To be honest, I enjoyed the hell out of The Very Best, while The Doors isn’t even really my cup of tea. I decided to listen to this album because I hardly knew anything The Doors had made, but what I did know is they’re legendary. It is a whole lot psychedelic, or say: dreamy. If one of The Doors’ songs isn’t insanely catchy to start with – they generally are, so don’t worry – they will grow on you. Icing on the cake is that L.A. Woman, Light My Fire ánd Hello, I Love You are on this album making it an absolute sixties classic released in 2007.
Band members at the time:
Jim Morrison – vocals, handclaps, percussion
Ray Manzarek –piano, keyboard bass, marxophone, backing vocals
Robby Krieger – guitar, backing vocals
John Densmore – drums, backing vocals
This album starts off with Break On Through, which, compared to Light My Fire and L.A. Women, is actually quite mediocre. Still: one of The Doors’ best songs and their debut single release back in ‘67. It’s pretty deceptive: the electric guitar riff during the intro fits like lego on top of the mellow drum pounds, it makes you think you’re in for a relaxing feel good song. That illusion will be shattered when Morrison starts singing: ‘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 extremely catchy chorus is supported by a biting guitar riff.
Break On Through is followed by the legendary Light My Fire, which gets you in a joyful mood. Mainly because of the prominently featured organ keyboard playing an upbeat, happy tune that wouldn’t be misplaced as background music to a psychedelic landscape full of twisted rainbows. The single version is only three minutes long, while the real thing easily lasts seven minutes. I recommend to listen to the long one, since you’d miss out on some epic instrumental solo’s if you go for the short one.
For those of you who aren’t a fan of upbeat tracks longer than three minutes: The Crystal Ship is only 2:34 and quite mellow. The Doors take a completely different direction here after the lively Break On Through and Light My Fire. It starts out with Morisson singing a capella for a few seconds before the drums, keyboard and guitar slowly join in. The most outstanding part of The Crystal Ship is, surprisingly enough not the chorus (which I’d say is non-existent here), the last verse, where the vocals kick back in just after Manzareks dazzling piano solo: ‘The crystal ship is being filled, a thousand girls, a thousand thrills, a million ways to spend your time.’ Although the weepy melody and solemn lyrics make it sound sad, this is actually said to be a love song to Morrisons first love.
The first twenty seconds of People Are Strange consist of merely gloomy guitar work and light, flowing vocals. Morisson and Krieger are rocking lyrics that will make you raise your eyebrows: ‘People are strange when you’re a stranger. Faces look ugly when you’re alone.’ The organ keyboard and the theatrical bass melody form a harmonic whole, stopping every now and then to have Morisson sing: ‘When you’re… strange.’ The entire song has that disturbing, circus-like feel to it. It’s very strange: and that’s the point.
Hello, I Love You was a single release selling over a million copies in the U.S. alone. And so it should have, because there’s not a chorus in the world as catchy as this one. Densmore has the time of his life pounding an astounding rhythm, especially during the chorus, where the drums sound clear and hollow, providing a tribal vibe. Krieger has been accused of plagiasm: the melody to Hello, I Love You would have been stolen off The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night. The riff is almost identical, so it will make you laugh that Krieger actually denies this. Instead he claims he was inspired by Creams Sunshine Of Your Love, if that’s any better.
My favorite track on the album is definitely Love Her Madly. There’s a magical bass line slithering throughout the song, on an actual bass guitar as opposed to the keyboard bass The Doors normally use. It’s played by guest bassist Jerry Scheff, who worked with Elvis among others. There’s a mesmerizing, smooth guitar lick that works very well contrasting the rapid percussion work. The keys are impressive: as sunny as the melody in Light My Fire, only in a far less disturbing way. The lyrics are sheer beauty: ‘Don't you love her face? Don't you love her as she's walking out the door like she did one thousand times before?’ The melody there is so incredibly bluesy.
Jerry Scheff is heard on this album again during L.A. Woman and again has a very prominent role. The intro to L.A. Woman is a motor-like sound that makes you think you’re speakers are about to explode, but then you get saved by the bass. Just the simple bass lick, drums kicking in, keys starting a little later, guitar joining... It sounds like a jam session, they’re all waiting their turn while putting it all together: the intro might just be the best part to this track. Nevertheless: the rest of it is extremely catchy as well. In fact, this song swings so much it’s almost too easy to favorite it. L.A. Woman and Light My Fire are, of course, some of The Doors all time darlings. Therefore, it’s too cliché to favorite. I’ll stick with the much too underappreciated Love Her Madly.
Speaking of some of The Doors finest being underappreciated: Five To One is definitely worth mentioning. This is only a little less funky than the others, but rocks much harder. The parts where the vocals are more talking than singing are neat. Five To One is slow and dares to be different. Distorted guitar with non-distorted guitar on top, all driven by a cymbal-heavy drum play. Apart from what a pure wonder this song is musically speaking, lyrically, it really has a deep meaning to it as well: ‘Trade in your hours for a handful of dimes.’ Rumors go that Jim was – once again – drunk on stage during 1969 Miami Incident screaming: ‘You’re all a bunch of idiots, you’re all a bunch of slaves,’ just after having done Five To One.
And then there’s Alabama Song. I find this one utterly annoying. It’s one of the few songs on this album I don’t really like. It has the creepy circus feel as People Are Strange does, except that Alabama Song is gypsy like on top of that. It actually kind of sounds like it’s intended as a joke, especially the funfair-outro. Two stars for effort.
So, The Very Best Of The Doors by The Doors: apparently you don’t have to be a massive Doors-fan to enjoy their music, but you do have to have an open mind. It’s still a sixties album, and it’s not overloaded with it or anything but: if you really can’t stand the psychedelic stuff, I wouldn’t recommend this. Other than that it’s just a classic album full of recognizable tracks. It doesn’t rock hard, but it definitely swings. I’d say it should be in every music lovers CD-collection.
Songlist & rating:
1. Break On Through 2:28 ****
2. Light My Fire 7:07 *****
3. The Crystal Ship 2:34 *****
4. People Are Strange 2:11 *****
5. Strange Days 3:07 ****
6. Love Me Two Times 3:15 ****
7. Alabama Song 3:18 **
8. Five To One 4:26 *****
9. Waiting For The Sun 4:00 *****
10. Spanish Caravan 2:59 ****
11. When The Music Is Over 10:56 ****
12. Hello, I Love You 2:15 *****
13. Roadhouse Blues 4:04 *****
14. L.A. Woman 7:50 *****15. Riders On The Storm 7:13 ****
17. Touch Me 3:12 ****
18. Love Her Madly 3:18 *****
19. The Unknown Soldier 3:24 ****
20. The End 11:44 *****
Total time: 89:35
Overall rating: 4,2
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