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The Doors - Full Circle CD (album) cover

FULL CIRCLE

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

2.34 | 59 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
2 stars (Peking King and the New York 2.5)

Well, somewhere along the line, the band apparently remembered that they were The Doors, not some second rate art-country band. And if they were the Doors, they’d have to have ATMOSPHERE, man. Something creepy and psychedelic. And, while quite a few people find it refreshing that this album tries to emulate the Doors earlier feel without raiding the back catalogue as obviously as Other Voices, I for one do not like this album.

For one thing, rather than Jim leading the way with his darkness and atmosphere, we get Ray Manzarek. And rather than being the highly original circus freak Morrison was, Ray comes off like a psychedelic relic, and ends up leading the band down its darkest path imaginable.

Case in point: “Get Up and Dance” is, easily, the worst Doors opener ever. The weak “Changeling” and goofy “Tell All the People” sound like Mussorgsky in comparison. A stupid melody dressed in fake emotion and FEMALE BACKUP SINGERS. Hell...

“4 Billion Souls” tries to go psycho blues on us, and it’s okay...but it’s still stupid. But at least it’s goofier, which saves it slightly. “Verdilac” is also goofy, and it’s also okay. It’s kinda groovy actually, but in terms of spookiness it really falls flat, and the sax solo has about as much to do with the Doors as my grandmother has to do with racial tolerance (in other words, not much).

Anyway, it gets worse before it gets better. The country boogie of “Hardwood Floor” tries to suck us all in with an energetic sheen, but the sheer repetitiveness of it ought to turn most off. “Good Rockin’,” a cover, is even worse. I mean, once again, it’s strictly speaking okay, but it’s so goddamn generic. And is Ray starting to get on anyone else’s nerves at this point?

If you’ve stopped paying attention at this point, turn the volume back up. “The Mosquito” is certainly the best song on the album, and perhaps the best thing the post-Morrison band ever churned out. Although it starts as a take on Mexican folk (alternating between acoustic guitar and carnival organ), it turns into a massive jam. And it’s a good jam! The riffs may be pretty straightforward hard rock, but the Doors can play good and fast! Pay attention in particular to Robbie’s guitar solo and Densmore’s drumming, as the two clash for title of gnarliest dude in the bad, particularly when the rest of the instruments drop out. Now if this violent jamming were all the album was about, I’d be much kinder to it.

Or maybe not; “The Piano Bird” is another take on the jazz ballad. Unlike “Ships with Sails” though, you get no obvious aping of the band’s back catalogue here. I wouldn’t call it beautiful or anything, but it sounds pretty for sure, and Ray’s attempt at crooning, and especially his electric piano, are more than acceptable. Finally, “It Must Have Slipped My Mind” might be another piece of throwaway psycho blues, but it’s far better than anything else approaching blues on this record, and the stomping rhythm and goofy lyrics are perfectly welcome.

But the bad couldn’t let well enough alone, could they? Sadly, “The Peking King and the New York Queen” is NOT a new Lou Reed song. Instead, it’s another attempt at a closing epic, but it’s essentially ripping off something from LA Woman (the title track) or Morrison Hotel (um...something from the middle of that one). The result is a repetitive boogie, and a waste of a good keyboardist and guitar tone. More backup vocalists, more Ray being irritating and pointless, not to mention a laughably bad spoken part in the middle (completely misinformed too!). And, to top it all off, it’s politically motivated! What the hell guys? The six plus minutes take FAR too long to conclude, and perhaps mercifully, as they fade away, so does the Doors’ album streak.

See, Other Voices just sounded like a bunch of professional boogie musicians, who were “experimental,” but lacked an identity. Which would always be the problem without Jim. So Ray took it upon himself to find a purpose for the band. Unfortunately, this ended up being a politically motivated one; but this is ’72, and Ray sounds like an aging hippy who’s finally dropped enough acid to lose touch with reality altogether, something that Morrison never quite accomplished (simply because I think that Jimbo liked hippy idealism as much as he liked pants; good for a laugh, but better off discarded).

Also, Ray takes over most the singing on this one. While that makes it much more vocally consistent (since the first post-Morrison one was more scattershot), it also means that half the time he shouts his head off (“Peking King”), and the rest of the time he sounds like he’s trying to slime his way into some sixteen year old’s pants (“Hardwood Floor”). Only on “Piano Bird” does he sound passable.

The final word is that, while the Doors were still excellent musicians capable of writing decent material, they’d lost their way. Simply put. Ray was not strong enough (or smart enough) to give them a new direction, and so, they folded. Which, in a way, was sad, since some of the songs on this album are fine in their own right, and most young bands wouldn’t mind to have this material (of course, the concept of the Doors playing it is what kills it); it just needed a good kick in the right atmospheric direction and the right sort of vocal approach, and it would be fine. But those things kind of died in Paris in 1971, didn’t they?

DIEHARD fans might want to hold onto this one, but others should tread carefully. Certainly anyone who has faithfully called himself a fan of Robbie Krieger’s guitarwork NEEDS to hear “Mosquito,” and might even be curious to hear his tone pasted around the album. But beyond “Mosquito,” only “Piano Bird” is recommended, “Slipped My Mind” is mentioned. The rest is masochism.

The Whistler | 2/5 |

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