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"Before I sink into the big sleep, I want to hear the scream of the butterfly"

Class B

Main Category: Mope Rock
Also applicable: Psychedelia, Pop Rock, Roots Rock
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years





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For a 70's band, the Doors would probably be acclaimed as a bunch of loud, pretentious whiners with stupid ambitions and a whacky unprofessional frontman. For a 60's band, they were the heroes of their time. Sure, the darkness imposed by Jim Morrison and his colleagues would probably seem plainly risible compared to later experiments by disciples Robert Plant or Roger Waters. But the year was 1967. The world was preparing for Sgt Pepper and "All You Need Is Love". And in the midst of all this suddenly Jim came crashing like a thunderstorm, with his snakes, lizards, worms, insanity, odes to Nitzsche, death and blackness. Nobody ever milked these subjects in such an obvious way before, and few would since.

What's my personal opinion of Jim Morrison? Hard to say. As it so often happens with geniuses (and few would argue with Jim's genius), Morrison is a very controversial figure, and people's feelings towards him are usually located on either of the two opposing poles: he's either worshipped to a maniacal degree or sceptically dismissed as a stupid Sixties' goofball. No need to say that both approaches are completely ridiculous and need to be steered away from. A religious approach to the man is totally out of the question: remember that Jim himself was quite a modest person and hated his idolization by the fans like any proper genius should. His untimely death and inevitable transformation into a cult figure (like Janis and Jimi) added to the legend, and for many people Jim is forever the Lizard King: the ultimate ruler of all things mystical and other-worldly and sometimes even necromantic. Unfortunately, no. Jim's lyrical visions were far too limited and uniform, not to mention derivative (don't forget that he got most of his ideas from William Blake and the like), to make him a truly outstanding figure. I do happen to think that he was a very good poet, not to mention a great showman, but not better than many others, and idolizing Jim as opposed to other important rock personalities of the time is an operation for the weak-minded person.

On the other hand, I absolutely insist that Jim was a crucially important personality in his own rights. He has at least one thing to redeem himself, which many sneering critics seem to forget about: he's actually sincere in all his 'wrong-doing'. The endless scandals with the police, the infamous 'self-exposion' scene in 1969, the self-destructive sex & drugs lifestyle - all of this wasn't just made in order to attract press attention; Jim actually lived these things. Which is, mainly, what distinguishes Sixties' heroes from Seventies' and later period heroes: since the glam movement, sincerity has lost its value and never really regained it since. Jim was a real, living human being, not an eerie goofball like Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne. And this brings a certain depth and feel to his lyrics and his vocal deliveries of his lyrics: this is darkness, but it's the kind of darkness that lives and feels and really exists, and this is what makes his horror visions a hundred percent more convincing, actual and blood-curdling than those of the endless stream of his far less subtle and talented followers. Think Alfred Hitchcock as opposed to your basic horror flick producer. Eh?

But it's not the lyrics, really, I would like to talk about. Personally, I'm not a fan of all these drowning horses, lions in the night and screaming butterflies. As a matter of fact, I detest horror movies, and I'm not even a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock, much as I respect the man. No, it's not the lyrics that really draw me so close to the Doors: Jim might just as well be singing about girls and cars. It's the music. Ninety percent of the Doors' total output is simply fantastic melody-wise, and I mean it: it's a very, very, very rare case when I can get so impressed about an absolute majority of any given band's catalog.

I'm not going to raise the subject of authorship (well, most people claim Manzarek and Krieger wrote most of the stuff, but then again, their post-Morrison releases are worthless crap, so there's probably more to it); I'm just stating the fact. As melody-makers, The Doors stand among the best 60-s groups, close to The Beatles, and, were it not for a few serious stinkers and the general shortness of their career, they would have earned a 5-star rating on my scale. The guys had an amazing musical sensibility even for the Sixties (when the standards were as high as never since), and their unique style, based, for the most part, on the interplay between Manzarek's sensitive, somewhat medieval-style keyboards and Krieger's raw bluesy guitar, has almost no analogs in history.

Lineup: Jim Morrison - vocals. Brief overall characteristics: good singing voice, although not great, as many often put it; and great showman abilities, although not superfantastic, as many often put it. But a lot of genuine emotion - and a terrible suspense, almost hypnotic.

Ray Manzarek - if he's not a keyboard Zeus, he's a keyboard Juppiter. Most of the arrangements were his, and in every song his sound is spectacular - be it the 'substituted bass' parts (the band didn't have a bass player, by the way, although some session musicians did play bass in the studio), or the lengthy organ solos, or the subtle jazzy improvisations. In fact, his solo on 'Riders On The Storm' is something I'd like to hear at my funeral. No kidding.

Robby Krieger - guitar. The only guitar player in the band, and he's damn good. Great rhythm work, great slide guitar, great wah-wahs, and not a pick to be found. He also wrote some stuff, too, some of which is pretty decent, but some absolutely incomparable to Morrison's usual material. The playing is immaculate, though; the only time he makes me cringe is when he actually tries to sing something.

John Densmore - drums. Cool-looking guy (on most photos he looks like he's just descended from some 18th century portrait of a Lord so-and-so), and the drum work is good (most of the time), or even fascinating (from time to time: check out his improvisatory thrashings on "When The Music's Over", for instance).

There we have it. The band only had five years to go before Jim died in 1971 (presumably of a 'heart attack', but under mysterious circumstances), and fortunately his remaining friends made no effort to substitute him. They did release a couple of records after his death among the three of 'em, though; I had a chance to check out some cheap copies of these and my impression is that they're not as bad as they are usually hailed, but, of course, if you're not a rabid fan, it would be a complete waste of time, and they're out of print anyway. So just stick to the 'six classics' and get yourself a few live albums for a change.




Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Dark, depressing and beautiful. But somewhat uncertain, if you axe me.

Best song: LIGHT MY FIRE

Track listing: 1) Break On Through (To The Other Side); 2) Soul Kitchen; 3) The Crystal Ship; 4) Twentieth Century Fox; 5) Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar); 6) Light My Fire; 7) Back Door Man; 8) I Looked At You; 9) End Of The Night; 10) Take It As It Comes; 11) The End.

Their debut album was shocking and immediately put them in the superstar league. Rightly so: and not only because the general aura of this debut was quite different from anything anyone was doing at the moment, but also because it was incredibly catchy, melodic and displayed signs of genius in most of the tracks. Darkness and dreariness that was given a catchy pop edge - something that Jefferson Airplane, the world's most depressing band at that period, could only have dreamt of and never managed to achieve in the end.

There's a certain shy feel about it, too, as if the band wasn't yet ready to overflow us with self-penned material. So they do a couple of covers - surprisingly, they manage to totally fit into the standard paradigm. The Broadway musical ditty 'Alabama Song' is by now a rightful Morrison classic, as Jim delivers the 'show me the way to the next little girl' lyrics with enough conviction to guarantee us that 'tomorrow we must die'. As for Willie Dixon's 'Back Door Man', now there's a tune that drives me nuts, at times it managed to edge out 'Light My Fire' and 'End Of The Night' as my favourites on here. There's something Zeppelin-ish about the way the dudes treat this blues cover, sharply accentuating the main heavy riff and 'whetting' all the edges of the song so that it slices through your mind as nothing else can. Jim's lionish roar on this track is easily his best vocal delivery on the entire album, and Krieger tops it off with a wall-rattling guitar solo. While the Doors were never a generic blues band, this track showcases, from the very beginning of their career, Jim's ability to assimilate old blues to his own dark, dreadful, terrifying style.

Thus the main problem with the album is definitely not the presence of covers, but rather the presence of some rather nasty filler: the short little ditties 'I Looked At You' and 'Take It As It Comes' are nothing but your average pop songs set in the same 'negative' environment. 'I Looked At You', in particular, irritates me every time I put it on with its pedestrian lyrics - 'I looked at you/You looked at me/I smiled at you/You smiled at me/And we're on our way'. Together with 'Take It As It Comes', the song feels pretty much out of place on the record; add to this that 'The End' has never been my favourite 'epic' Doors song, and you can understand why I so often turn it down right after 'Back Door Man' which is the first song on side two.

By no means are these two tunes 'bad', but they are certainly not up to the standard of the first-rate songs which are mostly grouped on the first side of the record. The album opener 'Break On Through (To The Other Side)' is the first fast 'dark' rocker ever recorded, and it announces the Doors' arrival on the scene with a crash boom bang: a low, grumbly, but amazingly catchy guitar riff, ominous, mathematically precise organ solos and above all - the lyrics: 'you know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run tried to hide/Break on through to the other side'. The seven-minute anthem 'Light My Fire' raises all kinds of emotions, especially with Ray's organ and Robbie's guitar solos which are so well constructed and so flawlessly played that you never regret their lengthiness even for a second. A crying shame that they were edited out of the single version - but that's how it goes, and the band couldn't really do anything about it. Thus begins the lengthy war of the Conceptual Album Creators with the Hit Single Producers.

It's the ballads, though, that best display Jim's talents: the gentle and beautiful 'Crystal Ship' which deals with matters far wider and far more dangerous than a simple love story, and especially the haunting mystical 'End Of The Night' where Ray sounds like a professional Dark Magician and manages to create an atmosphere so dreary and majestic at the same time that it really makes one shiver.

