Pros:Fantastic debut album from one of the best bands of the 1960s
Cons:Twentieth Century Fox, Take It As It Comes
The Bottom Line: “…it's Bertold Brecht, it’s cabaret, its rock 'n' roll..”
In the 1960s when The Beatles dictated every direction the popular music business would go, many a band followed to try and earn that quick buck. Not every band got that memo, especially a group like The Doors. Formed in California on a sunny beach, Ray Manzarek (keyboards/bass), Robby Krieger (guitars), John Densmore (drums) and Jim Morrison (vocals) began writing songs mostly around the poetry of Jim Morrison. Within a year they were signed and in early 1967, their debut album titled The Doors was released and it has eventually become a classic that still holds up today, some forty-five years later.
This 2007 release is still a bit hard to get used to after hearing the songs so different for all of these years. The album starts off with Break on Through an energetic rock song with such an aggressive vocal style that launched at least a dozen Eddie Vedders. The song centers on a bass lick with the guitar echoing it while in the background a jazzy drumbeat holding it together. Although Ray Manzarek’s organ is not prominently featured as it is in the rest of the songs, it does at least provide the song’s solo. The song wasn’t initially the big hit they hoped for, yet it still manages to get played daily on classic rock radio today. Although we finally have the unedited version where Jim can be heard singing ♫she gets high, she gets high♫ instead of having the word high edited out, the radio stations still prefer playing the edited version. Soul Kitchen is a simple 4/4 blues song that depends on the soft and loud dynamics to get the song across. Jim’s lyrics create visuals that spark your imagination. The Crystal Ship is a moody ballad, very quiet with poetic romantic lyrics that contain some good content. Ray Manzarek’s overdubbed piano solo adds a nice touch which compliments the mood. Twentieth Century Fox is my least favorite song on the album. The chorus is way too annoying with the stops and starts, it’s just something that sounds much too cliché for a band like The Doors.
Oddly, like The Beatles had done on their first few albums, The Doors have included cover songs that the band were used to jamming to in live situations. Unlike The Beatles’ choice of recent hits from other artists, The Doors included a forty year old blues song, Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar), written by Bertold Brecht in 1927. The lyrics (which aren’t listed in the CDs liner notes for some unknown reason) sound a bit criminal; ♫Oh show me the way to the next little girl / no don’t ask why, no don’t ask why♫. Ray Manzarek uses an instrument called a marxophone which sounds akin to the mandolin. The song that launched the band into superstardom, in the States at least is Light My Fire. This is one of the only songs where the words aren’t written entirely by Jim Morrison. As the song’s melody isn’t structured to fit around a poem like the majority of the other songs, Robby Krieger’s song has more of a smooth flow to the melody. The long solos in the middle by both Manzarek and Krieger remind me of stuff Steely Dan would do a few years later. It’s said that the speed is finally corrected on this release, as the original we were used to was sped up a tiny bit.
TheDoors included one more cover song,a 1961 Howlin’ Wolf song called Back Door Man. The track illustrates the kind of vision the band had of themselves in the early years, a solid blues band that rocks. Unfortunately the song is another weak effort for the band; however it remains to be one of the more popular songs from the band. The next three songs are virtually unknown in comparison with the rest of the tracks. I Looked at You is a song that sounds as if it could have been easily recorded by The Monkees or a similar band. Maybe they should have considered selling this very pop oriented song to one of these bands. End of the Night has an eerie mood connected with it which is only enhanced by the reverb on Morrison’s vocals. It has that same kind of quietness that The Crystal Ship owns. Take It As It Comes is just another throwaway track which steals its lyrical ideas from The Byrds 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn!.
The song that makes this album worth having is the last song, epic in length and aptly titled The End. For me it’s the only song where the musical journey the band takes you on is symmetrical with Morrison’s lyrics, both in perfect harmony. Maybe this is why the song goes on so long at almost twelve minutes in length, because the band probably realized this as well. It’s a perfect, yet solemn vision. The song is unedited here with Jim’s incessant use of the “f” word at the end of the song is back where it should have been all along. Tacked on the end are a couple of bonus tracks. Here are two early versions of Moonlight Drive, a song off of their second album Strange Days. The first one sounds as if it would have made a cool addition to their first album instead of one of the weaker tracks. The second version is a bit more upbeat and in a higher key. To my ears it sounds too rushed. Indian Summer is a song that won’t show up on a Doors album until their 1970 release Morrison Hotel. It’s understandable why this was left off as it sounded way too much like The End.
The Doors is a fantastic album with a almost clear vision of what the band wanted to emulate. They were a forced that marched only to the beat of their own drum. On the first album, the bass was handled by Ray Manzarek’s left hand, an idea that went by the wayside by the time their second album came around. Almost fifty years later, and more than forty after their last album was released, this 60s/70s band is still in the consciousness of our pop culture either by witnessing the wannabe’s or just by still enjoying the originals.
Length: 52:25 minutes
Released: January 4th, 1967
Rating: 4 stars
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
12. Moonlight Drive (Version 1) (bonus track)
13. Moonlight Drive (Version 2) (bonus track)
14. Indian Summer (08/19/1966 vocal) (bonus track)
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