The Doors

The Doors

Elektra Records, 1967

http://www.thedoors.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/05/2000

I've never been one who subscribed to the whole Doors cult, or worshipped Jim Morrison as a tragic Christ figure. While I've admired some of the band's music over the years (one of the first records I ever had was a 45 of "Light My Fire" that a neighbor gave to me), I've always approached their music with equal amounts of respect and caution. As long as the Doors kept their feet on the ground, I was cool with things, but when Morrison went off into his own musical tangents (as he was wont to do), that was about the point I would cut bait.

Take the 1967 self-titled release from The Doors. There are moments of sheer brilliance on this album -- and there are moments where I can't help but think that the band had to be tripping on some real nasty stuff. Blasphemy? Rants against the sacred prophet? Read on, and form your own judgments.

For a group that had no bass player, The Doors were incredibly tight, if not maybe intentionally sloppy at times. For example, Robby Kreiger's guitar solo on "Light My Fire" would not have carried as much punch had it been more cohesive instead of a little spacy as it stands. (Actually, in the case of The Doors, the commentary of "no bass player" is not correct; keyboardist Ray Manzarek handles the bass chores; but in general, the band did perform without a bassist.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As a blues belter, Morrison had more power than I think even he realized. The proof is on the cover of the Willie Dixon/Howlin' Wolf classic "Back Door Man," a song that gave Morrison a chance to show off his blues pipes better than "Roadhouse Blues" later on in their career. Likewise, Morrison could easily hold his own on the band's own compositions, such as "Soul Kitchen," "Twentieth Century Fox" and "Break On Through (To The Other Side)."

But there are moments where you have to step back and ask yourself, "What were they thinking?" Exhibit "A": their cover of "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)," a Kurt Weill-Berthold Brecht composition that sounds as out of place as wearing a Zoot suit to a funeral. Okay, maybe it was a rather accurate description of Morrison, and that's why they chose to do the track, but that doesn't make it stick out any less like a sore thumb.

Exhibit "B": the 11-minute monstrosity known as "The End." A Vietnam-esque nightmare of a song which shows a man facing off against his own personal demons and leading to death and more despair, this one sounds far too much like a stream-of-consciousness work that you'd hear booed off the stage at a poetry slam.

The only other real negative I could find with The Doors is that a good portion of the second half -- namely, the three songs sandwiched between "Back Door Man" and "The End" -- tend to get lost in a jumble that is the rest of the album. I don't want to speak ill of these tracks; chances are, had they been anywhere else on the album, they'd have been standouts. But a disservice is done to them by their present placement.

I've tried to keep talk about "Light My Fire" to a minimum in this review, for the simple fact that it is arguably one of the most recognizable Doors songs in their catalog. I will say this: Even after over 30 years since its release, it's still a killer track -- and I happen to love both the original version and the single edit.

Yeah, I know that the diehard Doors fans and Morrison worshippers are now ready to kill me for my sacrilegious words. (I once worked with a Doors freak at the college newspaper; my buddy Jim and I used to entertain ourselves by throwing X-Acto knives at the guy's poster of Morrison he hung on his cubicle wall.) But make no mistake that when The Doors attacks things without their heads in the clouds, the music is quite good and worthy of your time and money. But when Morrison starts spewing off the top of his head, things turn real ugly, real quick. Of course, if you worship the ground Morrison used to walk on, feel free to reverse the descriptions in this review.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A-


Comments

First of all, the album was released in 1967, not 1966. Secondly, I disagree with most of this review. This album is not only The Doors' best record, but probably the best rock album of all time. From the opening song to the epic closer, every single track is excellent. Some, like Light My Fire and Crystal Ship, are simply magnificent. Regarding Alabama Song, I don't understand Thelen's problem with it. It's a great piece and only enriches the album. As for The End, Thelen's comments show he simply doesn't know what Morrison was all about. Can't he at least appreciate the song for its beauty?
For the record, the date on this album was logged as 1966 because a quirk in our database places this album after Strange Days -- which also came out in 1967 -- on the Doors' artist page. You are of course correct that it came out in '67. The rest is arguable... which is kind of what we do here. :-)
Debating the merits of a Doors song is like arguing with someone who insists the world is flat - you're just never going to convince them otherwise. My issue with "Alabama Song" was that the style of the music was not in balance with the remainder of the album - and, as I stated in the review, maybe that was the whole intention of the band. Or, maybe - just maybe - the subject matter was one close to Morrison's heart, which allowed for its recording and release. Or, maybe the band were just fans of Weill and Brecht. Doesn't mean I have to like it - and it doesn't mean you have to hate it.

As for "The End" - well, it's been 10 years since I wrote this review, but I recall not being terribly impressed by the "artistry" of Morrison, and the song sounded more like something he was coming up with off the top of his head. I freely admitted at the start of the review that I was not in the "cult of Morrison" - and I'm still not in it - so I'm not surprised that I'd be accused of not understanding what Morrison was "all about". I, for one, don't see the beauty of listening to one's rapid descent into madness, where "fuck" is equated with "kill" - and by no means am I a prude, I just didn't like this particular telling of the story.

But, hey, if you like the album, more power to you.
Side 1 is the greatest album side of all time. It is true that the Doors had no live separate bass player, but Manzarek's bass worked magnificently on "Break on Through," "Soul Kitchen,"and "Take It as It Comes," for example. With any record you will get people who do not like it and say it is overrated, but I question the appropriateness of giving this a C+, certainly not if there is any blend of subjectivity and objectivity. I note there is no mention of the beautiful "The Crystal Ship" by Thelen. It is silly to besmirch three songs by arguing placement on the album--the correction is, suffice it to say, "I Looked at You" can be seen as filler but "End of the Night" and "Take It as It Comes" are strong. "Alabama Song" not a really cool work? Give me a break. While "The End" is overrated, and the Oedipal section arguably juvenile, it is a good atmospheric number with Jim's lyrics blending well with the darkness. Any problems with "The End" still do not merit making this anything less than an A or 5 stars, especially with the swirling majesty and incredible sensuous beauty of "Light My Fire," the greatest song of all time. I remember when the daughter of a family friend was visiting my home and "Light My Fire" was on the radio, and she said to me, she never understands why "Light My Fire" is not always on the top of lists as the greatest song of all time--she said it is not just better, but "much better," than "Stairway to Heaven." I agree.








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