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The Doors - The Doors CD (album) cover

THE DOORS

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

4.33 | 709 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "He took a face from the ancient gallery, and he walked on down the hall..."

The Doors are an incredibly influential band of the 60s that I first encountered with this album that I used to thrash on cassette in the 70s and I can't remember what drew me to this band but I am glad I did not miss out on the amazing music and Jim Morrison's inimitable style. He is rough about the edges and his poetic vibes are irreplaceable to the doors mystique. A lot of comentators believed he was possessed by Indian spirits, and Morrison even said in song and poetry that at a young age he saw a car crash with dead Indians "scattered on dawn's highway, ghosts crowd the fragile egg-shell mind" ('Peace Frog'), and some of the spirits of these dead Indians, dancing wildly about jumped into his soul, "and they're still in there", said Morrison. Of course Morrison capitalised on this enigma of being sub human or possessed by Indian spirits with his stage persona, a force of power in his own right, and a drawcard to The Doors. He developed a massive cult following and is still revered as one of the legends of rock.

Listening to this album today stil gives me the chills. The haunting beauty of 'Crystal Ship' is nerve tingling, Morrison at his quietest and most reflective. He can belt out stinging anger on songs such as the brilliant 'Break on Through'. The opening riff is pitch black scary, and the lyrics are rather mysterious; "day destroys the night, night divides the day". The keyboard hammering is sensational by genius Ray Manzarek. Morrison overshadows the other members though, even the front cover is dominated by his visage. 'Twentieth Century Fox' is a fun song, Morrison at his coolest, and some fine guitar licks from Robby Kreiger. 'Alabama Song' is a drunken piece of fun. 'Light My Fire' is the quintessential single for the band and I have heard it too many times to count but it is definitely an astonishing composition with Morrison spell binding and Manzarek at his finest on mesmirising keyboards and extended genius solo.

The screeching vocals on 'Back Door Man' are dangerous but not as dangerous as some of the lyrics found on the uncensored version on the new remaster. We can hear on 'Break on Through' "She gets high" and some expletives on 'The End' which of course he sung in concert without any problem almost in spite. The speed of the album is slowed too to the original feel and it really is an improvement with a druggy rhythm and very laid back approach. The blues heavy rock is prominent throughout. 'I Looked at You' is an upbeat rocker and is contrasted with 'End of the Night' which is uncompromisingly chilling, with Morrison sounding ominous throughout and Manzarek's eerie organ. Krieger's solo is dreamy guitar, and it all feels psychedelic and chilled out. 'Take It easy' is another bright melodic song with Manzarek shining on organ. All of the songs are excellent, but it is the last song that brings this album to masterpiece status for many.

'The End' is certainly a frightening composition and even so when heard with the "Apocalypse Now" film imagery; depicting the stark hellish environments of war that turns an individual insane. The percussion is eerie too and atmospheric from John Densmore and Krieger's guitar is psychedelic spaciness. The song features some of the most powerful poetry of Morrison; "Can you picture what will be, So limitless and free, Desperately in need of some stranger's hand, in a desperate land, Lost in a Roman, wilderness of pain, And all the children are insane." It is difficult to fathom whether Morrison is making some of the lyrics up as he goes but it is assured that this was all done in one take and Morrison was loaded. It sounds so ethereal now and enigmatic and some of the surreal ambiguous phrases are imbedded in rock folklore; "Ride the snake, he's old, and his skin is cold, The west is the best, The blue bus is calling us" and most memorable and creepy "The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on, He took a face from the ancient gallery, And he walked on down the hall." The meaning of the lyrics has raised much discussion, fascinating in themselves.

It may be the drug addict saying goodbye as he takes one more overdose, or he may be saying goodbye to a girlfriend. The man is heading off to the West, California, and to the ocean "the ancient lake" riding the train "the snake". "The Blue Bus" is referred by many as a drug of numorphine, but there was a bus in LA that drove passengers to Venice Beach, California that was known for its gold mines. There was also a blue bus that took draftees into Vietnam. The "Roman wilderness of pain" is the desert one would see out of the window of train, and it could also mean the Roamn Catholic system, an escape from religion may be inferred. Supposedly the song was written based on the Oedipus Greek mythology centred on a young man who murdered his father and then slept with his mother. The event is supposed to be a representation of repressed sexuality; a Freudian psychoanalytical complex ingrained in us all, that is the father-son competition for the sexual resources of the clan. Or it could be just Morrison in an hallucinogenic drug induced state.

The music is very downbeat and Morrison sounds as though caught up in a trance. The tempo quickens as the song comes to a shattering climax, and it was an unforgettable sight in concert as Morrison indulged in a frenetic snake dance, rolling on the floor, spinning wildly, and screaming expletives. These are included on the remaster and really turn the song into a disturbing psycho-drama, though this was heard in the live performances. Obviously this would have caused the album to be banned.

The live version of this was always a treat and Morrison loved to ad lib during the spoken part. One of my favourite moments on the "Doors Live in Hollywood Bowl" is when Morrison is ad- libbing during the song; "don't let me die in an automobile, I want to lie in an open field, I want the snakes to suck my skin, want the worms to be my friends, want the birds to eat my eyes as here I lie, the flowers." Then he pauses and says incongruously "Ode to a grasshopper, I think I'll open a little shop, a little place where they sell things and I think I'll call it Grasshopper, I have a big green grasshopper out there, have you see my grasshopper, momma?" he picks a small insect off the stage and says, "Looking real good, uh oh, I blew it, its a moth! But that's alright, he aint got long to go so we'll forgive him." Many would say this is his genius, but of course Morrison was high, and this, coupled with a dark rebellious instinct, caused the man to do what he pleased without any fear, including getting into some serious trouble with the police. It is all history now but 'The End' really captures this rebellious nature and the band just go along for the ride as Morrison indulges in stream-of-consciousness poetry. The Doors were always controversial, and the freak out at the end of this with Morrison chanting "kill, kill" is the American poet at his darkest. In any case it is impossible to write about this album without that song rearing its ugly head somewhere.

So ends the album and it has been a wild ride from start to finish. The Doors' debut is a bonafide 60s masterpiece with prog elements before it was even thought about. One of the all time classic albums that never loses its power even 40 years on.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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