With the oh so sexy Jim Morrison and his poetic lyrics, Ray Manzarek’s carnivalesque keyboards, Robby Krieger’s catchy flamenco influenced guitar, and John Densmore’s jazz drums and excellent marching rolls the Doors were a great bunch of individuals, musically. They also had a lot of publicity around them because of Mr. Morrison and his drunkenness, the exposure of his genitals, and his attempting to start riots at their concerts. Jim didn’t like how he got all the attention in the band, but it was quite inevitable because being the lead singer of a HUGE band and being so goddamn sexy he was bound to get the most attention.
On with the review:
A great thing about this album is how there is only one non-poetic song; Love Me Two Times. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song but it doesn’t stand up to the others on here. Its general sound is too upbeat. The guitar in it is so catchy and infectious it’s almost like when you eat too much chocolate. You know? There isn’t anything overly great about this song; it’s an upbeat pop song that gets old really fast. Jim’s voice is really nice on it, though and he delivers the lyrics really nicely putting everything just where it should be. The vocal performance is pretty much what saves the song. All I can say about the rhythm section is that it keeps up a nice beat and adds to the overall poppiness. A nice thing, though, is when the keyboard takes over for a short time. It really adds that psychedelic feel and while extremely catchy it manages to avoid what the guitar did.
Now, that I’ve gotten that over with I can go on to the great assets of this cd. The instruments on this are creative and very different from a lot of stuff you usually hear. A good example of this is the odd guitar in Unhappy Girl. The guitar makes you feel like you’re spiraling into a mad ring of chaos and when the solo hits for a second you feel like your head is spinning and you can’t even imagine what’s going on, but it’s an amazing solo that really paints a great picture of psychedelic colors and spinning circles. It really adds a chaotic feeling to the song. The guitar really shines on You’re Lost Little Girl. It plays the perfect set of notes to go with the bass riff and really helps add that mysterious feeling that is present in so many Doors songs. Then the solo comes and takes on a very dreamy trip and is really, while not overly upbeat, uplifting. It kind of brings you to a place where things look better. Then after this the song sounds a little brighter until it turns to the outro which brings back its mysterious feeling.
Another great thing about the instrumentation is that it gives all the instruments a chance to shine. The bass is very prominent. Mostly played by Manzarek with his right hand on a bass keyboard he concocts really creative bass lines that drive most of the songs. His bass lines always suit the songs and really help add to how the song feels. Like on You’re Lost Little Girl, while the guitar is very haunting, without the catchy bass riff the song wouldn’t be what it is because the bass is the driving force of it. Ray also makes great use of the circle of fifths which is using the root note, the third, and the fifth in that order. This is visible on many Doors songs and on here. You can hear it driving the verse of You’re Lost, People Are Strange, Love Me Two Times, and a slight variation on Unhappy Girl. While it may sound like he overuses it he doesn’t. It provides a great driving beat that can actually carry the songs.
While formulating such great bass lines Ray also crafts some of the most catchy, psychedelic, and clown like keyboard lines. They’re definitely a high point of not only this album but of the whole band and to be quite honest this album wouldn’t be what it is if you took out the keyboards, they’re an extremely important part of the whole sound. They really take you on a trip. They make you think and are very interesting to listen to, they grab your mind and squeeze and just stop you from thinking and all you can do is go: Wow! They have this great effect that makes you feel like you’re being pulled down into another place. The spiraling intro in Strange Days is a nice example of this. It’s really hard to describe other than with the word spiraling, it really sets the feeling for the song and it’s nice that it’s the first thing you hear. Although Ray could be the leader of the band, instrumentally speaking, he takes a back seat during a lot of the verse and provides a great rhythm that you hear but don’t notice. You’re lost Little Girl’s verse and chorus show this. You can’t hear it as good as other times but it’s there and you can tell it really adds the back bone of the song. It’s not just circus sounding either on a few songs it has that old saloon style to it. Moonlight Drive shows this effect. It sounds great, too. It kind of loses this feeling during the chorus when it gets really hidden and plays a really bassy, simple two notes.
The drumming on here was somewhat disappointing. While they kept a great beat, they weren’t as original as they could be. He re-used a lot of beats and lost some of his jazz influence, however he does manage to keep it interesting with some nice rolls and fills throughout. He has great rolls in Moonlight Drive that adds a little bit of class to the song and accents the guitar and keyboards nicely. He also has some nice, almost random, fills for the intro to When The Music’s Over. The fills are very random and it’s hard to guess when they’re coming in, which is a nice aspect. While nothing amazing he keeps a beat and after all as long as it doesn’t take away from the song that’s a good thing. Besides last time I checked keeping a beat doesn’t take away from the song.
A lot of times the instrumentation was the focus with many bands of the sixties but there were a chosen few who had amazing lyrics. For the most part the Doors were one of these bands. Jim wrote very strange and thought provoking lyrics that could be extremely beautiful or really odd and just sound like drunken rambling, but no the less they were great lyrics. Let’s talk about Horse Latitudes. This falls under the category of sounding like rambling. As the background noises (there’s no real instrumentation) crescendo slowly into utter chaos Jim recites this very strange poem. I’ll give you a brief taste right here:
When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters
True sailing is dead
It’s a very strange poem reciting but it really is an interesting listen and the lack of actual instrumentation doesn’t take away because you’re motly trying to figure out what he’s talking about. I also can’t talk about the lyrics and not mention the song that started the Doors; Moonlight Drive. Many know the story, but for those who don’t: Jim met Ray on the beach once and Jim mentioned he had been writing lyrics and Ray convinced him to sing some. Jim sang a verse from Moonlight Drive and Ray said: Those are ***in’ great lyrics, man. He was right, the lyrics in Moonlight Drive are great, very poetic, with talk of swimming to the moon and penetrating the tide. While very odd (and beautiful) it’s obvious it’s about a girl. I’d say he wants to go somewhere with just the two of them and then have sex (penetrate the tide, maybe?). Also, People Are Strange has my favorite on the album just because I, and many other teens, can relate. It talks about being treated like shit and being an outcast. Of course it says so in a much different way but I’m just being blunt. The only song that doesn’t have an overly poem like structure is Love Me Two Times. The lyrics are still pretty good, but I’m going to assume Robby wrote them. It seems like he wrote songs that sounded like singles, if you know what I mean. I also should mention When The Music’s Over. It’s The End of this album. It’s 11 min. long and has quite the lyrics; although it doesn’t produce the imagery The End did it still has some excellent lyrics. The most confusing ones always appeal to me, like;
Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection
Send my credentials to the House of Detention
I got some friends inside
The confusing lyrics are the most appealing because they make you think.
Another ting Jim did quite nicely was sing. While he was nothing amazing he knew how to sing. In one second he would sound very soft and tender and then change quickly to rough and dirty, and the transition from those two throughout is great and really helps in the emphasis of the emotions in the songs. There really isn’t a lot to mention about his voice, though. There isn’t any specific track that it shined on or wasn’t great on. He was very consistent throughout.
If you’re looking for an introduction to the Doors this would be a fine place to start. There really isn’t a bad place to start, though. This showcases great musicianship, technically and creatively, great lyrics, and a very nice vocal performance. Everything fits with everything really nicely which results in a very solid sound that is a pleasure to listen to. The only thing that I wish was different about this is that I would have liked there to be some slower songs. Other than that this is an excellent album that I recommend to psychedelic and rock fans.
Jim Morrison: Vocals
Robby Krieger: Guitar
Ray Manzarek: Keyboards
John Densmore: Drums