With ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter finally a full-time member of the band, the California quintet steps up everything from the arrangements to the songwriting. The group also invited several distinguished guests along for the ride: Vocalist Maria Muldaur, soul legend Curtis Mayfield, slide guitarist Ry Cooder, and jazz hand Victor Feldman among them. The results are as good on record as they appear on paper.
A definitive staple of 1970s rock, Stampede traverses a wellspring of soulful genres while remaining tethered to a rootsy anchor. Western-themed rock, retro blues, and rousing boogie flavors pepper the songs, all of which stand the test of time and both reference and advance ideas generated by the Byrds, Eagles, and Steve Miller. Connoisseurs of fine-tuned playing need to tune into the stripped-down acoustics of "Slat Key Soquel Rag" and Baxter's classically styled instrumental "Precis." As far as virtuosity is concerned, few mid-70s albums equaled the balance of Stampede.
The record's highlights are legion, yet the best quality may be the Doobies' unwillingness to play it safe. Whether it's Mayfield's arrangements on the forceful "Music Man," Cooder's tasty accents on "Rainy Day Crossroad Blues," or Muldaur's passionate vocals on "I Cheat the Hangman," the band brings it all to the table, and then some. If you only know the Doobies by way of radio smashes such as "Listen to the Music," you are in for a treat.