The two lesser tracks are 'Soul Kitchen', which nevertheless boasts a really memorable melody, with a strange naggin' organ riff that borders on the genial, and '20th Century Fox' which, strange enough, some people dislike, but I really don't see anything that nasty about it. It's just a little poppy, but just a little, and it has a great solo; what else do you need? 'But she's - no - drag - just - watch - the - way - she walks', chants Jim, and the line sends me laughin' down the alleyway.

Last comes the least. Actually, the lengthiest. 'The End' is often hailed as the Doors' most successful ten-minute-long (actually, eleven) 'gothic' epic, the one that sets a pattern for all the following stream-of-conscience, rambling poetical deliveries by Jim set to a somewhat rudimentary, but strangely effective musical backings. But me, I'm not convinced. I like the poetry, and most of the images that Jim conjures along the way, all the 'weird scenes inside the gold mine', 'the blue bus is calling us', 'ride the snake to the lake', and, most important, the famous Oedipus complex description where the line 'Mother I want to fuck you' is effectively buried in the mix under an undecipherable mess of roar and hum - all these things are quite flashy and effective. The problem is, the musical accompaniment is WAY too monotonous and, frankly speaking, boring to let you enjoy the number from beginning to, well, the end; more or less, the thing consists of just two or three guitar lines being endlessly repeated over and over, and even the 'transitions' in the sections (both this and 'When The Music's Over' off the next album are built according to one scheme: intro - fast transitional passage - main psycho part - fast transitional passage - outro) don't seem all that great. While the song still stands out as one of the Doors' main trademarks, I simply don't think it has enough musical potential in it to live up to all the hype.

In the light of this, I wouldn't give the album a better rating than an eight: while the album's absolutely groundbreaking nature is doubtless, and the Doors wouldn't really make much conceptual innovations over the next four years, the record still betrays signs of relative inexperience in the studio. It's been often called one of the most impressive debuts in rock history, and maybe it was: the album's sales skyrocketed in no time, and the Doors became superstars almost overnight (although the singles buying public wasn't so sure: 'Break On Through', the first single from the album, flopped). In retrospect, though, the album's flaws become all the more evident: there ain't much of 'em, but the inclusion of 'I Looked At You' and the monotonousness of 'The End' are among the most offensive. Their next record, however, would shut out all doubts about whether they would be able to better themselves, and it still remains an absolute masterpiece of the 'dark psychedelia' genre. At least, that's how I regard it.



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 14

Dark, depressing and beautiful. Plus - steady and self-assured. The melodies can't be topped.


Track listing: 1) Strange Days; 2) You're Lost Little Girl; 3) Love Me Two Times; 4) Unhappy Girl; 5) Horse Latitudes; 6) Moonlight Drive; 7) People Are Strange; 8) My Eyes Have Seen You; 9) I Can't See Your Face In My Mind; 10) When The Music's Over.

Ere 1967 drew to its fall, the Doors tightened up all the bolts and released this classic - uncompromised, dark, mystical, and majestic to the extreme. And talk about Led Zeppelin or, God help me, Black Sabbath, as much as you want: neither of the two bands ever managed to release an album as impressive as this one. Dark, yes, deep and depressing as hell, but also unbelievably catchy, with packs of solid, memorable, original melodies jumping out from every corner. On a sheer musical scale, this is undoubtedly a pop album, with only a few tracks approaching true 'rock'n'roll'; but emotion-wise and on a social scale, this is as far from simple pop as could be, because most of the songs are dangerous and apocalyptic, a far cry from the general love-your-neighbour thematics of the hippiesque 1967. This is Jim's peak as the mystical lyricist; Ray's peak as the creative organ player; and Robbie's peak as the master of catchy riff. All things combined, this is the Doors' finest hour... well, the Doors' finest half-hour, actually.

Barring the short poetry extract ('Horse Latitudes', dedicated by Jim to the memory of horses drowned in the sea by conquistadors on their way to America) which is dumb because it isn't a song, there's not a single filler around here. Not even a single! It all kinda reverts us to a certain magical enchanted land - the land of the Doors, populated by strange carnivalesque giants and midgets which you're witnessing on the album cover. In this land, 'no-one remembers your name', as is proclaimed in 'People Are Strange': the major hit around here, worth every penny, with one of the best pop keyboard riffs you ever heard, and a song that's equally enjoyed by Doors fans and those who can't usually stand the band at all, as it's poppy and gloomy all at the same time. In this land 'you're lost, tell me who are you', as is proclaimed in 'You're Lost Little Girl' - a great dark ballad, underpinned with a solid keyboard-bass line by Ray, and conveying the feeling of being at a complete dead end, lost without hope and finding oneself in a situation of utter despair as perfect as only can be. In the same land, 'we're falling through wet forests on our moonlight drive', as is stated in 'Moonlight Drive', a song you could call psychedelic if this album weren't already trippy beyond all psychedelia. This one also features great wah-wah guitar from Robbie and a great rush-to-the-climax by Jim, who takes us through mild, cool-headed, dreamy space imagery to an all-out thunderstorm of vicious space reveling. In the same land Jim tells us that 'I Can't See Your Face In My Mind' - another great ballad, oh God, they're all great here, and it's hardly believable that they're all squeezed into just one package with a thirty-minute length.

Apart from that, you have your 'Love Me Two Times' with a terrific hard riff - my favourite Doors riff of all time; but once again, the song's main attraction might be the superb mounting of tension that leads the number from a potentially dangerous, but quiet and subdued tune, to a raging storm. This, in fact, is one of the main differences between the Doors and your typical 'mad' band like the Who or Led Zep: the latter tend to overwhelm you from the very start by crashing their way into the song from the first seconds, while the Doors always build up the tension - at their most energetic, they're almost as captivating as both of these bands, but they always lead you to the climax, never pour it on your head all at once. The same technique is evident, for instance, on 'My Eyes Have Seen You', an uncompromised arse-kickin' rocker that starts as a simple ditty (begin with bass, then add some electric piano, then a guitar line, then vocals) and ends up, once again, as an impressive wall of sound.

Other highlights (not a completely exact word for this album, as there are no lows to speak of) are the title track - a perfect introduction to this strange world, and what kind of introduction is this: 'strange days have found us/strange days have dragged us down'? Jim's vocals are heavily echoed on that one, so that you wouldn't have any doubts this is going to be a mind-blowing experience. A trifle more lightweight is 'Unhappy Girl' - but this ain't just a sappy tear-inducing story about an unhappy girl, really, once again, the song is about suffering and pain and escape from both in general. And last, but not least, a serious improvement over the previous album closer - if you thought 'The End' was kinda boring, what about 'When The Music's Over'? Much more complicated and variegated than its predecessor, it ventures off into almost heavy metal sequences, then into ultra-quiet singing with an occasional drumburst or bass twang, comes out again, dives in again, dips into all kinds of psycho negative ravings on the way, and finally bursts apart with a headsplitting finale: 'music is your only friend/until the end/until the end/until... the... EEEEEEEEEEND!' Boom. A far cry from 'The End', a song also great and in its own rights, but for Chrissake, it only had one naggin' melody throughout! While here, there's at least a dozen different sections, and they manage to keep your attention like nothing does.

Certainly the peak of all the Doors' efforts, this album should remain a true highlight of 1967. I mean, they did good albums afterwards, but none was as good as this one: Strange Days manages to perfectly capture the quintessence of the Doors' spirit while, at the same time, be almost flawless in the sheer musical sense. Indeed, the only problem with it is that it is really a bit too short: at thirty minutes, it's all over before you can say jack knife.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

This one's a happy pop album! Yuck! Imagine that!


Track listing: 1) Hello I Love You; 2) Love Street; 3) Not To Touch The Earth; 4) Summer's Almost Gone; 5) Wintertime Love; 6) The Unknown Soldier; 7) Spanish Caravan; 8) My Wild Love; 9) We Could Be So Good Together; 10) Yes The River Knows; 11) Five To One.

A terrible letdown. Well - after all, when you've come up with the best you could, you can't but drop down, can you? Seems so. The band themselves used to explain this failure by the 'third album factor': you play together for a long time, come up with all kinds of material, sift it, polish it, put all the winners on your first two records, and by the time it comes to recording your third record, you're left with nothing but the chaff or nothing at all. One must give the band their due, of course, since only an ultra-talented musical outfit can pack their two first records to the brim with prime material - most bands would probably experience the 'third album factor' at the stage of the first one. But this does not deprive us from the fact that this statement is completely true, and the 'third album factor' is really existent. At least, it was existent for the Doors.

OK, so Waiting For The Sun is a lot more crowd-pleasing than the previous one: it's softer, gentler, a lot of the dark mood is lost, and there's a lot of tender ballads which are not dark at all - just plain sad and melancholic. But wait! That's not Morrison's forte! The stupid thing is that as soon as he reminds himself that he's really Prince of the Darkness, everything's OK. That means that in order to save the album from ruin, we have such terrific tracks as 'Not To Touch The Earth' and 'Five To One'. The first one is an excerpt from the band's lengthy live epic 'Celebration Of The Lizard' which they wanted first to put on the album in its entirety, but changed their mind about at the last moment; a wise decision, probably, since the version on Absolutely Live amply demonstrates that - mildly speaking - this suite was rather far from musical perfection. 'Not To Touch The Earth', however, is the suite's brightest moment, a magnificent 'mystical march' with a terrifying speeding up at the end; and, of course, it's the song that earned Jim his eternal nickname of 'The Lizard King'. And the gruesome 'Five To One', an ode to brute force, violence (and possibly Jim's beloved Friedrich Nietzsche) is, undoubtedly, the heaviest and most frightening song the band ever did; its four and a half minutes pack more emotional impact and heavy emotions than the entire black metal movement. You know a song's great when it serves as a great source for all kinds of quotations - 'Five to one baby one and five/No one here gets out alive' is probably the Doors' best known lyrical line (apart from 'come on baby light my fire', of course, which isn't even Morrison).

