The Doobie Brothers

Warner Brothers, 1975

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The Doobies' fifth album was their final one without Michael McDonald, and consequently their final one with their original boogie/country rock sound. It also was the last great album they would release, although as a whole it doesn't quite hit the heights of The Captain And Me.

About the only hit was "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)," a fine song buoyed by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's fine guitar solo and the female gospel-inflected backup vocals, which point the way toward the blue-eyed soul approach the group would soon take with McDonald. "Slat Key Soquel Rag" and "Precis" are brief but entertaining acoustic guitar solos, often an overlooked element of this band (they really could play). The high-energy "Neal's Fandango" proves this as well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much of the album treads the same ground as the previous effort, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, but it does so very well, from the innocent shuffle of "Rainy Day Crossroad Blues" to the bar band boogie "Double Dealin' Four Flusher," which sounds like a dry run for ZZ Top's early records. The first side of the disc is a little less successful; "Sweet Maxine" and "Texas Lullaby" say little that hasn't already been said, while "Music Man" doesn't quite work despite its pseudo-funk arrangement from Curtis Mayfield.

However, the one song that everybody needs to hear is "I Cheat The Hangman," an absolute stunner that has somehow been overlooked in the band's history. Patrick Simmons' finest hour, the song begins as a Western-sounding ballad with some ghostly guitar and multi-tracked voices, then slowly the strings and piano swell behind the wordless vocals (Maria Muldaur provides backup), giving way to a full-tilt rocker with horns to accentuate the climax before the fadeout. More than once, the song will give the listener goosebumps. 

Stampede stands as the final act of the original Doobie Brothers, and it's quite a record, returning partially to the low-key country rock of the debut and Toulouse Street while keeping an eye on the future. It's equally as good as Toulouse Street, despite only having one hit, and is a great place to begin (after The Captain And Me) when digging into the band's back catalog.

Rating: B

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