The Doobie Brothers 70s albums (ranked)

Certain band's fit nicely into a specific decade. The Doobie Brothers is such a band, whose most revered albums were released 1971-1978. In 2004, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and many believe they should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for their contributions to music.

Most agree on the decline began in the 80s. One Step Closer (1980) is a bland album which I barely remember. Michael McDonald decided to pursue a solo career in 1982 (which I haven't listened to so can't comment on). The Doobies didn't make another LP until 1989.

This post is about the 1970s, which is generally considered the heyday of The Doobie Brothers. Similar to what happened with Genesis, the Doobie Brothers went from rock to pop. That's oversimplifying their music though, which I will elaborate on in the mini-reviews below.

Michael McDonald’s vocal (from 1976-1980) is more distinctive than Tom Johnston's, who was forced to take a break from singing in the mid 70s due to heal issues.
The McDonald era is pleasant, but some argue is a bit tasteless, with the occasional catchy radio hit standing out. There are fans of both eras, I prefer the earlier rockier stuff.

The Doobie Brothers by The Doobie Brothers (1971)
Yacht Rock / Country Rock. A harmless debut from their pre-Michael McDonald days. Passable entertainment. Not much variety, but a few good tracks such as Nobody, Travelin' Man, and my personal favorite Greenwood Creek.

Toulouse Street by The Doobie Brothers (1972)
More ambitious than their 1971 debut. There's quite a nice variation throughout the album with genre detours, and faster and slower tracks. The two openers Listen to the Music and Rockin' Down the Highway get a lot of love, but I find them too similar back-to-back.
Of the two, Rockin' Down the Highway I prefer, which is suitable for a road trip compilation.
Mamaloi goes in a surprising reggae-styled direction. The title track Toulouse Street is vocally Cat Stevens-esque, which I like for the horn midway. Don't Start Me to Talkin' is very bluesy. Jesus Is Just Alright is the album highlight, with its catchy foot-tapping melody and sing-along lyrics. Also enjoyed Disciple, a long-ish jam with an infectious riff.

The Captain and Me (1973) by The Doobie Brothers 
Considered their best album. You can’t fault the musicianship, nothing is out of place and the players work very well together. Long Train Runnin' and China Grove are two Doobie Brothers classics which still get radio play. The album has plenty of replay potential and is more cohesive in its rock sound than the experimental Toulouse Street (1972).

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974) by The Doobie Brothers
Not instantly accessible and less commercial than The Captain and Me (1973). Black Water has the catchiest chorus, while Road Angel is strong for the guitar work. Some of these songs, such as Eyes of Silver, want to be hits, but don't quite get there.
The quality dips a bit in the middle with the trio of songs, You Just Can't Stop It , Tell Me What You Want, and Down in the Track.
Another Park Another Sunday and Daughters of the Sea are a step up. As with other Doobie Brothers albums, the lyrics are probably the least interesting aspect. Not a perfect record, but more potent than the albums that would follow.

Stampede (1975) by The Doobie Brothers
Goes in a country-rock direction. Their weakest so far. The somber outlaw ballad I Cheat the Hangman is quite haunting, but most tracks are unremarkable. There's a burst of energy towards the end with I Been Workin' on You.

Takin' It to the Streets (1976) by The Doobie Brothers
A transitional album, with Michael McDonald stepping in as vocalist. Would mark the beginning of their pop direction. The singles Takin' It to the Streets, It Keeps You Runnin' and especially Wheels of Fortune are the highlights. The non-singles disappoint and are forgettable.

Livin' on the Fault Line (1977) by The Doobie Brothers
Surprisingly, the opening three tracks are the worst. Gets better, and probably my favorite of the Michael McDonald albums. The enigmatic sleeve has a hint of mystery.
Best songs: You Belong to Me, Livin' on the Fault Line (an adventurous jam), Chinatown

Minute by Minute (1978) by The Doobie Brothers
What a Fool Believes is catchy and the Doobies biggest hit. The album won four Grammy's.
Best songs: What a Fool Believes, Dependin' on You

The Captain and Me (1973)  8.5/10
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974)   8/10
Toulouse Street (1972)  8/10
Livin' on the Fault Line (1977)  7/10
The Doobie Brothers (1971)  6/10
Minute by Minute (1978)   6/10
Takin' It to the Streets (1976)  5/10
Stampede (1975)  4/10

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


  1. My wife hates Michael McDonald. Hates him. This causes a real problem when I want to listen to Steely Dan, because McDonald did a lot of vocal work with the Dan.

    I am of the opinion that Michael McDonald should eventually sing every song ever written. I desperately want to hear him sing Papa Don't Preach and In a Gadda da Vida.

    1. @SJHoneywell: Ha, I guess you should limit your listens to times when the wife is not around. His vocal is unique, but not for everyone. There’s a fun scene on YouTube w/ Paul Rudd losing it over Yah Mo B There ( Maybe you can convince Michael McDonald to do those covers.

  2. The Doobie Brothers are a great band that should be in the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. I can't believe they're still not in it.

    1. @thevoid99: Yep, should be in Hall of Fame. I read an article which made a strong case:

  3. Maybe it's because I had a rural as opposed to a city upbringing but country-rock was very popular where I came from and all the local bands who played cover versions for us tended to veer towards Eagles and Doobie Brothers songs - Fond memories of them for that nostalgic reason. Good work on the above reviews as ever.

    1. @Alyson: From your comment, it sounds like The Doobie Brothers had an audience in the UK as well as the US. I imagined they were mainly successful in the states, but I guess there was a worldwide audience. Thanks for reading.

  4. Not a band I'm overly familiar with beyond the obvious hits, but I'm tempted by some of those earlier albums...

    1. @Rol: The run of albums 1972, 1973 and 1974 are the ones I’d recommend which include some outstanding tracks you may not be familiar.

  5. Very nice. My mom had a couple of DB albums back in the day. I used to listen to Minute by Minute often. Really liked back then, but haven't heard it in probably 25-30 years.

    1. @Wendell: The song Minute by Minute I could/should have added, it’s an album that’s on list of 100 most commercially successful of the 70s, so makes sense you have memories of it. The DB’s 1974 record is also on that list:


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