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The Doors - The Doors CD (album) cover


The Doors



4.33 | 708 ratings

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4 stars A ground-breaking debut album, never bettered by the band in the following years. Unforgettable organ riffs, long, mesmerising instrumental flights, intriguing, sometimes positively disturbing lyrics, and vocals veering from the soothing to the sensual to the aggressive, often within the space of the same song. Last but not least, a frontman the likes of whom the rock world had not seen since Elvis, a charismatic, heart-wrenchingly beautiful wildman whose career would burn brightly like a meteor, and leave a lasting mark in the collective memory of the final years of the 20th century... This, in a nutshell, is The Doors - an album that, whatever its shortcomings, every self-respecting rock fan should hear at least once in their lifetime.

An object of scandal and worship, infuriatingly uneven in the brief span of their activity, The Doors can be seen as a triumph of style over substance. In spite of their attempts to continue without the man who, in so many ways, WAS the band itself, they will be forever be identified with Jim Morrison's spicy-chocolate vocals and his Dionysian image, half-shaman, half-Lothario, with more than a bit of the hopeless drunk and druggie thrown in. Though some call him overrated as a lyricist (and perhaps he was), and his decline before his death was quite pathetic to behold, there is no denying that Jim, at his peak, was a force of nature - and nothing proves this point better than the band's first effort, released in one of the most important years for rock music. As is the case of other cult albums, it is what I call a 'flawed masterpiece', not perfect by any means, and certainly not in the way of, say, Close to the Edge, or even their contemporaries Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation. However, it is also much more than the sum of its parts - iconic is the word that comes to mind.

Even if Jim Morrison was the face and the voice of the band, much like another group with a frontman who passed away too soon (Queen), the musical driving force behind The Doors was someone else - keyboardist Ray Manzarek, one of the most influential (and all too often forgotten) practitioners of his instrument. Even before prog brought keyboards to the fore and got them to replace the guitar as the most important instrument in music, before the Keith Emersons and Rick Wakemans of this world, there was Ray Manzarek's Vox Continental organ, used to replace the bass with a unique, rhythmic effect. The Doors had a fine guitarist in Robbie Krieger, but Manzarek's overall imprint on the band's sound is simply too great to be discounted.

The album features eleven songs, for the most part between two and three minutes in length, with two notable exceptions - the two songs that, in their very different ways, symbolise the album. Light My Fire needs no introduction, since it has had more airplay and more cover versions (some of them remarkably atrocious) than the band could have ever imagined at the time. Though it is basically a pop song with a very catchy tune, the lengthy instrumental workout in the middle, driven as usual by Manzarek's distinctive keyboards, takes it to a higher level. And then, the song's driving keyboard riff deserves to be mentioned along the likes of Smoke on the Water and Don't Fear the Reaper as one of the mothers of all riffs - even if the word is most often associated with guitars and guitar heroes. The End, over 11 minutes long, and appropriately placed at... the end of the album, is one of those songs everybody has heard, but probably without actually listening to it. The controversial lyrics, complete with a notorious oedipal reference, and Morrison's equally notorious performances, have stolen the thunder from the song's musical brilliance. Krieger's beautiful guitar playing takes centre stage here, with Manzarek's keyboards providing a haunting, understated background. Morrison's vocals are unleashed like a raging beast, and fit the deranged bleakness of the lyrics like a glove.

Among the other, shorter offerings, my personal favourites are the wistful The Crystal Ship, with Morrison at his most romantic and sensual, and the slowed-down, chilling End of the Night. I also have a soft spot for the Brecht-Weill-penned Alabama Song (from their 1930 opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), which was later covered by David Bowie. On the whole, the quality of the playing and songwriting is excellent, and much more coherent than in the band's later efforts, increasingly undermined by Morrison's excesses.

The Doors will definitely appeal to most prog fans, and, even if it cannot be called a fully progressive album, its influence on many later bands and artists (like High Tide's singer Tony Hill, or 'prog-punk' band The Stranglers) cannot be denied. As for the rating, it falls somewhat short of full 5 stars for me, so I'll go for my usual four-and-a-virtual-half - which doesn't detract in the least from the album's musical and historical value. Enjoy it anyway.... It is much more than just hype.

Raff | 4/5 |


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