But what about the rest? Some tracks are - pardon me Jim - completely dorkish, like the short (thank God) pop melody in 'Wintertime Love' and the absolutely unnecessary 'Yes The River Knows' (what it knows exactly, I still can't guess). 'Wintertime Love' is a waltz, for Chrissake! Is it a sellout or what? Of course, it's rather hard to determine what exactly could have been a 'sellout' in the Sixties (I don't know any examples), but this is the closest to a Sixties' sellout I've ever seen. And 'Yes The River Knows' is so quiet and derivative of the Strange Days balladeering that I hardly ever notice the song... I do appreciate the sudden change from its soft sound to the gruffness of 'Five To One', though.

Some of the other tracks are rather lovely (the depressing ballads 'Love Street', 'Summer's Almost Gone'), but I'd rather have them sung by any other band but The Doors. Or put them on an outtakes album, at least - there they would serve as pleasant surprises. Don't get me wrong: I like both songs very much, because they're pretty and they're memorable (what else does one need?), but the Doors have an identity, and they don't fit my conception of the Doors. Maybe it's my personal problem and I need to widen the conception? Oh, and if you want some more real complaints, here goes: the shaman chanting 'My Wild Love' is senseless (a great way to kill time and fill space), the B-side opener 'Spanish Caravan' is a stupid Spanish-style ballad (I don't care much for Robbie's flamenco-style playing, thank you), and 'We Could Be So Good Together' goes nowhere in particular, especially in the lyrical department: 'We could be so good together/Yeah, so good together/We could be so good together/Yeah we could/I know we could'. Your impression?

So the only other two tracks that save some face is the album-opening rocker 'Hello I Love You' (some people say it's ripped-off from the Kinks, but I still can't figure what they're talking about), and the antiwar anthem 'The Unknown Soldier' with the band's impersation of a firing squad in midsong. The screams 'it's all over, war is over' at the end sound great, especially since it's not genuine - it's a mockery!

Very, very weak for the Doors' own standards. This is still a very good record by anybody else's standards, of course; but it does heavily sound like many of these songs were written and recorded in great haste, not to mention under heavy circumstances - Jim's personal drug and alcohol problems were getting worse and worse all the time, so Krieger was slowly taking over the leader functions, and this really hurt the boys' image. Particularly in retrospect - where will you find another reviewer on the Web that would have as many nice things to say about The Soft Parade as I do?



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

More pop, horns, orchestra, and Krieger. But Jim wrote some good songs, too.


Track listing: 1) Tell All The People; 2) Touch Me; 3) Shaman's Blues; 4) Do It; 5) Easy Ride; 6) Wild Child; 7) Runnin' Blue; 8) Wishful Sinful; 9) The Soft Parade.

This album was probably released in a flurry, as 1969 didn't seem to be a good year for The Doors, what with Jim's drug additions and obscene behaviour, culminating in the infamous self-exposion bust and subsequent trial. This explains the fact that a good deal of the music here is written by Robbie. And it's no good news, either, because this leads to very mixed results. On one hand, the extremely simple (at least, compared to Jim's own compositions) love song 'Touch Me' sounds fairly attractive to me, with its fast tempo and nice orchestration (it was the hit single, too), and the corny orchestration of the chorus is fully compensated for by the fascinating tension-mounting towards the end of the song, with the wild saxophone solo and the powerful four chords that bring the number to a close. On the other hand, the countryish 'Runnin' Blue', dedicated to the memory of 'poor Otis /Redding/', is simply horrible, with incredibly banal barroom fiddle and absolutely dumb lyrics. The opening track, 'Tell All The People', is too simple for Jim's style, just as well. 'Tell all the people what you see - it's just me!' Me? It's Robby Krieger, not Jim Morrison; sometimes I wonder how in the world could Jim be as horrendously stoned so as to actually sing Krieger's lyrics. Of course, he might just have been a good pal, always ready to oblige, but judging from his biography, that issue's more than dubious.

The funny thing is that I used to think that Jim's own composing was going down the drain, too; but turns out that the two other weak cuts on this record were also written by Krieger (well, 'Do It' is credited to Morrison-Krieger, but I'll gladly close my eyes on the first half of the credit), so Jim's reputation is saved in my eyes. The catchy, mournful ditty 'Wishful Sinful' is in the traditional 'Crystal Ship' ballad style, but it's slightly weaker and features too much unnecessary orchestration; while I can't find any particular flaws with the melody, it always manages to bore me to death, and the false ending midway through irritates my guts - there's nothing worse for one's digestion system than a false ending in the middle of a boring song. Another low quality number, 'Do It', is a catchy, but nevertheless silly piece of rock and roll with the line 'please please listen to the children, they are the ones who will rule the world' repeated over and over again until you're ready to go throttle all the children on this planet. The only thing that redeems it are some fascinating drum fills from Densmore - listen to him basically going over his head on the final verses and gaze in awe at the man's talents.

OK now, some good news, too: when it comes to Jim's songwriting, this album is generally an improvement over the last one. Because when a song is good here, it is real good. Forsaking the schlocky aspects of Waiting For The Sun (relegating them to Krieger's numbers), Jim has taken on his 'dark aura' again, and pieces like 'Shaman's Blues' and especially 'Wild Child' are absolutely shattering, with great heavy riffs and lyrics demonstrating Jim's profound interests in ethnography. Everything is back: the monstruosity, the thrill, the pauses and climaxes, and the riff of 'Wild Child' is one of the best riffs the band ever managed to come up with - particularly brilliant is the change of key by both Jim and Robbie for the last verse, which suddenly changes the atmosphere of the song from ominous and prophetic to desperate and pleading. And the playful, yet menacing atmosphere is back for the pop rocker 'Easy Ride' that gallops around at a great speed and is tremendous fun, especially with Robbie's otherworldly guitar fills and Ray's audacious organ bleeps and bursts.

The real highlight, though, is the title track: yet another overlong, anthemic album-closing composition, this time more complex than ever, moving through several absolutely different parts like a Thick As A Brick-type mini-suite and ending with a brilliant row of overdubs, with four or five Jims singing at once. Yeah, that's the one which begins with the famous 'epigraph': 'When I was back in seminary school, there was a person there who put forth the proposition that you can petition the lord with prayer... petition the lord with prayer... petition the lord with prayer... YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!' Well, I suppose Jim never really petitioned the lord with prayer. Anyway, the effect of the number which slowly and meticulously picks up steam, with more and more Jims joining in the chaotic chorus, is really awesome, and then, when the song builds up to an absolute climax, the Jims suddenly disappear and one extremely loud-voiced, echoey Jim announces: "WHEN ALL ELSE IS FAILED WE CAN RIP THE HORSES' EYES AND MAKE THEM SLEEP". Isn't that classy? And the track also shares the advantage of being fully and completely rhythmic, with a steady, well-played beat, so if 'The End' and 'When The Music's Over' ever used to bother you with their being slow and rambling, 'The Soft Parade' can even be danceable - although I don't know how one could really dance along to Jim's dreary hallucinations.

All said, there are some real nasty stinkers on this album, but in general I far prefer it to Waiting For The Sun, since it doesn't have that crowd-pleasing sweety pop taste to it. After all, Jim Morrison is no Paul McCartney: he's at his best when he sings 'The Soft Parade', not 'Wintertime Love'. Isn't he?



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

An interesting live album... which shows The Doors were a blues band after all.

Best song: WHO DO YOU LOVE

Track listing: 1) House Announcer; 2) Who Do You Love; 3) Alabama Song; 4) Back Door Man; 5) Love Hides; 6) Five To One; 7) Build Me A Woman; 8) When The Music's Over; 9) Close To You; 10) Universal Mind; 11) Petition The Lord With Prayer; 12) Dead Cats Dead Rats; 13) Break On Through; 14) Lions In The Street; 15) Wake Up; 16) A Little Game; 17) The Hill Dwellers; 18) Not To Touch The Earth; 19) Names Of The Kingdom; 20) The Palace Of Exile; 21) Soul Kitchen.

The only live album released when ol' Jim was still prowling around, this one was intended to showcase the Doors at their live best, and it does. Well - almost does. Because the album also showcases the Doors at producing the kind of show they'd never ever allow on their studio albums, and I'm speaking of the 14-minute long 'Celebration Of The Lizard' suite which is the usual Jim kinda suicidal/necrophilian wailings (ok, ok, it's not really about that, but you know it's all the same to me) and it's brain-muddling. It does include 'Not To Touch The Earth' as a substantial chunk of it, but the rest is just not music at all. Which is not what they used to do in the studio. The only quasi-musical piece is 'A Little Game' which is indeed monotonous, a little ode to schizophrenia ('I think you know/What game I mean/I mean the game/Of go insane') based on one nursery chord; apart from that, it's just Jim reciting his poetry bits to bits of acid noisemaking. I can't really tell you if I like it or not - at least they don't set his poetry to disco backing like they would do it eight years later - but nothing is really exceptional or particularly memorable or impressive; not being a fan of Morrison's life attitude, I will never drool over his poetry when it's not stuck to the actual instrumental background. Face it, the Doors could have been a band with just instrumental compositions; but without the instrumental background, Jim was just Jim. Do you like Jim? I don't. Not particularly, in any case.

