The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street

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  • Two of our favorite engineers – Stephen Barncard & Donn Landee – worked their magic here, and they really knocked it out of the park
  • Back in the ’70s I had no idea that any pressing could be this punchy in the bass, this dynamic in the choruses, yet still have smooth, sweet vocals (partly because I heard it on crap equipment at Pacific Stereo)
  • 4 stars: “…it all still sounds astonishingly bracing 30 years later; it’s still a keeper, and one of the most inviting and alluring albums of its era.”
  • If you’re a Doobies fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

To be clear, as a budding audiophile back in the day, I had no idea that any pressing could be this good sounding because I had only ever heard the album on the crap equipment at Pacific Stereo. They used the album as a demo disc in their High End room, but their High End room wasn’t very high end, just high end for Pacific Stereo in the early ’70s. Anybody remember Quadraflex speakers?

This vintage WB pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this. The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

What the Best Sides of Toulouse Street Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Big Bass

The huge amount of bass (clearly heard on the better copies) has to be the handiwork of Stephen Barncard, although Donn Landee (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman production should be.

‘Jesus Is Just Alright’ on side two is amazing as well. The vocals are sweet and natural, not something you would expect on a Doobie’s record, but here they are anyway. We had many other copies that simply did not sound correct the way this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Toulouse Street

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Stephen Barncard and Donn Landee in this case — would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

A Must Own Rock Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here


Side One

Listen To The Music 
Rockin’ Down The Highway
Toulouse Street
Cotton Mouth

Side Two

Don’t Start Me To Talkin’
Jesus Is Just Alright 
White Sun 
Snake Man

AMG Review

Producer Ted Templeman was attuned to the slightly heavier and more southern style the band wanted to work toward on this, their second album, and the results were not only profitable — including a platinum record award — but artistically impeccable… it all still sounds astonishingly bracing 30 years later; it’s still a keeper, and one of the most inviting and alluring albums of its era.

in Depth Review


Although it had its charms, The Doobie Brothers only hinted at what this band could accomplish, a fact proven on the sophomore follow-up Toulouse Street.

Positioned somewhere between Creedence Clearwater Revival and the early Eagles, the sound of this music draws on a variety of sources – blues, Caribbean, gospel – and gives it a Southern rock twist by way of California. That may seem a contrived way to describe all this but it’s accurate, and time has only sharpened the diversity of the music and how well it flows together.

Heard with fresh ears in their album-length versions, classic rock staples “Listen To The Music,” the bracing “Rockin’ Down The Highway” and the gospel-inflected stomper “Jesus Is Just Alright” are better than you remember. The group interplay is solid and the vocal harmonies – a forgotten strength from these guys – strengthen these warhorses. “Jesus is Just Alright” in particular is still a joy to listen to, an infectious, non-pandering tune with great guitar work

The best song here is the title track, an acoustic paean to love, New Orleans, and the spell of a fading summer’s evening when something slightly mystical is in the air. An elegant flute solo divides the verses to round out the piece. A side note: When the band hand-picked their favorites for their Doobie’s Choice album, this one made the cut, but none of the aforementioned hits did.

The guys attempt a boogie funk hybrid on “Cotton Mouth” and a Caribbean feel on “Mamloi;” the former is moderately successful, the latter trite and irritating. A cover of “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” is Allman Brothers lite, not too bad, while “White Sun” also bleats along pleasantly, the CSN&Y harmonies canceling out the goofy lyrics. Finally, the seven-minute “Disciple” plows through territory already covered for three minutes before turning into a guitar showcase; it obviously wants to be an Allman-esque epic but falls just short, though it sounds fine as it plays. “Snake Man” is a fun closer, a jaunty two-minute blues-inspired tune. One wonders if it could have been developed into something more, but alas.

Toulouse Street is miles ahead of the band’s debut and would only be bettered by its immediate successor, The Captain And Me. Worth checking out if you enjoyed the hits and wanted to dig a little deeper into the band’s back catalog. At the very least, try to get “Toulouse Street” somewhere and listen to it at dusk.

Barncard and Landee

Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE.

This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity of the best copies that really shocked us.