I’m not breaking any new ground here by saying that this album stands the test of time- it was a hugely successful record when it was released and still sounds fresh more than 40 years later. It was, for most people, their first introduction to the band, which went through personnel and stylistic changes over the years (and is, as of this writing, out on tour); but Toulouse Street captures the band at their best: thick, textured guitar riffs, two drummers, a mix of great songs, including two radio hits, “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus is Just Alright with Me.”
It is also a killer recording and in my estimation, represents the best of what the Warner “green label” had to offer during the ascendency of the label: well-produced mainstream rock that really rocked. Ted Templeman and Don Landee did production and engineering duties—a team that would deliver some great records for Warner over the years (including for Van Morrison, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart, and later, for Van Halen).
This record has it all: there is virtually no “filler” here- just one great track after another, played by a band that was tight and knew how to use changes in tempo, contrasts in dynamics and layers of acoustic detail combined with effortless vocal harmonies and tuneful bass. The recording quality is stunning. Very little gets lost in the mix; the vocals are clear without sounding bright; the drums and bass are very “there” and the guitars are crisp, as is the piano. When things get louder, the record doesn’t sound congested, something all too common (on music of all genres). It may be taking advantage of judicious amounts of compression to pull this off, but man, it sounds great!
You don’t need to search out some special copy, either. This record, as originally released on the green label, is a common “bin find” and your only concern should be condition. Mine is a copy I’ve had since the record was released; it’s a little tatty, and hardly perfect, visually, but the surfaces are quiet and the music just pops off the grooves. It’s a great listen, musically and sonically. In fact, when I put it on the turntable for this write-up, I was stunned by just how good a recording it is (and probably say this every time I’ve played it over the course of more than forty years).
The Doobies went on to even greater success but this record not only captures the best of the band, but also represents what makes the Warner “green label” era so enduring.