Waiting For The Sun by The Doors

July 11, 2010

The Doors returned in July of 1968 with their third studio release Waiting For The Sun. It would become their only number one album in The United States and produce their second number one single.

Their first two albums had been comprised of material primarily written before they signed their recording contract with the Elektra Records label. That material had now run out and, except for a couple of tracks, the band had composed new songs for this album.

I consider Waiting For The Sun just about the equal of their debut. It may not have the overall consistency, but the high points are more or less equal.

The first and last tracks have always been highlights for me. “Hello, I Love You” was one of their earliest compositions and how it avoided being issued on either of their first two albums is beyond me. From the opening riff to Jim Morrison’s vocal it is a superior work. It was catchy enough for massive radio airplay and, when released as a single, shot to the number one position in The United States. “Five To One” ranks among my top five Doors songs. This dark rocker anthem demands your attention. The lyrics, “no one here gets out of alive,” have become associated with Jim Morrison and can be considered prophetic after the fact. This odd tempo rocker is a song The Doors got just about perfect.

You could always count on The Doors to try some ambitious experiment. Originally Jim Morrison’s poem, “Celebration Of The Lizard,” was supposed to have been included on this album. Only one section, the musical, “Not To Touch The Earth,” made the final cut. While it was out of context, it presents the mind of Jim Morrison at its enigmatic best as his vocal floats over Manzarek’s psychedelic keyboards. “The Unknown Soldier” traveled in a different direction. It was a biting anti-war song released at the height of the Vietnam War era. It was an odd choice for a single release and proved too intense as it only reached number 39 on The American charts.

“Spanish Caravan” included some flamenco flavored guitar by Robbie Krieger, which gave it a unique flavor. “My Wild Love” featured only Morrison’s lead vocal, back-up vocals by the other band members, and some hand clapping in support. “Love Street” was an actual place in Laurel Canyon where Morrison lived with a girlfriend and contained an odd beauty.

It all added up to another memorable album by The Doors. I remember almost wearing out my original vinyl copy when it was released. It remains a very good, if somewhat disjointed, listen today.

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Strange Days by The Doors

July 11, 2010

The Doors debut album sold over four million copies, and its number one single “Light My Fire” received massive radio airplay during early 1967.

September of 1967 found The Doors releasing their sophomore effort, Strange Days. While the album would climb to the number three position on The American album charts, it would be far less commercially successful selling just over one million copies.

Most of the material for Strange Days was written at the same time as their debut album, but for whatever reasons were not included. Beyond that fact the music is very different in places than their norm, it was very dark and took a decidedly psychedelic turn. The album jacket, which pictures an odd assortment of people to say the least, probably gives the best hint of what is contained inside. Still, the music resonates and in places mesmerizes. It produced no huge hit single, which may have hurt its initial appeal, and was not the grand affair of its predecessor but does have an intimate appeal which gets inside your brain.

The two tracks which were released as singles were very different from one another. “People Are Strange” was dark and hypnotic with a number of tempo changes. It is a song which has grown on me over the years and now remains fascinating over four decades after its release. “Love Me Two Times” was Robbie Krieger’s attempt at a blues song. This light weight affair is almost unique within their catalogue.

There were a number of other songs that can be described as either highlights or interesting; take your pick. “Strange Days” lyrics exemplify Jim Morrison’s poetry at its darkest and best. The psychedelic keyboards give the song a haunting atmosphere. “Moonlight Drive” was one of Morrison’s earliest compositions and, despite its dreaminess in places, explores the dark side of love. “Unhappy Girl” features some nice slide guitar by Krieger, but it was Manzarek’s keyboards recorded in reverse which made the song memorable. The eleven minute, minus two seconds, closer “When The Music’s Over” pales in comparison to the ultimate brilliance of “The End,” but Krieger’s, Manzarek’s and Desmore’s jamming and Morrison’s screaming over it all has a certain appeal.

Strange Days is an acquired taste as it is just different from their other releases. In some ways it fits their legacy well as it is scary and primal. If you want to explore the music of The Doors, this is not the place to start but is an album that will need to be considered and visited.

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The Doors by The Doors

July 9, 2010

Dangerous, charismatic, legendary, controversial, talented, and terminally cool are just a few of the words that can be used to describe The Doors.

Singer/poet Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Desmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger came together during 1965 and, after becoming the house band at the Whiskey a Go-Go, released their self-titled debut album in early January of 1967. Four million copies sold later they were stars and Morrison had emerged as one of the dark kings of the rock world.

The Doors is one of the better debut albums in rock history. Many of the songs had been honed via hundreds of live performances. In addition to reaching number two on The American album charts and receiving wide critical acclaim, Rolling Stone Magazine would place it at number 42 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

I consider the A side of the original vinyl release to be just about perfect. The first track, “Break On Through,” introduced The Doors to the world. This frenetic rocker may have failed as a single, but its high energy and, at the time, controversial lyrics about getting high added up to the perfect lead track. “Soul Kitchen,” which was supposedly about a real restaurant, contained a soulful vocal over the organ and guitar of Manzarek and Krieger, who do not get enough credit for The Doors sound. “The Crystal Ship” is one of the great and often over looked songs in The Doors catalogue. Its poetry finds Jim Morrison at his sensitive best. “Twentieth Century Fox” is solid pop/rock. “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” was an old German opera song first published during the late twenties. This unlikely composition was transferred into an interesting and gritty rock song.

