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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Doors

The Doors (40th Anniversary remix/reissue)

Review by Julie Knispel

The mid to late 1960’s saw a sudden emergence of rock bands reacting to the sounds and styles brought over as part of the British Invasion. From folk inflected psychedelic rock (The Byrds, some Grateful Dead) to full flight psychedelia (Jefferson Airplane), the reaction was swift and decisive. Of the bands who arose, sometimes fully formed, from the US underground rock scene, perhaps the most legendary one is the Doors. It can’t be denied that their studio albums continue to sell in large numbers, with Doors t-shirts still a fairly regular sighting on teenagers from NYC to LA and all points in between.

2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut album release, and as such the remaining Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore) have authorized a reissue of the group’s entire studio catalogue, remixed and tweaked for 2007 listeners. They have gone back to the original master tapes, and with the able assistance of long time engineer and producer Bruce Botnick, have revisited and realized the six Doors studio albums, adding different instrumental bits, lengthening tracks by extending rideouts, and adding vocal parts where necessary to try and recreate the albums as artistically intended, without the spectre of censorship and societal morals imposing.

The reissue of the Doors, the group’s debut album, features three bonus cuts, including two takes on a track that would see release later in the year on the band’s second album, as well as tightened up, shined up, tweaked iterations of the 11 tracks that would be America’s introduction to the Lizard King and his band of dark minstrels.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Break on Through (To The Other Side)
This was the first blast of Doors music listeners who bought their debut album would hear. Two minutes and change of sinewy, infectious blues rock, with a shuffle beat to die for. The new mix restores Jim’s intended “She gets high” lyrics in the bridge, while Robbie Krieger’s guitar work is more present and forceful here.
Soul Kitchen
A song like this could have only been released during the Summer of Love. There’s more sexual imagery here than you can possibly imagine...and it’s a song about a cheap soul food dive in Venice California! The new mix doesn’t add too much to the song that wasn’t already there, but it does brighten things up and makes the song sound more modern.
The Crystal Ship
Some of the Doors’ best tracks were slow, somber mediations on love and loss and spirituality. “The Crystal Ship” fits this category to a T, and the almost ethereal, dreamlike vibe of the original song is strengthened by a mix that emphasizes the echoey, spacey vibe. The song features some of Morrison’s strongest singing on the album - a tall order indeed, when one considers the other material released on their debut platter.
Twentieth Century Fox
Robbie Krieger shines on the opening guitar lines on this jaunty rocker, written for Jim Morrison’s girlfriend and future wife, Pamela Courson. This is the Apollonian Morrison incarnate, sexual and slithering in skin tight black leather, extolling the physical virtues of his woman in a way that almost any horny teenager could appreciate. Manzarek’s organ on the choruses is punched up, pulsing and thrumming while Krieger lays down some soulful and funky blues solos.
Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)
Never let it be said that the Doors were strictly a blues based band. With Morrison and Manzarek both having college level film schooling, they drew inspiration from a far wider ocean of influences. This was originally written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for their 1930 piece Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Known as much for the shifting beats and Manzarek organ stabs, the track shows the Doors to be a band unafraid to take chances when following their muse...a characteristic that would remain with them for their entire career.
Light My Fire
One of the most frequently played songs on classic rock radio, and released as a single in both edited and unedited formats, this was the band’s first number 1 hit, and is as much the definitive anthem for the Summer of Love as any other song released that year. Manzarek’s classically influenced organ line is one of the most easily recognizable melodic lines in rock music. All the elements came together for this piece, and despite being almost overplayed on radio, it is a song that has earned its classic status. The 40th Anniversary mix tarts the track up, adding a few coats of gloss and shine that bring out the its subtleties while retaining the driving power of this bona fide classic.
Back Door Man