But if you throw that 10-minute stinker away (and you should), you get yourself an excellent document with brilliant playing, clear vocals and an overall great sound. The funny thing is that while by 1969, when the performance was recorded, the Doors had already gotten rid of covers and were successfully penning all the material themselves, they still do a lot of covers, most notably classic blues covers, on stage. Thus, both 'Alabama Song' and 'Back Door Man' are present, albeit in a medley which also includes 'Five To One' and a little 'previously unavailable', but very pleasant ditty called 'Love Hides'; and you also get acquainted with their interpretation of Bo Diddley's 'Who Do You Love' and Muddy Waters' 'Close To You'. The first one sounds particularly Doors-ish, as if the main vocal melody was written specially for Jim to perform and the stomping Bo Diddley rhythm written specially for Ray to imitate on his organ. 'Close To You' is less comfortable, though, as the lead vocals are taken by Manzarek himself, who overgrumbles and overhoarsens his voice quite a bit and makes things look somewhat cheaper than they actually are. 'Build Me A Woman', though, is a good Jim vocal highlight. Ah well, anyway, I suppose the fact that all of these songs sound so good in the hands of Jim are obvious proof that blues is an offspring of Satan, don't you think? Morrison's Blues Wears Satan's Shoes...

In general, though, I'm rather pleased that Absolutely Live never actually equals a 'greatest hits live' album and offers the listener enough diversity and little hidden gems that he won't find on any studio records. Apart from the already mentioned 'Love Hides', for instance, there's also an introspective, deeply moving ballad called 'Universal Mind' (yeah I know the title can be offputting, but give it a try, it's actually a nice song), and a new hilarious - if you get black humour, of course - introduction to 'Break On Through' called 'Dead Cats Dead Rats'... these guys were sick, really.

Meanwhile, the oldies are all performed with enough vehemency and enough little details to distinguish them from their studio peers. Naturally, they're all extended: the Doors used to build up tension very slowly, which, unfortunately, doesn't always come out well on an album. For instance, they used to stretch out the organ intro to 'When The Music's Over', slowly wearing out the listener with repetitive keyboard riffs until all of a sudden Densmore kicked in with the drums and Jim threw out his mighty 'YEAH' roar and the quietly dreaming listener was kicked out of the seat with a sonic wave. Which sounds cool in theory, but in an audio version it quickly becomes unbearable. Thank God the version on here is shorter than on the Hollywood Bowl concert recording. But then again, Jim does compensate for all the fuss with his wonderful crowd interaction during the short pieces. 'SHUT UP', he roars, 'is that the way to behave at a rock'n'roll concert?' And as he bellows out 'we want the world and we want it...', the whole audience keeps howling 'now, now, now!' to him. Later on: 'That's New York to you. The only people that rush the stage are guys.' Things like that really turn the simple listening process into... well, into an experience.

'Soul Kitchen' is brilliantly chosen as an encore (brilliantly, since Jim wisely changes the closing lyrics to 'Well the cop says it's time to close now/I think we have to go now/I'd really wanna stay here all night...'), and overall, the album leaves a very good feeling. The sound is excellent (although I feel the organ and drums are mixed way too high, overshadowing Robbie's guitar all the time), the song choice is wise and entertaining, and you can actually feel the audience if you want to. Not that the record lacks any defects - I think I've listed some of them above - but you can't get any better with a live Doors album, and really, with the Doors, you oughta be there to truly understand the event. Such a pity I wasn't...



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

More blues, less pop. More darkness, more beauty. And ferocious guitarwork.


Track listing: 1) Roadhouse Blues; 2) Waiting For The Sun; 3) You Make Me Real; 4) Peace Frog; 5) Blue Sunday; 6) Ship Of Fools; 7) Land Ho!; 8) The Spy; 9) Queen Of The Highway; 10) Indian Summer; 11) Maggie M'gill.

Groovy - for me, this is easily the second best Doors album ever. Others may disagree, claiming that Morrison Hotel has lost a lot of what we call the traditional 'Doors spirit'. That may be true - this and the following record are among the band's most 'lightweight' material - in that they're definitely not as dark, 'gory', apocalyptic and shiver-sending as most of the previous stuff. For the most part, the Doors decide to switch gears - and, while pretty few of this stuff can be called cheerful, Morrison Hotel is a far more listener-friendly record if the listener likes his music smooth and not very offensive, but with an edge nevertheless. But many fans are disappointed - after all, who needs a Doors record when there's no 'Soft Parade' or 'When The Music's Over' on it?

Well, I certainly do. While I find it easy to get into the band's 'creepy' masterpieces and am perfectly able to identify with their atmosphere at any given moment, the main thing I respect about my Doors is the immaculate quality of songwriting, arranging and performing. And if you judge Morrison Hotel from that aspect (and you should), you'll find that the songwriting has actually improved since the last two albums: in fact, since the band had slowed it down a bit after Morrison's self-exposion bust, the drug excesses and self-killing craze were slowly on their way out, and the band took the time to rethink their musical philosophy. The result was - back to the roots. This and the next record are quite in the roots rock vein - actually, blues-rock, with elements of country, folk and funk thrown in for good measure. But that's all right by me, as long as most of these songs are still distinctive, and, whatever one might say, they still reek of the Doors. Not as gloomy, no, and nowhere near as hard-hitting as Strange Days, but every bit as melodic and with a more well-rounded, full-fledged production. Most important, the Doors showed the world they weren't stagnating - on the contrary, Morrison Hotel diversifies their formula as much as possible.

Many of the numbers sport a bluesy atmosphere, but only two are really 'blues' at its most straightforward. 'Roadhouse Blues' is my favourite - a fascinating, gripping song with possibly the most powerful intro on a Doors record. The gruff, heavy riff that ushers in the song is unforgettable, plodding along like a mastodont, and after it's been consecutively augmented by drums, pianos and harmonicas, the groove is in: every bit as fascinating of an approach to blues as was demonstrated a year and a half before by Led Zeppelin. The song also features a terrific lead workout by Robbie; 'boring blues jam', some might say, but I find the atmosphere enthralling. This is, without a doubt, best proof to the fact that the Doors could rip out a hard rock tune better than just about any American band at that point.

The rip-roar of 'Roadhouse Blues' is counterpointed by a slow, quiet blues - 'The Spy', which has always held a very distinct place in my heart. Blues, yes, but dark, captivating blues, with an outro that's gonna send you into heavy nightmares. How can one be left without any reaction after that terrifically slow pace with huge pauses, during which Jim is quietly chanting: 'I'm a spy........ I can see....... what you do....... and I know'. Know what? Spooky...

There's some pure disposable rock'n'roll, too: 'You Make Me Real' shows The Doors were no slouches and could handle a good fast rocker if necessary. The song may not evoke a particularly interesting atmosphere, but I've always been a fan of the opening piano/guitar riff - gee, say what you will, it's catchy as hell. And then again, maybe I've always wished for the Doors to pen a simplistic dance-style number. Well, here you are. Sure, the song never fits their style (after all, the Doors never used to back up Elvis, now did they?), but they make everything to make it work, and for me, it works, if I'm not in the mood for 'When The Music's Over'. Another bouncy, upbeat song is 'Peace Frog' - the one that sounds like a cross between a funk and a country tune, with a great wah-wah guitarline sounding exactly like a frog croaking: CROAAAAAK-CROAK-croak-croak-croak-croak-croak croak-croak-CROAAAAAK-CROAK-croak... Oh, I know a wah-wah is normally expected to sound like a frog, but this here wah-wah is practically unidstinguishable from a real toad... I'm serious. What's most fascinating about it, though, is the way the gory, chaotic lyrics about blood in the streets of the town of New Haven, etc., contrast with the cheerful jazz/funk/country melody of the song. Definitely, this is one more highlight of the record, with Robbie displaying some magnificent guitar chops disclosing his jazz roots.

I don't really know what people tend to have against 'Maggie M'gill'. I find the main riff to the song and its interaction with the other instruments a great melodic invention. The song's got a pounding, destructive beat; a menacing, throbbing bassline; and that riff. It's not just catchy - it's... it's kinda unique. It's short and minimalistic, but the way Robbie manages to diversify it along the way, constantly changing the chords and sometimes playing tiny variations on it, is something I have very rarely experienced on a rock record, unless you're talking Pete Townshend of course. The song itself starts like an old grim folk tale - 'There's Maggie M'gill, she lived on a hill, her daddy got drunk and left her no will...', but after a while we suddenly turn to different matters and hear: 'I've been singing the blues ever since the world began...' (now that I can believe!) While the melody is quite memorable, it's the mood that the song induces makes me a total fan: tired, gray and completely lifeless. In another situation, this would have been a defect, but I suppose that's exactly the thing the band wanted to express: their tiredness, loss of interest in the world and seclusion in the old traditions. The fading out of the tune, together with Jim's lazy chanting of 'Maggie Maggie... Maggie Magill... roll oh roll on... Maggie Magill... Maggie... Maggie... roll oh roll... roll oh roll on... Maggie Magill...' counts as my second favourite ending of a Doors' album, right after the powerful climax of 'When The Music's Over' on Strange Days. Don't laugh, just listen.

