Good golly! Thirty years, this month, since i bought my LP copy of this album. I can even remember "Stampede" being given a bit of a panning in the GB musical press, at the time of its release. I've never forgotten a reviewer referring to the group's "spectacularly bland harmonies". I always thought that a little unfair, as this is a Doobie Brothers album which compares very favourably with their best work. Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston are both in great form on this one. (This is the latter's final flowering on the early era Doobies releases, prior to having some serious personal problems.)
There are some interesting guest appearances on the album, and Curtis Mayfield does a great string and horn arrangement on "Music Man". Looking at the track listing, i'm moved to say that there isn't a really duff track in sight. "Sweet Maxine" is a super opener, which features some blistering dual guitar work. That's followed by another up-tempo rocker, "Neal's Fandango", prior to things being slowed down on the soothing "Texas Lullaby". "Music Man" gets things going again, with that classy Mayfield arrangement, before the short "Slat Key Soquel Rag" instrumental.
"Take Me In Your Arms" was the main single release from "Stampede", and it's a pretty decent cover of the Motown song. "I Cheat The Hangman" is very Patrick Simmonsy in style. It's a good track, but is a bit overcooked in comparison with the rest. "Precis" is a brief showcase for Baxter, before another couple of Tom Johnston songs. "Rainy Day Crossroads Blues" and "I Been Workin' On You" are both okay, although not his best compositions on the album. Better is Simmons' "Double Dealin' Four Flusher", which brings things to a close. I can't, off the top of my head, think of a rockier Simmons track. Billy Payne, of Little Feat, contributes some nice keyboard work.
A very decent Doobie Brothers release, all in all, in spite of those "spectacularly bland harmonies"! After this, they would head in a different musical direction for "Takin' It To The Streets". Mike MacDonald would take over the main songwriting duties from Tom Johnston, and things just would not be the same.