Side two of the original album opens with this Willie Dixon blues classic, a tale of unfaithful women and the men who sneak around to please them. This is about as close to hardcore blues as the Doors would get before releasing Morrison Hotel and LA Woman in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Nasty, dirty, and filled with as much darkness as raw sexual drive, the new mix boosts the fuzz and grime, leaving the song heavier still.
I Looked At You
“I Looked At You” is just slightly more than 2 minutes of psychedelic power pop. As such, it often feels a little misplaced on the band’s debut release, filled as it is with 2 radio classics (“Break On Through,” “Light My Fire”) and the band’s first, and some might say most successful, long form track in “The End.” Krieger picks some pleasant clean guitar lines, Manzarek’s organ holds down the middle, and John Densmore’s jazz inflected drumming keeps the piece moving along at a fairly quick pace. The song in general just feels weak compared to the rest of the album, with fairly trite lyrics that simply do not do justice to the band’s abilities.
End of the Night
A sort of spiritual sibling to the longer “The End” in tone and sound, this piece is another slow, dream-like, somber meditation on spirituality and mysticism. Some of the band’s most memorable lyrics are held here...”Some are born to sweet delight/Some are born to the endless night,” drawn from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” fit the hallucinatory and psychedelic song perfectly, while the space blues backing from the band drags the listener, willingly or otherwise, along for the ride into the depths of the mind.
Take It As It Comes
A mantra for the swinging sixties generation: “Take it as it comes/Specialize in havin’ fun.” And why not? The Sixties had the potential to be bright, brilliant psychedelic colours swirling in kaleidoscopic fashion as men and women sloughed off the shackles imposed by the previous generation. Alas, we know that the potential never turned into reality. “Take it as it comes,” however, remains as a kind of clarion call to the LA underground from which the band grew, presenting the listener with the flip side to Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song,” which also implored its listeners to “slow down, you’re moving too fast.” Somehow, I doubt Paul Simon wanted his listeners to slow down for the same reasons Morisson did...
The End
40 years on, what can be said about this song that hasn’t already been said? It’s likely been the subject of hundreds of college papers, exploring the Jungian and Oedipal nature of its lyrics. The heavy middle eastern influences shine through heavily here (and even more so live, where Krieger’s guitar lines would move frighteningly close to sitar/Indian classical regions), and the song simply does not drag despite being over 11 minutes long. Finally, on an official Doors CD, we have the restored original lyrics, including the full Oedipal section, Morrison killing the father and...”loving” the mother, much as would have been heard live or on the Apocalypse Now soundtrack. Where the addition of “high” in “Break on Through” still feels somewhat off and distracting, the lyrical additions here feel and sound right.
Moonlight Drive (Version 1)
“Moonlight Drive” would see release on the band’s second album, Strange Days, also released in 1967. This was one of the first songs Jim Morrison would pen for the nascent band, and this is one of the earliest versions actually recorded by the band in 1966. Much like other demos and early versions released on the remixed and expanded 40th Anniversary reissues, much of the framework of the final song can be heard here, despite a totally different vocal delivery and arrangement. The beat is changed around, Krieger’s guitar lines are a little more dominant in the arrangement, yet the piece is definitively “Moonlight Drive” in nearly finished, yet slightly embryonic, form.
Moonlight Drive (Version 2)
The overall arrangement on this version is very close to the one previous, with Krieger’s guitar more subdued in the mix. Jim Morrison’s vocals are doubled and multitracked, and the it feels a little pacier than the final album release. The guitar solo has some of its final form, yet it’s obvious that the structure is still being felt around for tightening purposes.
Indian Summer (8/19/1966 Vocal)
This track would finally see release in 1970 on the band’s Morrison Hotel album. The music should sound very familiar to listeners, as I believe it is the exact take used on the final album. The vocal track is from August of 1966, as indicated in the track’s title, and it is a sign of just how much strong material the band had that this was held back from being released on the band’s debut release. While I find the song to be stronger than “I Looked At You,” I have to admit that “Indian Summer” fit the band’s 1970 release far better than it would have fit here.
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