The Doobie Brothers- Toulouse Street (1972): 27 January 2020

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! I’ve been excited to cover another Doobie Brothers album since I covered the one last year. When they announced that their North American tour will stop near me this year, I immediately put on their greatest hits album and decided two things: First, I need to see the Doobie Brothers this summer at all costs, especially now that they’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 2020!) and secondly, I need to review another Doobie Brothers album! This week we’re taking a listen to the band’s second studio album, Toulouse Street. Toulouse Street was the album that completed the original Doobies lineup with the addition of their second drummer, Michael Hossack. After this, the band would go on to keep two drummers in the rhythm section and complete their signature sound with two drummers, three guitarists, keyboard, and kicking vocal harmonies!

Although it’s technically a folk rock album, Toulouse Street includes influences from southern rock, blues rock, and swamp rock. This would normally create a muddied and non-cohesive sound across the record, but by including multiple songs with pieces of each style, they tie the album together neatly. There are a few instances of songs referencing the styles of earlier songs on the album that help create a consistent theme across the album. Toulouse Street has a little bit of everything; softer rock songs, hard rockers that would be at home on a Led Zeppelin album, Caribbean influences, and the best harmonies in classic rock. I hope you enjoy this entry from these soon-to-be Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Listen to the Music: 10/10. Period. There’s really nothing I love more in a song than a soft rock sound with great vocal harmonies that makes you keep coming back for more. It’s not a complex song, but I would rate it higher amongst my all-time favorites than a lot of the prog rock songs that dare to be bold and make statements on society and music itself. This song just wants you to sit back and listen to the music, and the simplicity and earnestness shines through giving me goosebumps every time it comes on. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Rockin’ Down the Highway: If the harmonies on “Listen to the Music” are good then they’re seemingly better on “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” The Doobies were known for their harmony and it’s really tight and very difficult to get right. This is another one of the band’s big hits and it deserves all of the airplay that it gets. It’s classic California Rock and I love it. Add this one to the road trip playlist and rock on down the highway. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Mamaloi: This was my first time listening to “Mamaloi” and I was surprised that they decided to put a reggae, almost Swamp Rock fusion track on the album. It definitely has roots in the Caribbean but could easily be found in New Orleans and plays into the theme of Toulouse Street well. This is an interesting song that’s worth checking out just to hear a good way to combine to genres that don’t see a lot of crossover. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Toulouse Street: It’s really a shame that the title track is pretty boring. “Toulouse Street” would be forgettable if it weren’t also the name of the album. I think this one’s worth skipping. You won’t miss anything. Dad’s Rating 4/10

Cotton Mouth: “Cotton Mouth” is one of the few hidden gems on Toulouse Street for me. It doesn’t get much attention and I don’t think it ends up in many live sets, but it has a really cool funk groove that is notably absent from other songs on the record. It hints at what musical direction the band might move towards over the next few albums and as will incorporated. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Don’t Start Me to Talkin’: “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’” is a solid southern rocker that holds its own against songs from acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, despite the fact that the band was more focused on creating a soft rock sound. This is largely due in part to the fact that the Doobie’s brand of rock was still heavily blues-inspired, much like traditional southern rock acts. This is a good song that doesn’t get a whole lot of love. Give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Jesus Is Just Alright with Me: In a contemporary context people often mistake the meaning behind the lyrics on “Jesus Is Just Alright,” but if you go back to the early 1970s, this song would have had a completely different meaning. This made use of the phrase “all right” to say that something is cool and was a popular song with counterculture Christians. Musically, this is one of my favorite songs by the Doobies. The contrast between the harder rock start of the song, the calmer bridge, and the hard rock finish is exceptionally well done and the instrumentation across the song is some of the best on the record. I would take the time to point out something that I don’t always highlight, “Jesus Is Just Alright” has great balance, and that’s what makes it such a great song for me. It’s incredibly multi-dimensional and shines in many different ways with every part of the band contributing to make a huge sound.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

White Sun: “White Sun” is a nice, peaceful song sandwiched between two major rockers. The vocal harmonies are beautiful and well-crafted and play nicely off of the soft acoustic guitar. I had never listened to this track before this album review, but I can say with confidence that, despite its softer sound, it will stay in my Doobie Brothers rotation. It’s worth a listen just to hear a different side of the band, especially considering the band normally combines their hallmark harmonies with faster tempo songs. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Disciple: My second hidden gem song from the album, “Disciple.” This straight rock track strays pretty significantly from the softer folk rock sound that dominates the album. “Disciple” features really lyrical guitar solos and the dual drumming style that the band came to be recognized for plays out really well with a standard driving drum kit and conga drums that harken you back to songs like “Mamaloi.” The song doesn’t abandon what the Doobies do best and keeps some vocal harmonies and some softer sections to tie the song back to the rest of the album. A lot of elements come together cleanly on this track, both older and newer. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Snake Man: “Snake Man” is an interesting way to the end the album. It betrays the folk rock sound that defines most of the album for a more southern rock inspired sound like “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’.” It’s also the shortest song on the record, but it packs a lot into a two-minute long song. The acoustic guitar work is hypnotizingly interesting and incorporates a neat, very precise picking technique. This is a nice way to close out the album and show just another example of the Doobie’s ability to blend multiple genres into a cohesive album. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

The Doobie Brothers- Takin’ It To The Streets (1976): 29 April 2019

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets (1976)

This week on YDCS we’re covering a California rock act out of San Jose, The Doobie Brothers, and their sixth studio album Takin’ It To The Streets. The band had garnered success and accolades prior to this with their third release The Captain and Me, and arguably with their second album Toulouse Street, but Takin’ It To The Streets may contain some of the band’s best known work. This was the first album to replace the original lead singer, Tom Johnston, with Michael McDonald, formerly of Steely Dan, on the recommendation of his old band-mate, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Adding McDonald to the band created a shift in the sound, where the old Doobie sound was characterized by a more folk-rock sound, the band began experimenting more with blues and jazz sounds on this album.

