The Doobie Brothers may have gone through numerous lineup changes and shifted between various genres over their long career, but they remain, as ever, the quintessential biker-meets-hippie band. Their back catalog includes a clutch of platinum-selling albums, sixteen Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hits, and more classic rock radio staples than anyone can count. Everyone has their favorite, but here’s how we rank all the Doobie Brothers albums from worst to best.
After the release of Brotherhood in 1991, longtime bassist Tiran Porter quit to pursue a solo career, original drummer John Hartman retired from music completely, and Capital Records terminated the band’s contract. Listening to the album, it’s not hard to see what prompted all three decisions. A critical and commercial flop, its tracklist sounds tired and recycled, with nothing to attract the new audience the band were desperately in need of.
In 1989, the original lineup of the Doobie Brothers reunited for Cycles. Boosted by a successful tour and a hit single (The Doctor), it fared well commercially, hitting number 17 on the Billboard 200 and going gold. But commercial success aside, it’s a disappointing album, serving up a very generous portion of rehashed material from their earlier years with not even a drop of originality or excitement.
Southbound was released in November 2014 as the Doobie Brothers’ fourteenth studio album. Whoever decided to pair the band with a bunch of contemporary Nashville stars may have had good intentions but the result sounds awkward and forced, resulting in one of the group’s least essential albums to date.
11. Sibling Rivalry
After almost a decade away, the Doobie Brothers returned to the studio in 2000 with Sibling Rivalry. It was a far cry from their best work, with The Rolling Stone Album Guide summing up the consensus by saying the band were “struggling vainly to put their formula to work again.” There are a few gems (Angels of Madness being one of the best) but while the recycled vintage soft rock isn’t painful, neither does it stand up to repeat listening.
10. The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers released their self-titled debut in April 1971 to a wall of silence. Neither the album nor its lead single (the appropriately named Nobody) charted. It might not be a terrible record, but the muddled arrangements and absence of any big hooks make it a forgettable one.
9. One Step Closer
The Doobie Brothers kicked off the ’80s with One Step Closer. Commercially, it was a hit, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard 200 and certifying platinum. But while there are a few highlights (the No. 5 hit single Real Love is particularly sensational), much of the album is underwhelming, with very little hint of the excitement and originally of its direct predecessor, Minute by Minute.
8. World Gone Crazy
In 2010, the Doobie Brothers scored their highest charting position since 1989 when their thirteenth studio album, World Gone Crazy. It was deserved hit – although there’s a rich seam of nostalgia running through the album, it doesn’t sound like a retread. The songs sound familiar but new, resulting in an album that recalls the band’s glory days without trying to repeat them.
The Doobie Brothers threw everything but the kitchen sink at 1975’s Stampede. As well as introducing some new elements of country rock, funk, and folk into their usual sound, they invited in a bunch of guest stars (including Maria Muldaur, Ry Cooder and Curtis Mayfield) and promoted Jeff “Skunk” Baxter to a fully-fledged member. Although it failed to match the platinum-selling success of their previous three albums, it was still a success, reaching number four on the Billboard 200 and certifying gold.
6. Livin’ on the Fault Line
Coming as it did between two of the Doobie Brothers’ biggest selling records, Livin’ on the Fault Line often gets ignored. The fact that it failed to generate a top 40 single doesn’t exactly help matters. But it’s still a fine album, featuring what All Music describes as some of the most challenging and well-developed music of the band’s career. Chief highlights include Chinatown and the intelligent, expertly crafted pop tunes Echoes of Love and Nothin’ But a Heartbreak.
5. What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
By 1974’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, a few cracks were beginning to show, particularly on uninspired tracks like Eyes of Silver, Road Angel and Down in the Track. But it’s by no means a bad album, with Patrick Simmons’ ethereal Daughters of the Sea and the shimmering instrumental Flying Cloud standing out as particular highlights.
4. Takin’ It to the Streets
After health problems forced band leader Tom Johnston to take a backseat for the recording of Takin’ It to the Streets, Michael McDonald was invited to fill in. As the band lacked enough material to flesh out the album, McDonald offered up several of his own songs, including the title track and the top 40 single It Keeps You Runnin’. The result is mellower and more soulful than the band’s previous offerings, and while it’s clearly a transitional album, it still makes for hugely enjoyable listening.
3. Toulouse Street
After their debut album got roundly ignored, the Doobie Brothers returned with a bang with their sophomore album, Toulouse Street. The addition of a new producer, a new bassist and a second drummer seemed to have worked a minor miracle, resulting in an impeccable album stuffed with confident, bracing songs and blessed with an earthy, laid back approach that stood in stark contrast to the self-consciously contrived music flooding the charts at the time.
2. Minute by Minute
To say Minute By Minute was a success would be an understatement. Released in December 1978, it spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 (and 87 weeks on the chart in total), was certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA, and spawned the number one smash hit, What a Fool Believes. It also picked up the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group at the Grammys, along with Song and Record of the Year for What a Fool Believes.
1. The Captain and Me
After Toulouse Street gave the band their breakthrough, the Doobie Brothers didn’t waste any time in cracking out another hit. Released just 8 months after its predecessor, The Captain and Me was a major success, soaring to number 7 on the Billboard 200 and certifying 2 x multi-platinum. A substantial, consistent album packed with beautiful melodies, soaring harmonies, and radiant instrumentation, it’s a dazzling record that stands as the band’s greatest triumph.