Finally, one more highlight on the album is 'Waiting For The Sun' (strange enough, this song never made it to the Waiting For The Sun album) with alternating heavy riffage and gentle synthesizer-driven lyrics. It's the closest thing to a 'standard Doors tune' on the album - fair enough, as it's an outtake - so people like this one most of all. Deservedly so; the contrast between Jim's quiet, melancholic singing, and the grungy distorted riff that introduces the chorus is striking.

A lot of people seem to like 'Queen Of The Highway', too, but I think its kinda boring - a rather strange and out-of-place anthem to... to... bikers, it seems? Could be, as well as to the American public in general - 'American boys/American girls/Most beautiful people/In the world'. People of the US of A, aren't you flattered? Well, congratulations, but the song's never been a favourite of mine. It's good though, and definitely nowhere near as boring as the real stinker of this record - 'Indian Summer'; it reminds me of all these low-grade pop ballads on Waiting For The Sun, but it's actually worse, as the melody is so diluted and deadly sleepy you'd think you were listening to a bad ambient tune.

I haven't listed all the songs on here ('Land Ho!' is one more minor highlight, and 'Ship Of Fools' is a throwaway - but I'm too tired to discuss these), but in any case, I think I have stated my point: I understand that the change of direction from 'terror-pop' to blues-rock could be, and still can be, a shock to hardcore fans, but anyone whose musical horizons extend far beyond 'goth' will be able to appreciate the stylings of Morrison Hotel. Blues-rock is great when it has an edge; and the Doors always had an edge. Of course, while old Lizard King was still alive.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

A hardcore blues album - at last. Very mature and with a hu-u-uge identity, too.


Track listing: 1) The Changeling; 2) Love Her Madly; 3) Been Down So Long; 4) Cars Hiss By My Window; 5) L. A. Woman; 6) L'America; 7) Hyacinth House; 8) Crawling King Snake; 9) The Wasp (Texas Radio And The Big Beat); 10) Riders On The Storm.

If Strange Days was the Doors' 'Magical Album' and Waiting For The Sun was their 'Pop Album', then this one is certainly their 'Blues Album'. The number of generic blues tracks - and I mean generic, with a standard three-line-verse blues pattern, not "blues variations" a la 'Maggie May' or 'The Spy' - astonishes: it's three (let me remind you that on the previous albums even one was already a lot), and most of the other tracks have a certain bluesy feel to them as well. The seeds sown on Morrison Hotel have obviously sprouted, and the Doors decided to temporarily reinvent themselves as a strict blues band.

Still, all of these three numbers are splendidly performed, in a way that only the Doors could manage - after all, their take on the blues had always been absolutely unlike anybody else's; I personally would take one Doors' blues number over the entire Fleetwood Mac catalog of 1968. 'Been Down So Long' features breathtaking double-tracked guitar solos over a beat that's frighteningly simplistic, but leaves an unforgettable imprint in one's memory, not to mention a particularly impressive vocal delivery by Jim who gives it his all, like he used to do four years earlier on 'Back Door Man'. The way he roars out 'well I've been down so goddamn long that it looks like up to me' is deeply personal, and somehow one begins to feel that at this point Jim had really suffered long enough to earn the right to sound completely authentic in his newly-found role of an old bluesman ('I've been singing the blues ever since the world began...'). On 'Cars Hiss By My Window' the band, however, employs a different approach: the song just kinda drags on, slowly, moodily and quietly, with a very humble and subdued guitar background, until suddenly we witness Jim wailing and imitating a wah-wah guitar solo with his voice so splendidly that it's hard to tell whether it's a human voice or a wah-wah (hey, I've even had debates with my friends over that issue...). Out of all the three songs, only 'Crawling King Snake' can be, to a certain extent, called a generic bore: it seems to me that this old blues cover was included on the album exclusively in order to have at least something to support Morrison's fading necrophilian / chthonic mythological image. But the vocal delivery is monotonous and pro forma, and the arrangement is nowhere near as menacing as the one on 'Been Down So Long'. Still, even in its function of the weakest number on the record, the song is pretty good.

Elsewhere, the "minor" numbers are surprisingly diverse, drawing on most of the styles the Doors had exploited on their previous records and succeeding almost all over the place. At least one number is an absolute classic: the fast pop rocker 'Love Her Madly', with a stunning steady beat and a driving electric piano part from Ray; Jim's lyrics, this time apparently dedicated to lamenting an unshared love, are again as personal and hard-hitting as can be, but the best moment for me is Robbie's minimalistic guitar solo towards the end of the song - these brief note sequences as he emulates Jim's vocal melody always bring tears to my eyes, and this is unquestionably the second best moment on the whole album after Ray's electric piano solo on 'Riders On The Storm'.

The 'mystic ravings' side is this time represented by 'The Wasp (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)', an older outtake this time, already performed several times live in concert; while it can't hope to rank alongside with the album-closing epics of yore, it's still done with a lot of energy and set to a good set of organ riffs, too. The 'soft balladeering' side is represented by 'Hyacinth House' - Jim complaining about his loneliness, but you know, 'tis nobody's fault but his, in any case, the song is quite pleasant and moving and could have been a real highlight on Waiting For The Sun, to be placed in the place of crap like 'Wintertime Love'. The 'hey there let's rock the house down' side is represented by the opening 'Changeling', which is the album's second weakest track - with its repetitive riff and pounding arena-rock beat it tries to emulate 'Roadhouse Blues' but is nowhere near as epic or melodically successful; sure enough, you can't help tapping your foot to it, but you regret this right after the track's end. And, finally, the 'gloomy evil number' side is represented by 'L'America' - a very strange song which in part sounds like the soundtrack to some King's Quest, due to Manzarek's cavernous-sounding organ and Robbie Krieger's 'evil sorcerer' guitar tone.

The two great 'epic' hits here, however, are the title track and 'Riders On The Storm'. 'L. A. Woman' can be seen as the Doors' equivalent to the Stones' 'Midnight Rambler' - an inventive, explorative kind of fast-paced song that goes from a general cheerful mood to becoming downright creepy in the middle and then climbs out into the light once again. If I understand the accompanying video correctly, it seems to be about a serial killer just like 'Midnight Rambler' was, only far better disguised, and with a strange 'optimistic' ending.

But nothing in the entire Doors catalog ever chills me out as much as the closing 'Riders On The Storm' - a song symbolic for the whole career of The Doors. A song that functions excellently as a Morrison swan song and his musical testament, and it's oh so wonderful that he left us with 'Riders' as his testament and not, say, 'Five To One' or the pleasant, but - on a larger scale - throwaway 'Maggie M'gill'. Its perfect arrangement - the steady soft drumming, the sound of crashing waves, the modest organ humming - only adds to the solemnity and humble grandeur of the whole experience; and when Ray hits the keyboards for the quiet jazzy piano solo in the middle, it seems the world is stopping for a couple of minutes. Pure magic: why can't all those jazz masters actually play like this? Perhaps it's 'musically shallow' from a technical viewpoint, like John Alroy sez, but it's totally emotionally devastating. It might be my favourite moment among the whole Doors catalog.

Hate to say that, but perhaps Jim mounting a moonlight drive shortly after the release of the album was only too good for the band - ending their career on such a high note, at their peak. This certainly contributed a lot to the band's legend (especially considering that nobody ever heard about the two albums that the band released without Jim), and every rock hero that dies shortly after recording a song like 'Riders On The Storm' is bound to become a legend. One can only guess what the band's next move with Jim could have been. Becoming a hardcore blues outfit? Sticking to the same 'mix' formula? Going up? Going down? Let us not speculate, anyway; just be sure to buy this excellent record, if only to honour the memory of the old Lizard King.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

Not as bad as you're told, but still, they're dead as a duck without Jim.

Best song: I'M HORNY, I'M STONED

Track listing: 1) In The Eye Of The Sun; 2) Variety Is The Spice Of Life; 3) Ships W/Sails; 4) Tightrope Ride; 5) Down On The Farm; 6) I'm Horny I'm Stoned; 7) Wandering Musician; 8) Hang On To Your Life.

You gotta forgive them. After all, what were they to do? Everybody needs money, and everybody needs fame, and after all, it ain't true that Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore were nothing but Jim's backing band. Jim was responsible for the band's image and the lyrics and, well, parts of the melodies. But the band's musical core were Ray and Robbie, after all, and, seeing as to how much I really enjoyed Ray's moody keyboards and Robbie's menacing guitar tone, I decided to give this one a try when I saw a copy - anyway, in a few years this album will probably only be found in the biggest music archives and nowhere else. And, well, my opinion is somewhat mixed. Probably, if I hadn't heard all the negative reviews of this album and hadn't been told by everybody that I should stay away from this album like from a poisonous viper, I would have reacted likewise. But my expectations were initially set as low as possible, and thus the record did not really disappoint me. Of course, anybody expecting something on one caliber with Morrison Doors need not bother. This is music without any edge to it - it isn't dark or moody, it isn't apocalyptic, and none of the songs grab you by the throat like ol' Jim could. Moreover, there aren't really any memorable original melodies here - the album leads us further into the direction that they'd begun to take on L. A. Woman: roots rock & blues, that is. That's all very well, but we don't love our Doors for these things, now do we?

