Friday, January 16, 2009

The Doors - The Doors

The Doors is another band that was a big part of my childhood, from the initial contact with “Light My Fire” through friends’ adulation of Morrison through the punk/new-wave scene’s reverence (in some circles) for the band. I do love the group but there are times when even I (who loves lots of literary rock) think that they go a little overboard. But there is also a lot of great r’n’r and madness that came from these cats.

Their first release was unimaginatively titled The Doors, but that’s about the only thing about the record that is unimaginative! From the band’s sound – with keyboardist Ray Manzarek in the foreground and bass playing done with a keyboard bass (an idea taken from an earlier LA garage group, the Seeds), guitarist Robby Kreiger being influenced by flamenco more than blues and drummer John Desmore having jazz roots – to Jim’s lyrics, this was something unusual and truly psychedelic!

The first song on their first record was a bit of a hit for them, the remarkably catchy riff of “Break on Through” – a concept that the band and Morrison continually attempted to do. I guess you could say that Jim finally succeeded, though not necessarily in the way he wanted to. In any case, this is a great tune, a super opener, and shows the band’s strengths, despite Jim being censored, as he was cut off in the mix and just says “she gets” instead of “she gets high”!

A nice driving, mid-tempo groove backs “Soul Kitchen”, a story of not wanting to leave the stage at the end of the night. Later LA punk band X covered this to great effect on their Manzarek produced first album. They quiet things down for the darkly melodic “Crystal Ship” – quite pretty. I know that on occasion people have denigrated Morrison’s vocal abilities, but I have always dug his sound and here he truly shines.

Kreiger’s almost off-tempo guitar riff propels “Twentieth Century Fox” – a terrific title! – and the band pulls this together into a solid rocker. As I’ve stated before, “Alabama Song” just doesn’t resonate with me, despite the lyrics being appropriate for Jim. But they redeem themselves with their massive hit, “Light My Fire”. I know that no matter who you are, you have heard this song, so no further discussion is needed!

Side two opened with my favorite blues cover from this band, Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man”. This is pure, feral sex with a pulsing rhythm and Jim’s grunts, groans, yelps and cries of “the men don’t know but the little girls understand!” Fantastic! More lightweight is “I Looked at You”, a real pop tune but with a cool fake ending.

Downright spooky sounding is “End of the Night”, slow and ethereal with its minor chords and quiet keyboards and spectral slide guitar. Back to a rockin’, kinda “Break on Through” feel for “Take it as it Comes” – I love the movin’ riff and great playing all around.

Closing this record, fittingly enough, is “The End”, Jim’s Eastern-sounding journey through his id. Of course, they self-censored his Oedipal rant, but this is still a mysterious walk through thoughts of sex and death. Densmore is especially strong in his playing here – accenting all the right parts as Kreiger & Manzarek maintain the drone. Having never had any interest in seeing “Apocalypse Now”, I don’t have any visuals other than my own attached to this, which I think is for the better.

Not for those who aren’t willing to experiment with their music or those who only appreciate the majesty of basic garage and/or punk, but if you appreciate the power of the word and don’t mind musical explorations, this is fine stuff.