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The Doobie Brothers

Warner 2835
Released: May 1975
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 5/28/95

'Skunk' BaxterStampede, the Doobie Brothers' fifth album, finds the San Jose guitar band continuing to develop their style. One cut, a remake of Kim Weston's Holland-Dozier-Holland hit "Take Me in Your Arms," accomplishes the unprecedented feat of making a Bay Area rock band sound soulful. Even better, the song, despite Tom Johnston's Marvin Gaye-ish vocal and all the Motown trimmings (baritone sax on the bottom, darting strings on the top), ends up sounding like no one so much as the Doobie Brothers.

The Doobie Brothers - Stampede
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Other standout cuts include "Music Man," arranged by Curtis Mayfield, and "Sweet Maxine," a more calculated variant on the Doobie style. By drawing upon artists like Mayfield and Holland-Dozier-Holland, as well as by adding guitarist Jeff Baxter (ex-Steely Dan) to their lineup, the Doobies have beefed up their attack and given it a sharper edge; in so doing, they have broadened their style, which becomes increasingly distinctive with each album.

But a style does not a vision make -- or at least not a challenging vision. Lyrically, this band still seems plagued by the spirit of groovy vibrations that made "Listen to the Music" an endurance test for case-hardened cynics. "Neal's Fandango" bumbles along to couplets like "On the hills above Santa Cruz/In the place where I spent my youth," which doesn't even rhyme, much less scintillate.

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 7-3-75.

Bonus Reviews!

Not much doubt that this is headed for the top of the charts, for the Doobies have developed into one of our true supergroups. The sound they produce is a good-time feel which might be termed the California Music of the '70s, much like the Beach Boys' distinctive sound of the '60s. Not that the Doobies deal with any specific West Coast phenomena, but it's a unique sound that seems appropriate to California. Here we get a variety, from "China Grove" type rock, with flowing guitars and harmonies, to more simplistic rock/soul, to covers of Motown hits, to production ballads. Use of horns, strings and backup voices does not interfere with the basic group sound. There's even a good, country blues cut in the vein of "Black Water." Musically, the LP works better than anything the six have come up with in the past. Commercially, it comes at the high point in their career. Best cuts: "Sweet Maxine," "Texas Lullaby," "Take Me In Your Arms," "I Cheat The Hangman," "Rainy Day Crossroad Blues."

- Billboard, 1975.

With the addition of ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, the Doobie Brothers became a more musically ambitious and accomplished band, without sacrificing their capability to rock & roll. However, Stampede suffers from the same flaw as What Were Once Vices -- a lack of consistent material. * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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