But, on the positive side, none of these melodies strike me as being offensive. The playing is still very much Doors-ish: Densmore thumps and stumps as usual, Ray still can play a mean organ, and Robbie's guitar lines are still intriguing, especially on 'In The Eye Of The Sun' and 'I'm Horny, I'm Stoned'. Their voices can't hope to bring memories of Jim, of course, but they aren't bad singers by any means, just not so powerful or expressive; and while we're at it, Ray's aggressive roar is at times very similar to Jim's, so with a little bit of strained effort you might even disregard the difference. And, well, some of the album is just fun. The fact that it was released half a year later than Woman does not mean that the band members were going to get rid of the memories of Morrison as quick as possible; this only means that the album is largely based on outtakes from the previous one, and maybe if some of this material were sung by Jim, we'd come to appreciate it as much as the regular stuff.

The rave-up opener, 'In The Eye Of The Sun', for one, is a blues tune that sounds as if it was inherited directly from the blues tunes on Woman, and it's a good one, even if the melody is far less original than the one on 'The Changeling'. But it's still constructed pretty well, and that precious "Doors sound" is here all right, because I don't feel bored while listening to it. And the atmospheric epic 'Ships W/Sails' is a painful try to recreate something melancholic and plaintive, a try that almost works, in fact. The only complaint is that it could have been produced better: the actual melody sounds very much like a corny take on some country shuffle and completely misses the 'mystery' vibe that's so crucial for the Doors. Put on some echo and some ominous-sounding guitars, eliminate the double-tracked vocals and voila - a minor classic is ready. No 'Riders On The Storm', of course (which the song tries occasionally to emulate, especially in the instrumental part), but I guess that goes without saying.

The other stuff, however, mostly hints at the period where the band were going to release a 'music anthology' album. There are some strange excourses into country ('Variety Is The Spice Of Life'), bebop ('I'm Horny I'm Stoned') and R'n'B ('Tightrope Ride') that don't sound Doors-ish at all. Not bad, though, and 'I'm Horny I'm Stoned', with its self-deprecating lyrics and funny guitar riff, is actually the best track on the album, like it or not. The only thing is not to pay attention to the lyrics: disregard them completely, please. One look at the lyrics sheet to 'Variety Is The Spice Of Life' will be enough for you to grow a bias the size of a belltower.

There are occasional serious complaints, of course - 'Down On The Farm', for instance, is made out of two completely different parts that hardly can be joined together (moody minor atmospheric ballad + upbeat country march? You tell me!); and the record finishes on a rather low note (the dissonant, erratic 'Hang On To Your Life' that's probably destined to serve as a substitute for the usual Morrison album-closing epic, but goes absolutely nowhere with all its multi-part gimmickry). But that certainly doesn't mean that you can't force yourself to like it. You can, if you give it a try.

Only thing is, what for? The uniqueness and the freshness are gone together with Jim. Fans of Ray and Robbie will certainly get something out of this, but casual Doors fans, worry not. On the other hand, if you're that kind of Doors fan who respects them for being a good "roots-rock" band and has no inner respect for the inner world of Morrison, Other Voices might turn out to be a pleasant surprise.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

A little more dark-sounding, and still has some hooks, but the bad stuff is really bad.


Track listing: 1) Get Up And Dance; 2) 4 Billion Souls; 3) Verdilac; 4) Hardwood Floor; 5) Good Rockin'; 6) The Mosquito; 7) The Piano Bird; 8) It Slipped My Mind; 9) The Peking King And The New York Queen.

Again, underrated, but for some good reason. The critics that tended to look with condescendence on Other Voices suddenly decided to massacre the Jimless band's second effort - it sold miserably, got basically no positive reviews at all, and prompted Manzarek to abandon ship, which, of course, led to the band's final disappearance. Indeed, this second and last Morrison-less album caught the boys in a 'transition' phase that they just could not survive.

On one hand, there's a strong tendency to 'popularize' the sound, carried over from Other Voices: most of the songs are rather light and poppy. However, where the light and poppy songs of Other Voices were at least fun and displayed some limited creativity (read: decent original melodies), these numbers are usually just stupid. The rockers all follow the same simplistic pattern and end up all being based on the same melody that was moreover already present on 'In The Eye Of The Sun'. The opening 'Get Up And Dance', for instance, has the most un-Doorsish, banal, jazz-pop sound that could be expected from a half-professional lounge jazz band, much worse than 'Tell All The People', in fact. Jim must have rolled over in his grave on hearing that stuff. And Krieger's 'Hardwood Floor' begins as a lame take on 'Proud Mary' and ends as a carbon copy of 'Get Up And Dance'.

Even more horrid, though, is their decision to have a take on 'Good Rockin' Tonight': a song that has as much to do with the Doors' image as a Rembrandt painting has to do with a Picasso. It isn't sloppy or anything, but just to hear 'Good Rockin' Tonight' with Manzarek playing his usual keyboard style and trying to imitate Jerry Lee Lewis... an 'unforgettable' feeling indeed. I far preferred Manzarek's take on all those blues numbers, such as 'Close To You' on Absolutely Live, because, well, blues is blues, and good old time rockabilly is good old time rockabilly: leave the latter to CCR and concentrate on the former. And the other 'rocker', the overlong 'Peking King And The New York Queen' that closes the album, shows that by now the guys couldn't handle even a self-penned decent fast song. It's oh so painful for me to realize that by that time Krieger was wasting that magnificent guitar tone of his on such senseless trivialities.

The other tendency is quite the contrary: to return to their 'dark' image and conjure a few old tricks that would remind fans of what really was the music base behind Jim's overshadowing image. This leads to a couple interesting, if not very solid, songs like '4 Billion Souls' and the ominous, wah-wah-driven 'Verdilac' that have their hooks firmly in place and could have been hits in the hands of Jim; as it is, the lack of a forceful vocalist really cuts 'em all down, however good they might play. That said, the 'don't you see that we could be the first in history' bit is exceptionally moody, if not really in a Doorsish way: it reminds me far more of some late Sixties psychedelic Britpop a la Pretty Things, as there's basically no menace at all in the song. This is, in fact, the boys' main flaw: however dark or disturbing they try to make their songs, they always lack Jim's authenticity and end up sounding rather novel as a result. I mean, I do get my kicks out of 'Verdilac', but it's just a wah-wah driven catchy rocker to me, with a lengthy brass solo. I just don't notice all that atmosphere.

The record's high points, however, occur when they try to join both of these tendencies, especially on 'The Mosquito' - a song that begins as a silly Latin-influenced throwaway ('no me moleste mosquito...') and ends in a superb guitar jam with Krieger at his very, very best and gloomiest. I mean, we got the first part that's stupid but catchy and the second part that's unmemorable but solid, so the song as a whole is okay. The 'best-of' vote, however, goes to the oh so pretty ballad 'The Piano Bird' sung by Ray in a Jim-emulation tone; again, it mostly suffers from the lack of a good vocalist, because the melody is near magnificent and displays a strange tenderness and 'lone romanticism' that's mostly missing on here.

What I just want to say is that, all odds given, the boys were really anything but spent creatively - contrary to the usual opinion, the musical skeleton of the Doors is still here. If only Jim had still been sticking around at the time to add his unique touch of atmosphere, magic and 'lethal energy', at least half of these songs could have easily made it onto L. A. Woman Vol. 2 if graced with his voice. Yeah, I said that the rockers are bad, but imagine 'You Make Me Real' sung by Krieger and that'll sure make you turn away from it (if you haven't already, of course). The problem is that the band was doomed anyway after Jim's death - whatever they would try to do, hell, even if they'd found a new vocalist ten times as strong or as 'specifically charming' as Jim, they'd still be bound to live and record in his shadow. Which would be unbearable, of course. Good thing for them they understood it and disbanded themselves before they'd lost the last shreds of the band's reputation.



Year Of Release: 1978
Record rating = 3
Overall rating = 7

A Dead Man's Album. A cash-in, but some may like it.


Track listing: 1) Awake; 2) Ghost Song; 3) Dawn's Highway; 4) Newborn Awakening; 5) To Come Of Age; 6) Black Polished Chrome; 7) Latino Chrome; 8) Angels And Sailors; 9) Stoned Immaculate; 10) The Movie; 11) Curses Invocations; 12) American Night; 13) Roadhouse Blues; 14) The World On Fire; 15) Lament; 16) The Hitchhiker; 17) An American Prayer; 18) Hour For Magic; 19) Freedom Exists; 20) A Feast Of Friends; [BONUS TRACKS:] 21) Babylon Fading; 22) Bird Of Prey; 23) The Ghost Song.

Not really a Doors album, strictly speaking. This is "Jim Morrison, music by the Doors" - 'nuff said. Seven years after the Shaman was dead, the rest of them decided to collect some of his recorded poetry, stick it to music and release as a.. hmm... artistical exercise. I don't even quite understand what exactly caused Ray, Robbie and John to reunite in the studio. Nostalgia? Financial problems? Or was it - dare I say it - out of true respect for Jim's memory and a firm belief that this could really be treated as a 'new Doors album'?

