The Doobie Brothers early career, with Tom Johnston in the lead vocal spot, yielded the majority of their hits. Their second release, Toulouse Street , launched the band into the spotlight with the hit Listen to the Music. Also on this album were Rockin’ Down the Highway, and a pretty little song that was not a hit, but one of my favorites, White Sun.
Following Tolouse Street was The Captain and Me , probably their biggest commercial success outside of the Best Of album. The Captain & Me is one of those 70’s albums that is totally solid, from the first track to the last, a classic in every sense of the word.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits followed, continuing the great string started by it’s two predecessors. One of my personal favorites on this album is “Down In The Track”. What a rocker, in the classic Doobie style.
Stampede rounds out the list of the early Tom Johnston albums. This album is maybe not quite as solid as the three listed above, but is still one of the classics. Of note on this album is “I Cheat The Hangman”, which is a bit of a departure from standard Doobies fare, but a great song, and for those of us fortunate to see this song done live, is sure to bring back memories of a progressively rapid-turning mirror ball. Definitely a head-trip.
Tom Johnston was forced to leave the band due to ill health and was replaced in 1976 by lead singer and song-writer Michael McDonald. McDonald took the band musically in a very different direction, which attracted some new fans but lost many others. The band had some commercial successes, though, with Minute by Minute topping the charts in 1978.
The original members, including Tom Johnston, reunited in 1993.
My biggest regret about the Doobies early work is that they did not release a live album. However, this was rectified when Tom got back together with the Doobies in the 90’s and released “Rockin’ Down the Highway, The Wildlife Concert”. This is a two CD set that is well worth the ‘ticket’ price. The DVD for this concert is also great. The band is unbelievably ‘tight’, they are true music professionals. “The Best of the Doobies Live” also features a selection of their songs recorded live. Also live is “The Farewell Tour”, released in 1983. I’m sure glad that the album name turned out to be incorrect, and that the Doobies are still rockin’ down the highway.