll, Michael McDonald first made a name for himself singing backup in Steely Dan. However, it was when he joined the Doobie Brothers that he became a household name. While some may not have liked his contributions to the Doobie Brothers because he changed their sound a bit, there’s no arguing the massive commercial success that he helped the Doobie Brothers achieve. And of course they were millions who became Doobie Brothers fans for the first time because of Michael McDonald’s incredible vocals.
This article will look at the albums that Michael McDonald released as a solo artist and not include any of his Doobie Brothers material. We think you will really enjoy this list as there are so many great Michael McDonald albums to take a look at.
# 9 – Motown
We open up our Michael McDonald albums list with the first of the two Motown albums that he released in the 2000s. These Michael McDonald Motown albums would become some of the most successful albums of his solo career. The first Motown album was released on June 24, 2003. It is the only Michael McDonald solo album to sell at least a million copies and be certified platinum. On this Michael McDonald Motown album the blue-eyed soul singer did not go for the rarities. He recorded all the big-time Motown hits by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and The Supremes and The Temptations. All the big ones were here and it seems that’s what the people enjoyed.
# 8 – Motown Two
With the success of Michael McDonald’s first Motown album his record company didn’t wait too long to release the second volume. Michael McDonald Motown Two was released a year after the first Motown album. It actually charted higher than the first one. It broke into the Billboard Top 200 albums top 10. The album went gold it. This one was heavy on Four Tops covers but also included some more of the legendary standards of Motown. If you love Motown and Michael McDonald then these two albums were for you. We enjoyed them, but as crazy as this may sound, they were almost too perfect.
# 7 – Soul Speak
Soul Speak was Michael McDonald’s fourth straight album of cover songs including the first two Motown albums and a Christmas record. Michael McDonald continued to cover some of the all-time classic songs in American popular music of the previous 30 years. Guest appearances on the album included Stevie Wonder playing harmonica on Michael McDonald’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s song “For Once In My Life.” Michael McDonald also covers Stevie Wonder’s classic “Living for the City.” There were so many great cover songs on this record. Some of our favorites included Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”
# 6 – Blink Of An Eye
Michael McDonald’s Blink Of An Eye album was released in 1993 at the height of the grunge music and boy bands which didn’t help the album sell well. Nonetheless this is one of his biggest star-studded album releases. So many brilliant and talented musicians appeared on this album. A heavy rock and roll presence is felt on the record with members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench contributing to some great tracks. Michael McDonald didn’t mess around with backing vocalists either as he brought along the legendary voices of Vince Gill and Alison Krauss to sing backing vocals. Four singles were released from the album with only the first one “I Stand For You,” breaking onto the Billboard charts. The album also contained a great version of Carole King’s “Hey Girl.”
# 5 – Blue Obsession
Michael McDonald Blue Obsession album would be the last album of original material to singer would release in close to 20 years. The album was released in 2000. Michael McDonald collaborated with money songwriters on all the original songs on the album. The Undefeated great rhythm and blues feel that was produced by Tommy Sims. The album failed to break on to any of their music charts and they were no singles released from the record. That’s not helpful in promoting an album. However, this was a quality record produced, written and expertly performed by some of the best in the business including the brilliant Michael McDonald. The albums limited commercial success seemed to cause Michael McDonald change to change gears and begin releasing cover albums with which he would find great success with.
# 4 – Wide Open
In 2017, Michael McDonald celebrated the release of his 10th solo studio album entitled Wide Open. This is one that for various reasons kind of fell under the radar. And that’s sad because this is a great record. What is even more extraordinary about this album is that Wide Open would become the first Michael McDonald solo album that featured new material in over 17 years. It has been a while since Michael McDonald had released any new solo material because he had found such great success with the Motown album series and other cover albums. Like many previous Michael McDonald albums, the Wide Open album featured some wonderful guest appearances are some great music legends such as Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule and the Jazz legend Branford Marsalis.
# 3 – If That’s What It Takes
At the number three spot on our Michael McDonald albums list we present the great Michael McDonald album If That’s What It Takes. This was Michael McDonald’s debut solo album. It stands as his biggest selling and highest charting album of original material. Only his first Motown album sold more copies. The success of Michael McDonald’s first solo album was ignited by the album’s first single “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near).” The song hit number four on the Billboard Top 100 becoming the highest charting single if his solo career and in many ways his signature song. It’s very similar to many of the hits he had with the Doobie Brothers. In fact, we would guess that many people probably thought it was a Doobie Brothers song.
There were so many great recordings on this album. One needs to hear the track “That’s Why,: which featured on backing vocals Christopher Cross, Brenda Russell, Kathy Walker and Amy Holland. There were more musical legends on the album including the great Tom Scott on saxophone as well as Edgar Winter also contributing some sax. Two killer guitar players Steve Luthaker and Robben Ford also played on the record as well as two of the best drummers in the business in Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro. This was the type of personal one could usually find on a Steely Dan album including Michael McDonald himself.
# 2 – Take It to Heart
As we close in on the number one spot on our Michael McDonald albums list we take a look at the great Michael McDonald album Take It To Heart. The album was released on May 15 1990. The album did not chart that high as it peaked at number 110 on the Billboard Top 200. Three singles were released with only the first single “Take It To Heart,” making the charts at number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100. However the song did reach all the way up to number four on the US Adult Contemporary Charts. Despite it’s lack of singles. the album is overall simply fantastic. Eleven great tracks of brilliant musicianship, well written songs, and amazing vocals. Its also one of the best sounding CDs we have ever heard. This one got a lot of spins in our CD player when it was first released.
# 1 – No Lookin’ Back
At number one on our Michael McDonald Albums list is the great Michael McDonald album entitled No Lookin’ Back. The album was released on Warner Brothers Records. It was actually his final album for the label. The No Lookin’ Back album hit the stores during the summer of 1985. The album featured many of Michael McDonald’s friends performing and co-writing with him on his spectacular second solo album. This included Joe Walsh who played some fine side guitar on the track “Bad Times,” which is one of the highlights of the album. “Bad Times,” was also released as the second single from the record. It broke the top 40 section of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks. The album’s first single and also title track was a song called “No Lookin’ Back,” which was written by Michael McDonald, and the legendary Kenny Loggins along with Ed Sanford. The song featured the great Jeff Porcaro on drums along with David Pack of Ambrosia fame on guitar. Willie Weeks of The Doobie Brothers played bass and Michael McDonald played keys and of course sang lead vocals. This was a rocking song filled with soul and grooves that had become a staple of Michael McDonald’s work. The song broke the Billboard Top 40 peaking at number 34.
There were so many more great songs on the record besides the first two singles. “Our Love,” was a teary eyed ballad made even more emotional with Michael McDonald’s passionate delivery. Other standout tracks included side two’s opener “Any Foolish Thing,” along with the great Michael McDonald, Chuck Sabatino track “(I’ll Be Your)Angel.” Michael McDonald’s second album did not chart as well as his solo debut album that hit number six on the Billboard Top 200. Still, the album reached up to number 45 which would become his second highest charting album of all original material in his career. In the end charts don’t matter a thing to us because this is our favorite Michael McDonald album.
Michael McDonald Albums Ranked published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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