Whatever it be, An American Prayer is only palatable to those who can view Jim Morrison's lyrics as a value onto themselves. People, that is, who shed tears over the actual poetry - like when they read it from a lyrics sheet or printed inside a book. Oh yes, there is some musical backing here, but it is completely and absolutely inane. If we speak in terms of compositions, there's only one true new composition on here, which is 'Ghost Song', and it's essentially just a mediocre disco track that has nothing to do with the former Doors spirit whatsoever. Everything else is either separate, disjointed snippets of rudimental instrumentation that seems to be there with only one purpose - to be there, that is, or quotations and excerpts from actual Doors songs of the past. There's a big piece of 'Peace Frog', for instance. And 'Texas Radio And The Big Beat'. And, of course, a big piece of 'Riders On The Storm' that is, quite naturally, put somewhere near the end. Not at the very end, though, because the very end features one more run through the 'Ghost Song'.

Which leaves us facing the imminent question: is it really nice and cool to put on a record like this, just to enjoy some of Jim's poetry recited by the Lizard King himself? Well... It depends. You could probably judge by my rating that I fall into the 'Morrison poetry haters' camp, but that's not exactly true: the rating given out refers rather to the band's inane attempts at presenting this is as a 'musical' album. I don't rate poetry declamations as such. But actually, while it is becoming rather trendy to dismiss Morrison's poetry as derivative mystical crap nowadays, I would like to step up to the man's defense for a bit. Sure, his poems are incohesive, disjointed, unclear... but you can't deny the lack of a more or less similar atmosphere and purpose. And in that respect, it is perhaps better to hear the poetry than actually read it, because Jim's slow, melancholic, seriously tired voice greatly emphasizes the general message.

As is so often with poets, Jim does go overboard from time to time, and he does overrely on cliches which he apparently subconsciously borrowed from Blake and the like, but disregard the poor moments and concentrate on the rich. 'Out here in the perimeter there are no stars, out here we are stoned... immaculate'. 'The music was new black polished chrome...'. Haven't these quotations all become semi-classic by now? They sure have, and I suppose we the 'critics' don't have any power over them already. So take 'em or leave 'em. Don't slander 'em. And what about 'Lament'? ('Lament For My Cock', actually). That one is really cool. But basically, I'm not here to review poetry, so I'll pass.

Of course, all the good things I said do not detract from the fact that An American Prayer is still hardly listenable, and unless you get really and completely hypnotized by Jim's voice you'll hardly want to put it on more than once. There's actually just one big stimulus for you to do that: smack dab in the middle of the record the boys have placed a complete, unabridged and unoverdubbed live version of 'Roadhouse Blues' that absolutely soars. Classy guitar solo from Robbie and an extended mid-section with Jim playing the typical fool and typically mocking the audience. It hardly fits in with anything else, and it was probably included just to make the proposition a bit more 'commercial', but as it is, it's an excellent 'breather' that performs the great purpose of reminding you that, after all, the Doors' main strength wasn't in Jim's poetry - it was in their collective power as a great American rock'n'roll band. The greatest American rock'n'roll band that ever existed. Who else could rock out with that much power in the late Sixties? Grand Funk Railroad? Well, sure, GFR could rock out with that much power, but who could rock out with that much creativity and intelligence? Ah! And, of course, no GFR could have ended the song with something like 'I don't know what's gonna happen, man, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames'. Pretty typical of Jim.

The CD reissue of the album adds a bunch of bonus tracks. (Bonus tracks for American Prayer? Cool!!!) 'Babylon Fading' is pretty much dismissable, but 'Bird Of Prey' is somewhat nice, if naive and demonstrating Jim's near total inability to sing accappella. Plus, there's yet another version of 'The Ghost Song', lengthier and fuller this time, as if hearing the original was really supposed to make you hungry for more. So yeah, if you can buy this on vinyl, buy this on vinyl. I mean, if you must buy this on vinyl, because apparently, you really don't need the album unless GOTO 10.



Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

Fourth Disc Spoils All!

Best song: unidentifiable due to the Box Set Syndrome.

Track listing: CD I: 1) Five To One; 2) Queen Of The Highway; 3) Hyacinth House; 4) My Eyes Have Seen You; 5) Who Scared You; 6) Black Train Song; 7) End Of The Night; 8) Whiskey, Mystics And Men; 9) I Will Never Be Untrue; 10) Moonlight Drive (demo); 11) Moonlight Drive (Sunset Sound); 12) Rock Is Dead; 13) Albinoni's Adagio In G Minor;

CD II: 1) Roadhouse Blues; 2) Ship Of Fools; 3) Peace Frog; 4) Blue Sunday; 5) The Celebration Of The Lizard; 6) Gloria; 7) Crawling King Snake; 8) Money; 9) Poontang Blues/Build Me A Woman/Sunday Trucker; 10) The End;

CD III: 1) Hello To The Cities; 2) Break On Through; 3) Rock Me; 4) Money; 5) Someday Soon; 6) Go Insane; 7) Mental Floss; 8) Summer's Almost Gone; 9) Adolph Hitler; 10) Hello I Love You; 11) The Crystal Ship; 12) I Can't See Your Face In My Mind; 13) The Soft Parade; 14) Tightrope Ride; 15) Orange County Suite;

CD IV: 1) Light My Fire; 2) Peace Frog; 3) Wishful Sinful; 4) Take It As It Comes; 5) L.A. Woman; 6) I Can't See Your Face In My Mind; 7) Land Ho!; 8) Yes The River Knows; 9) Shaman's Blues; 10) You're Lost Little Girl; 11) Love Me Two Times; 12) When The Music's Over; 13) The Unknown Soldier; 14) Wild Child; 15) Riders On The Storm.

The Doors get the boxset treatment - and as is the case with most boxsets, this one is pestered with the "let's-please-everybody" curse of mixing rarities with non-rarities. Although in this particular case, the curse is even more obvious and dumber: instead of interspersing the tracks, the compilers simply packed all the rarities onto three discs and then added a fourth one called "The Band's Favourites", which, apparently, serves no other purpose than, well, indicating the band's favourites. Now you all know which songs Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore are most proud of; thank Heaven Jim Morrison never sent them word from the underworld, because we'd probably have to have 'Horse Latitudes' or something on there. As it is, you do have 'Shaman's Blues' but do not have 'People Are Strange', so it can't even function as a proper "best-of" collection. Stupid.

BUT! The other three discs, lovingly "unboxed" by Russian pirates and presented to yours truly without forcing him to buy "Bands Favourites" (yeah, I'm positively sure they're all remixed, remastered, cleaned out, decompressed, filtered, strained, sterilized, decontaminated, and hydromassaged beyond all human expectations, but I'm not Mr Sound Quality, I've been raised on listening to rusty 8-track audience quality Motorhead boots, don't you mess around with me), anyway, the other three discs rule. Now keep in mind that a couple years after that boxset, Elektra also released Essential Rarities, a 1-CD collection of arguably the "best" of these outtakes, which I had heard and reviewed before I'd gotten around to the entire boxset, so if I make what seems like "glaring omissions" of obvious highlights in this review, it's because you can find me slobbering all over them one screen/several paragraphs of text below. Keep that in mind and if you're a potential buyer and a review-loving masochist, don't forget to read the next review when you're through this one.

Anyway, there are two CDs here subtitled The Future Ain't What It Used To Be and Without A Safety Net, collecting studio demos and outtakes and assorted live performances, and a third CD entitled Live In New York that's supposed to be a complete or near-complete show recorded in Madison Square Garden sometime in 1970, but, in fact, there have been rumours that it's actually been collaged from several NYC performances... bad, bad cheaters. Never mind that. The show is terrific anyway. The first four songs are most of the first side of Morrison Hotel, with 'Peace Frog' as a particular highlight as you don't get to hear the Doors doing their funky schtick onstage too much outside of here. Then there's 'Lizard' again, all of its seventeen or so minutes; a powerhouse rendition of Van Morrison's 'Gloria' that should by no means be played in the presence of sweet young innocent children (well, okay, I played it in the presence of my child, but fortunately his English isn't good enough to quite grasp the meaning of the phrase "why don't you wrap your lips around my cock", not yet, at least); an okay performance of the never-more-than-simply-okay-itself 'Crawling King Snake'; a fun bluesy romp through 'Money (That's What I Want)', the best thing about which is that Jim introduces it saying 'now we're gonna play the national anthem... so everybody please stand up, show some respect... pretend you're at a football game'; and another blues that starts as 'Poontang Blues', then transforms into 'Build Me A Woman' and ends as 'Sunday Trucker (Motherfucker)'. Whaddaya know, the boxset ain't exactly obscenity free, to put it midly, and will severely disappoint those who thought that Jim Morrison never used the word "fuck" on his studio records because he was not aware of its existence. Oh, and there's also a big big big big big 'The End', but read about it in the Essential Rarities review.