Takin’ It To The Streets has some of my favorite material by the Doobie Brothers on it, notably “Wheels of Fortune” and “8th Avenue Shuffle.” The album hits plenty of high notes but also falls flat in some places, I believe due to an over-reliance on the synthesizer to carry the song, particularly on “It Keeps You Runnin’.” Regardless, I think that there’s a lot to like about this album, and it is interesting to listen to this and compare it to earlier works of theirs, like The Captain and Me, to see how the sound changed with two former Steely Dan members. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Wheels of Fortune: “Wheels of Fortune” is one of my favorite songs across all genres and it’s hard to place a finger on what I like about it, but I think it’s a combination of factors. The band is really tight on this bluesy track, the vocal harmonies add depth to the song, and the whole band, from keyboard to lead guitar, is involved in the funky interlude in the middle of the song. I can’t do the song enough justice trying to describe it, but give it a listen and see if it deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” for yourself! Dad’s Rating 10/10

Takin’ It To The Streets: The title track of the album and a massive hit for the band, there’s a lot to like about “Takin’ It To The Streets.” The funky/jazzy sound from “Wheels of Fortune” and will be heard on the rest of the album is evident on this track, but perhaps less so until the solo as this song is more up-tempo than the former. Speaking of, I would like to submit that the saxophone solo in the middle may be a nod to Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Michael McDonald’s stints with Steely Dan who featured a horn section on all but a few of their songs. Even if it’s not, it’s an awesome sax solo! “Takin’ It To The Streets” is such an easy song to listen to, and can you really skip the lead single?! I promise, you won’t want to! Dad’s Rating 9/10

8th Avenue Shuffle: The third track on the album starts with a decidedly lighter sound than the heavy, bluesy sound on the first two songs; however, it does retain that same funky feeling. “8th Avenue Shuffle” may surprise you with a solid rock guitar solo before giving way to a jazz solo. Tiran Porter’s performance on bass here might be one of the most appealing and overlooked parts of the album, and it’s a class act! McDonald’s vocals really shine here, and this might be one of his top performances on the record too. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Losin’ End: The Doobies were clearly invested in seeing what they could get out of the Hammond Organ and their synthesizers on “Losin’ End,” and this is by far the most synth-forward song on the track. The string solo over the bridge is absolutely beautiful and definitely a nod to Steely Dan because there weren’t many instances where the Doobies were using string prior to introduction of Baxter and McDonald. As far as Doobie Brothers songs go, this is a good one but it can drone on sometimes with the steady guitar riff in the background. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Rio: First, “Rio” opens with a great little drum beat, and there’s really not enough songs that do that. More bands should consider opening slowly like that then building into the full band like the Doobies do here. This is an awesome bluesy track that 100% fits the genre of “yacht rock” in my mind. Imagine sitting on a boat on the river, you could throw this song on and it wouldn’t be out of place. At times, “Rio” has a great Caribbean feeling to it and at other times it leans more heavily into its jazz/blues roots to create a dynamic song. Dad’s Rating 7/10

For Someone Special: “For Someone Special” is the slowed down and stripped back song for the album, and it really doesn’t impress me that much. It’s got a soft blues rock feeling to it, and it’s certainly not a bad song, but it’s just par for the course. There’s nothing that really makes this song stand out against the other songs on this album or against other soft rock tracks from the 1970s. Dad’s Rating 5/10

It Keeps You Runnin’: This is one of the Doobies’ more popular tracks and I’m going to go against the grain and say that it’s just okay. Look at this next to a song like “Black Water” or even “Wheels of Fortune” from earlier and you’ll see that it’s just missing that oomph that makes a great song. Now having said that, the vocal harmonies are still super tight and choosing to go synth-heavy on this track was a bold decision. I certainly won’t turn this song off if it comes on, but it’s not my favorite song by the Doobies. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Turn It Loose: “Turn It Loose,” on the other hand, is a great track! When I hear the Doobie Brothers, this is the kind of sound that I imagine. Awesome vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, and appropriate punctuation from each instrument as necessary. This is one of the best characterizations of the band’s sound, and while it might not have been their most well-known song, it’s a fun song that’s easy to listen to. Turn it up and turn it loose! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Carry Me Away: At first I thought the final song of the album was going to be a stinker just from the way it started, but I was pleasantly surprised with a great jazz guitar solo in the middle and tight vocal harmonies through the choruses. My expectation was to find a boring, repetitive track, but it’s actually full of some great musicianship that is particularly evident in that guitar solo and the horn solo at the end. Hold on ‘til the end and let the music carry you away. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.