The A side’s final song was the legendary “Light My Fire.” It was released as a single in a shortened form and spent three weeks as the number one song in The United States. The seven minute plus album track contains a brilliant instrumental interlude propelled by Manzarek’s keyboards, which make it a far better and superior version than the well known hit single.

Side two may not be as consistent but does contain a couple of classics. The old Willie Dixon blues tune, “Back Door Man,” is reduced to a primal level by Morrison’s vocal. The final track in one of Jim Morrison’s grand opus’ “The End,” at over eleven and a half minutes, features a spoken middle from the play by Sophocles and is dark and hypnotic. While I now associate it with the movie Apocalypse Now because of the visuals, this original version is what The Doors were all about.

The Doors remains a stunning album yet only scratched the surface of what was to follow. It remains an essential part of American music history.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org

Hello I Love You 45 by The Doors

June 28, 2010

“Hello I Love You” was one of he earliest songs written by members of The Doors. It was not included on their brilliant debut album and likewise was left off their second release, STRANGE DAYS. It finally saw the light of day on their WAITING FOR THE SUN album.

It was worth the wait as “Hello I Love You” became their second number one single topping The American charts for two weeks during the summer of 1968. It helped to make WAITING FOR THE SUN their only album to reach the top of the charts.

It is a classic Doors song featuring Jim Morrison’s vocal and a great guitar intro. by Robbie Krieger. It stradeled the line between hard and psychedelic rock and was a perfect vehicle for Morrison’s over the top live performances.

“Hello I Love You” remains one of the better songs from The Doors catalogue and holds up well over four decades after its initial release.

The Unknown Soldier 45 by The Doors

June 28, 2010

“The Unknown Soldier” was the first single released from The Doors third studio album, WAITING FOR THE SUN. It was a biting political commentary on The Vietnam War which was raging at the time. It proved to be a little to controversial for AM radio as it only reached number 39 on the American charts during March of 1968.

The song came complete with gunshots and long pauses which while heightning the tension of the lyrics, took away from the musical flow. When The Doors performed the song live, guitarist Robbie Krieger would shoot Morrison with his guitar.

While it was a bold statement, it would be lost in the many protest songs of the day. The Doors would return to their dark psychedelic roots leaving behind this artifact of The Vietnam era.

Classic Albums: The Doors (DVD)

July 17, 2009

Since 1988, the Classic Albums documentary series has been exploring the making of legendary albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, and U2’s The Joshua Tree, among numerous others over the years; the Doors’ self-titled debut is the latest to be featured by this noted series and released on DVD by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Originally released in 1966, The Doors – which most notably features the classic rock mainstays “Light My Fire” and lead single “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” – is still decades later considered an amazing debut for any group or artist in addition to being one of the best classic rock albums of all time.

This retrospective DVD combines extensive interviews with former Doors members Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger, and John Densmore as well as with producer Bruce Botnick to create a picture of the events that lead to the formation of the group and their first album. Throughout the disc, the interviews are interspersed with live and studio footage, plus a glimpse of the time when it was being recorded to put the music in a social perspective.

Co-founder and keyboardist Ray Manzarek begins the DVD with thoughts about Jim Morrison as he discusses the formation of the group. Through his and Densmore and Kreiger’s ineterviews, the viewer is able to formulate a fairly good idea of how the Doors originated, their musical vision, and how this vision came to fruition on tape. Drummer John Desmore probably explains Morrison the most succinctly when he says that he was destruction and genius coming together.

The creation of the song “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” sets the pattern for the music portion of the album. John Desmore shows on his drums how he started out with a bossa nova pattern before moving it over into a rock beat, while Robbie Krieger gives credit to Paul Butterfield’s “Shake Your Moneymaker” for this track’s guitar inspiration. All in all, it’s a fascinating look at how the pieces of a song come together.

Bruce Botnick begins the musical portion of the DVD by exploring the making of the song “Crystal Ship.” He plays a twenty-second clip of Morrison’s voice without any background before cutting to a live performance, but just listening to Morrison without any instruments whatsoever shows the purity of one of rock & roll’s greatest voices.

“Soul Kitchen” was a rare Doors track in that John Desmore’s drums were overdubbed. Ray Manzarek then goes on to talk about the issue of a bass player in the studio and live. Larry Knetchell played bass on this track, and the early intention of the group was to add a bass player to their lineup, but they finally decided to have Manzarek play the bass parts on his keyboards when playing live but to continue to use session bass players in the studio.

“Light My Fire” almost began as a Robbie Kreiger folk song. Here, Kreiger picks out the song on his acoustic guitar as he presented it to the group over forty years ago, and Desmore shows how he put a Latin beat to the song, which served to change the course of rock history. Manzarek then talks about creating the keyboard introduction, which will go down in rock history as one of the most recognizable lead-ins to any song.

“The End” was recorded live without any overdubbing. Today, the song is associated with the film Apocalypse Now, but is still chilling even in its original form.

Classic Albums: The Doors is an interesting look at one of the most legendary rock groups. The three surviving members are all in their sixties, and it’s good to have their recollections recorded. However, this DVD is only for the hard core fans, and even then, how many times can the same person watch it? Thus, this is by its nature very limited in terms of audience. But ultimately, this is a memoir that primarily mines the memories of three men. John Desmore concludes the DVD when he stutters for a moment and then states “Ah, I’m grateful.” That wistful statement places the brilliance of this album in context of what might have been but will never be.