As for the rest of this stuff, well, you don't really know where to begin... Maybe begin with mentioning the bunch of obscure 1965 demos recorded by the band when they still had no guitar player and Morrison didn't yet much care for his image? Isn't it fun to hear 'Moonlight Drive', 'Hello I Love You', and 'Summer's Almost Gone' recorded at a time when The Doors were just a bunch of naive idealists hoping to match the poetic skills of one of them with the musical skills of another one, get laid, and earn a million bucks? With not an ounce of the world-known dark tension and creepy sexual overtones? Presented as mere pop songs with hooks - although, to be frank, 'Moonlight Drive' was pretty far out with its imagery for 1965 even without the dark tension? Or when 'Go Insane' was actually an attempt at a song instead of a cartoonish, but still somewhat ghostly, poetry reading inserted into the middle of 'Celebration Of The Lizard'? Hey, these demos might have more historical importance than anything else, but I still get much more enjoyment out of them than, say, out of your average Beatles demo as captured on some Anthology or other - go figure.

The Safety Net disc could be a bit questionable in that much of it is dedicated to lengthy blues imporvisations, 'Black Train Song' and 'Rock Is Dead', the first of these centered around a performance of 'Mystery Train' and the second much more rambling and chaotic but for some reason also going into 'Mystery Train' at one point. I know, I know, this stuff is supposed to suck, and the Doors weren't all that hot when it came to blues improvisation (Robbie sure could lay on a classy guitar solo in the studio, but he rarely sounded so sharp and precise onstage), but there's still a lot of the quintessential Doors enchantment in both, and 'Rock Is Dead' is just about totally unpredictable, with Jim being able to interrupt the band at any moment just to go into some silly on-the-spot monolog, and then to steer them into something completely different. Besides, at the very least it's important to hear these pieces just once, as necessary elements of the jig-saw puzzle that was the Doors. Of course, me being more sympathetic towards Jim Morrison than, say, Robert Plant, I'm naturally cutting him more flack than the lion-maned guy, so you be warned. If the whole Jim thango ain't right up your whango, better steer clear.

Other highlights that were not included onto Essential Rarities include: a low-quality live rendition of 'Five To One' taken right from the very unlucky day in Miami where Jim (nearly?) exposed his manhood, the one that ends with the famous 'I'm talking about love... love.... love.... grab your f-f-f-f-f-f-fuckin' neighbour and love 'im!' (you also get to hear him yelling 'you're just a bunch of idiots!' at the crowd); the band's classy 1968 recording of Albinoni's Adagio, which was supposed to go on Waiting For The Sun, if I remember correctly, as sort of a conclusion to 'Celebration Of The Lizard', but got dumped together with the main part of the 'Celebration'; and early live recordings of 'The Crystal Ship' and 'I Can't See Your Face In My Mind', from an epoch where Jim was still restrained and the band cared more about quality than epatage.

There are some boring moments on the boxset, for sure, and then there's the case of the stupid fourth disc, but overall, there ain't a single truly disposable track on here, which places the boxset among the very best ones I own - such as the Hendrix boxset or the Genesis Archives. And there won't be anything better either! Rock! Is! DEAD!



Year Of Release: 1999
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Superb collection of - well - essential rarities, including a few really really huge surprises.

Best song: gee, hard to tell...

Track listing: 1) Hello To The Cities; 2) Break On Through; 3) Roadhouse Blues; 4) Hyacinth House (demo); 5) Who Scared You; 6) Whiskey Mystics And Men; 7) I Will Never Be Untrue; 8) Moonlight Drive (demo); 9) Queen Of The Highway (alt. version); 10) Someday Soon; 11) Hello I Love You (demo); 12) Orange County Suite; 13) The Soft Parade; 14) The End; 15) Woman Is A Devil.

[Note: this review was written way before I actually got the Box Set, which is why the two reviews should not be viewed in conjunction with one another.]

So what exactly is this, I ask ye? Well, see, as if the Box Set wasn't enough, two years later Elektra released the complete Doors' studio recordings - namely, all the regular six studio albums - in another boxset; this one was enlarged by a 'bonus' seventh CD named... yup, you guessed it - Essential Rarities. For the most part, it consisted of selections from the first, main Box Set, plus one 'bonus' track that was apparently destined to get the diehard collectors to rush out and buy the entire second boxset for just one song. Man, you gotta admire these record companies and their astuteness...

The best thing about it - heh heh heh - is that in Russia this boxset got unboxed just as easily as its predecessor, and I got this Essential Rarities CD without having to buy the others. Now I know it might be a bit unethical to review just this one part of the second boxset when it's standardly not available separately, but, as far as I know, there are plans of a real worldwide official release of this CD as an independent record. And they better do that and do that fast, and when they do that, be sure to scoop it up immediately: this stuff is truly essential to all Doors' collectors, but it has lots of goodies for the average listener as well.

The live numbers are all swell - at the worst, of Absolutely Live quality, at the best, well, better than that. Thus, their 1970 Isle of Wight performance is usually not considered a big deal; but the way they do 'Break On Through' is absolutely fascinating, with a prolonged, attention-gripping intro and Robbie giving it his all on the guitar, extending the solo section to a climactic high. Likewise, the 1970 Madison Square Garden numbers blow the lid off the pot: 'Roadhouse Blues' displays Jim at his most ferocious, and 'The End', with certain ad-libbed lyrics and a re-working of the famous Oedipus complex episode, manages to be just as biting, but much more rocking and intense than the regular studio version.

And - of all things - you'd never understand why they bothered to include such a weird number as 'I Will Never Be Untrue', from Hollywood 1970. What the hell: it's a regular doo-wop number, with Jim apparently singing tongue-in-cheek but trying not to show... perhaps this was a regular 'audience-bugging' technique at the time. It doesn't work as well within the context of a rarities' collection, though, as it probably could in an entire live setting; but on a certain level of perception, it's quite hilarious. To top it off, there's a live TV performance of 'The Soft Parade' (by the way, you can also see it on the Soft Parade video), but I'm not head over heels in love with this version: I suppose that this is a song completely unsuitable for live performance, if only for the fact that it's impossible to recreate all the masterful overdubs of this song with only one Jim hanging around with the mike. He does his best, though, and must be given his due.

The demos on here are also quite fascinating. A couple of them date to the earliest days of the band's existence - 'Moonlight Drive' and 'Hello I Love You', as can be deduced from the dates, were written as early as 1965, and these demos don't even feature any Robby Krieger, yet. Instead, both are mostly piano-based, plus somebody contributes harmonica, and Jim is not the only person singing - on 'Hello I Love You' it seems like the whole band contributes harmonies. The funny thing is that neither of the two has that fabulous 'Doors spirit' in it: the structure and melodies are more or less the same, but they just sound like a bunch of naive American kids desperately trying to create a commercial pop hit. Nevertheless, even without the atmospheres, it's fully possible to enjoy the songs - proof that, whatever one might say, the band's strength lied primarily in solid, talented melodies. Later demos include a nice, touching acoustic-and-bongos (??) rendition of 'Hyacinth House' and a weird, slow, jazzy version of 'Queen Of The Highway' with a very long instrumental jazz passage towards the end.

Finally, the previously unheard songs are also groovy - to quote a few, there's a magnificent mystical tale entitled 'Whiskey, Mystics And Men' which is all that the failed shamanistic experiment 'My Wild Love' wanted to be but failed - this here song has better lyrics, an existent melody and exactly the same 'shamanistic' feel at one time. 'Orange County Suite' is an exercise in desperate, bleeding pessimism; and 'Woman Is A Devil', unavailable anywhere but on this CD, is a spooky blues number that's probably the best place to start if you ever dreamed of accusing Jim of Satanism.

Aw shucks, perhaps you'd better just go and buy the Box Set instead, because three CD's worth of such material is certainly three times as worthwhile as one CD. As it turns out, the Doors are indeed one band whose unreleased material is well worth digging out: there are still quite a few fascinating secrets about this 'legendary' band that are not known to the general Doors' lovers, and I'm glad I managed to sneak a little peek on 'em with Essential Rarities.



Year Of Release: 1985

A collection of promotional videos, live performances and specially mixed spooky footage, all produced by the remaining Doors. Some of it is great (the videos for 'Break On Through', 'People Are Strange'; live cuts of 'Texas Radio/Love Me Two Times', 'Light My Fire', 'Touch Me'), some of it is unbearable (the gory video of 'Unknown Soldier', the overlong, boring to the extreme video of 'L. A. Woman', the American Prayer-related poetical links), but generally interesting. I would even recommend this video to non-hardcore fans, but that's just me. Listen to your own subconscious.



Year Of Release: 1991

Yet another collection of videos, this time centered around a TV show which was all that remained for Jim after his obscenity bust. Features some interesting interviews and backstage footage, but overall much less fascinating than Light My Fire. Also, the band is not in a very good form, and 'The Soft Parade' is a poor choice for a live cut. Features a grown-up bearded Jim looking a thousand times more serious than ever and giving out lectures on shamanism. My favourite scene is a younger, clean-shaven Jim pounding on a piano (which he couldn't play, by the way, as well as any other instrument) and singing his 'Ode to Friedrich Nietzsche'. Impressive!



Year Of Release: 1987

There's actually an album with this concert, and I'm looking for it, so I'll just save my time here and will not discuss neither the setlist nor the shape the band is in. What I'll just say is that this is the only existent video with a complete concert, so if you're lusting after something like that, grab it. It has its defects, but not much. The camerawork is good, and it's really worthwhile to watch Jim live: sometimes it's plain intoxicating. Bye for now.


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