I did this with Steely Dan, so let’s continue this practice with the Doobie Brothers. One song from each album.
As you will see, I did not always go for the obvious hit singles. The Doobies have the reputation for some huge changes in style and membership through the 50 years of the band. Patrick Simmons is the only member there for every album. You can find a mixture of many types of music in their songs. They went from biker band to Grammy winning yacht rock supergroup. Now, they are back to their roots, playing their guitar-focused classic tunes.
The Doobie Brothers (1971) “Nobody” failed to ignite the sound. It’s a decent song, but doesn’t quite have the classic sound yet. The sound of the band hadn’t jelled yet, but you hear the potential. I like “Feelin’ Further Down.” It is not a classic, but nice easygoing song.
Toulouse Street (1972) It’s a tie. “Listen to the Music” or “Jesus is Just Alright.” This was a big advance over the debut album. These songs had swagger. The addition of Tiran Porter on bass was a great addition. Billy Payne (Little Feat) began his long collaboration with the band and helped solidify the core of their sound.
The Captain and Me (1973) What a huge step forward with this album. Give it to Tommy Johnston on his songwriting. It’s hard to pick one song but let’s go with “Long Train Runnin'” as my favorite. Billy Payne continued and was joined by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on a part-time basis.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974) Although this wasn’t the biggest hit from the album, “Another Park, Another Sunday” has always been one of my favorites. This album alternates between swampy-folk and hard rock.
Stampede (1975) “I Cheat the Hangman” is a wonderful song. “Take Me in Your Arms” is a rockin’ R&B song, another strong hit from the album. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter joined the band for this album. Overall, this album is very uneven, in part because of so many styles blended together. Not a bad album, but less inspired than earlier albums.
Takin’ It to the Street (1976) My favorite song is “For Someone Special” a soulful song, which doesn’t really fit the new groove. “Wheels of Fortune” is another very good song, nice jazz-rock arrangement. A huge seller and new sound for the band with Michael McDonald.
Livin’ On the Fault Line (1977) A bit backward. This is really a soft rock-mellow jazz addition to their collection. No big hits from the album, but several songs that got airplay. “Echoes of Love” is a fine song, but no classic.
Minute By Minute (1978) A huge seller and collected many awards. “Depending on You” is the most rocking in the style of the old band.
One Step Closer (1980) I never owned a copy of this album, which tells you what I thought of it. “Real Love” was the big hit, soulful certainly, but below average as a Doobies song.
Cycles (1989) The band reformed after a long break, it was the original early 1970s guitar band. Tommy Johnston returned to the fold. The band played it safe by bringing in writing partners. “The Doctor” was the single and the strongest flavor of the old Dobbies sound.
Brotherhood (1991) The final album of the original band. “Dangerous” is the most well-known of the songs, it is certainly high octane Doobie Brothers guitar.
Sibling Rivalry (2000) Keith Knudsen and John McFee rejoined. Lots of songwriters on this album, so it’s hard finding a definite style. “People Gotta yo Love Again” is probably the best track but there is no clear winner in this collection.
World Gone Crazy (2010) Two things to note, fewer songwriters, mostly Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons. Ted Templeman returns as the producer, and Nobody” is classic early Dobbies sound.
Southbound (2014) Mostly recordings of past Doobie Brothers hits with top country stars. Hard to pick a song far and away the best. “Listen to the Music” with Blake Shelton is as good as any.