Read my reviews of studio albums by The Doors.
Doors albums from 1967:
The Doors (10/10)
When this record was released, psychedelia had begun and was starting to take over the world. Numerous bands would jump on that bandwagon, trying to get their music to sound “Eastern” or “Indian.” Not The Doors.
Instead of drawing from Indian music, Indo-Jazz, and Free Jazz, The Doors draw from Musical Theatre, Latin Jazz and The Blues and though they are lumped in with psychedelic rock, what we get is something altogether different. I’d say it was the birth of Art Rock, had Zappa not invented it 6 months earlier.
It’s still an extremely unique and different take on music than anyone else was doing at the time and extremely influential. (Imagine David Bowie’s early ’70s records without this one.)
One of the great debut records of all time.
Strange Days (9/10)
The Doors second album feels a bit too much of a retread of their first album but that is praising with faint damnation because their debut album was one of the great debut albums of the 1960s.
Some of these songs may indeed be leftovers from their debut but there are still plenty of strong songs here. (And Morrison’s one indulgence is very brief.)
Moreover, the band is just as good, if not better, this time out. Having a bass on nearly on tracks helps more than it should and the whole thing feels more musically accomplished, even if its less daring by virtue of it being essentially the same musical ideas.
Still great stuff and the last truly essential Doors album until their reinvention as a blues band.
1968: Waiting for the Sun (7/10)
This is the first “wilderness” Doors album (you might say), wherein the band began to lose some of what made them great initially, while searching for new things.
There are some classics Doors songs here, particularly “Five to One.” But there are more flirtations with pop balladry and other things which sort of make you wonder what they were up to. It’s not as bad in that sense as The Soft Parade, but the beginnings of their weird attempt to masquerade as a pop band are here.
The other thing that’s odd about the record, at least in retrospect, is the lack of the entirety of “The Celebration of the Lizard.” If there was a time to include the entire piece on LP, surely it was the late 1960s. I don’t know that it would have made this album better, but it would have made it more interesting and, arguably, more Doors, since most of the musical theatre influence of the first two records has vanished.
Still, this is a record that is pretty decent and only pales in relation to the two previous albums. To the degree that I dislike it, it’s relative. Another band putting this out probably would have impressed me.
1969: The Soft Parade (6/10)
The nadir…of the Morrison years. (I have to add that qualifier given that I have never heard the two post-Morrison albums and given that all Astbury related nonsense could indeed be regarded as a true nadir.)
The band tries to incorporate horns – and strings to some extent – into its sound. These efforts pale in comparison to other bands’ at the time: the Electric Flag for example, and especially the Al Kooper edition of Blood Sweat and Tears. Part of the problem is the general lack of songwriting: Morrison and Krieger don’t really inspire this time out. (Though I still struggle with the idea that Morrison is wholly responsible for either Wild Child or the Soft Parade, as there are riffs in those songs that I don’t think he “wrote” for a second.)
This is a slew of interesting ideas – many unusual for the Doors – some of which work and many of which don’t. The whole thing would be far more palatable if the set of songs was more memorable.
1970: Morrison Hotel (8/10)
The narrative is all about this as the big “comeback” album after the drift into pop music. But to me it has always felt like a very different beast.
I didn’t actually like it the first few times that I heard it. I liked “Roadhouse Blues” and “Peace Frog” of course (in part because I’ve heard them so many times) but, much like the deep cuts on the next record, I was initially pretty unimpressed.
I don’t know the Doors’ story that well, I’ve only seen the film once years ago and have never read a biography or anything. So I don’t know that did it but the thing that appeals to me now that I’ve finally had the album sink in and decided I actually like the deep cuts is how un-arty it is, even though it contains two older Doors songs from the arty period. And the thing that confuses me is how this is a “return to form” or a “back to basics” record. Because, with the exception of a few tracks on the first albums, the Doors didn’t really do The Blues. On this record it’s much more prominent and I think this is mostly a new direction. And that’s the thing I find appealing about it, it’s mostly a commitment to this new direction. (Though obviously they deviate here and there.) Maybe not as much as the next record, but it’s still a pretty strong left turn, at least to my ears. And it’s kind of remarkable given how much they specialized in, you know, Arty with a capital A on the first couple records.
Albums released by The Doors in 1971:
L.A. Woman (9/10)
The Doors’ second blues album is, to my ears, a significant improvement on their first. The most noticeable thing is the songs; they’re just much, much better this time out, with a number of classic tracks, and nary a week one in the bunch, in my opinion.
This being the Doors, it’s not exactly straight ahead blues either. There’s a subtle jazz influence and Morrison’s lyrics are not the stuff of blues songs, even when he appears to be singing cliches.
Other Voices (???)
I think we can endlessly debate whether or not bands should continue after a member dies. But this album came out three months after Morrison died. They basically just sang the songs that Morrison would have presumably sung. (Minus, of course, the songs Morrison would have written.)
I have never heard this but its existence has always struck me as really bizarre. If you want to continue on without your most famous member, change the name of your band.
1972: Full Circle (???)
Much like the previous record, I’ve never listened to this.
1978: An American Prayer (???)
The Greatest Hits albums I used to own had one track from this on it and I resolved never to listen to it.