The Doors

The Doors

Elektra Records, 1967

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Almost 40 years down the road (!), it's tough to parse the legend from the reality when it comes to those icons of the avant-garde, The Doors.

There are those who maintain the band is vastly overrated, and those who devour every morsel produced by its still-churning publicity machine, fed most notably over the years by the "I-was-there" writing of former manager Danny Sugerman and the fictionalized film fantasia of Oliver Stone. All of which tends to argue for the simple act performed here: listening to, and reacting to, the music.

From the first whispery tingles drummer John Densmore coaxes out of his cymbals, to keyboardist Ray Manzarek's throbbing, otherworldly organ work, to guitarist Robby Krieger's wild, stabbing figures, to lead singer Jim Morrison's recklessly urgent vocals, leadoff track "Break On Through" simply shouts menace at the listener. It might come off as rather tame, put up against Marilyn Manson, but just remember (a) this was 1967, and (b) Marilyn Manson and a thousand other envelope-pushing acts owe their very existence to the Doors. Juxtaposed against the sunny melodies of the Beach Boys and the earnest creativity of the Beatles, this stuff was pure nitroglycerin.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One of the secrets to the Doors' raw, eerie sound is the absence of a bass player. On their songs you'll often find the organ or guitar matching rhythm with Densmore's stuttering, jazzy drums, amplifying the sense of chaos. Not just Morrison but the entire band sounds vaguely unhinged much of the time.

They further that impression with their multiple-personality approach to song choices. From gritty r&b ("Soul Kitchen") to darkly atmospheric ballads ("The Crystal Ship"), from psychedelic blues ("Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)") to pounding, exuberant pop ("Twentieth Century Fox"), the Doors recognize no boundaries. Even when they do compose the perfect single -- the timeless, rippling, urgent "Light My Fire" -- they insist on including a lengthy instrumental bridge that's by turns brilliant and bizarre.

But then, this debut was designed to shock. How else do you explain the intense imagery of Morrison's imaginative lyrics, the discordant music of cuts like "End Of The Night," the melodramatic flourishes of the Oedipal epic "The End"? It's the original shock-rock, no makeup, costumes or props needed.

Yes, a big part of the appeal is atmosphere -- after all, Morrison was never much of a singer, and his "poetry" is wildly inconsistent in quality -- but the atmosphere these four created was absolutely compelling in the context of the times. The Doors grabbed the Sixties by the lapels and shook the entire decade until it was dizzy. Rock music -- real rock music, not the watered-down mainstream swill -- would be a lot of things after The Doors, but it would never again be safe.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.