I cheat the hangman....
Released April 1975
This was the last of the first five Doobie Brothers albums and it is possibly the most fulfilled and varied - it is rootsy, soulful country-ish rock that is always uplifting and lively. Blues and rock 'n' roll are never far from the surface either. This is probably their rootsiest, most "Americana" album to date. It is far less rocking than its two predecessors. Incidentally, much of the great guitar on here comes from erstwhile Steely Dan virtuoso, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
1. Sweet Maxine
2. Neal's Fandango
3. Texas Lullaby
4. Music Man
5. Slat Key Soquel Rag
6. Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)
7. I Cheat The Hangman
9. Rainy Day Crossroad Blues
10. I Been Workin' On You
11. Double Dealin' Four Flusher
Sweet Maxine is a frenetic, rousing opener, with a bit of a "wall of sound" feel to its backing. Neal's Fandango is another energising, upbeat number, full of rocking guitar and piano - check out the interplay in the middle break. Texas Lullaby sees the pace slow down somewhat in an Eagles-ish country rock slumber of a ballad, featuring some infectious slide guitar. Music Man shows the funky side to The Doobies that usually makes itself known once or twice on every album, with lots of wah-wah guitar and horns. Curtis Mayfield guests on this one. Slat Key Soquel Rag is a short, finger picking instrumental redolent of the band's first album.
The big hit from the album was Holland/Dozier/Holland's Motown classic Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) given the Doobies treatment. It is lively, singalong and most appealing. I Cheat The Hangman is one of those CSNY/America influenced ethereal, hauntingly harmonious hippy-ish numbers that also crop up on every Doobies album. Half way through, the production ramps up into all manner of orchestrated indulgence, almost prog-rock in places. Précis is a brief Spanish guitar instrumental that leads into Ry Cooder's trademark slide guitar guesting on Rainy Day Crossroad Blues. I Been Working' On You is typical Doobie Brothers funky blues rock featuring some of that killer guitar. The album ends with a copper-bottomed slice of roadhouse piano-driven rock in Double Dealin' Four Flusher.
The Doobie Brothers were up there with Little Feat and The Eagles as one of the best examples of early/mid seventies rocking Americana. This is the last in their run of truly classic albums. A sea change would come with the next album. This was the end of "The Doobie Brothers phase one".