Saturday, March 5, 2016

THE DOORS: And then there were three...

March, 1991. Dad and I saw the Oliver Stone bio-pic of The Doors on its opening night (and would see it a couple more times on the big screen), and enjoyed the concert sequences, but a lot of the movie itself was just plain bad. I'd read a lot about the band beforehand, and a lot of the movie itself seemed made up by someone who knew very marginally about them. The less said about it, the better.

About a week later, we visited the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, where we'd always found lots of cool albums and 8-tracks there for the last few years. Sitting among the stacks of 8-tracks was a copy of the Doors' Other Voices album in this format. I had a small knowledge of them continuing on after Jim was gone, but never actually heard what they sounded like without him. What could this sound like? Paying 49 cents for it would answer that question, and so I did.

Considering that this was recorded not long after L.A. Woman, and with almost the same setup and additional musicians, it sat comfortably next to it, musically. I found that I actually enjoyed it, and played it over and over (after recording the 8-track onto a cassette).

I was familiar with Ray's vocalizing from "Close To You" off the Absolutely Live album, so I knew what I was in for here. "Ships W/Sails" is definitely the centerpiece of the album, and would have really been a gem if Jim was on it. "In The Eye Of The Sun" and "Tightrope Ride" are fun, while "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" and "Variety Is The Spice Of Life" (both sung by Robby) seem to try to inject a little humor into the proceedings. "Wandering Musician" almost sounded like a country ballad, but was enjoyable, with Ray's jangle piano carrying it through. Although "Down On The Farm" started off with a nice "Riders On The Storm"-type of intro, the choruses and middle section (with "farm music" sounds) are rather on the embarrassing side.

There was one more, Full Circle (1972), but for some reason, this one was rather pricey at any used-vinyl place. That was because of the gimmicky "zoetrope" that was still intact to the album cover, and could be assembled onto the record while it played. I couldn't have cared less about that. The cover was nice, but really didn't fit the Doors (not to me, anyway...maybe a prog-rock band).

On this, their sole self-produced album, we have Ray and Robby pulling the band in two different directions. Ray seemed to be going for a good-time old-fashioned rock vibe, while Robby was going for either something bluesy, or Santana-esque. I almost didn't find much to remember the album by until "The Mosquito" opened side two. The opening bits I could have done without, but once those are! Now, that genuinely sounds like The Doors, but the only thing was that Jim simply wasn't there. After that, not much else to remember or recommend, other than "The Peking King & The New York Queen" was yet another embarrassing cut.

They toured behind each album...but what did they sound like live?

They hit the road with bassist Jack Conrad, and guitarist/percussionist Bobby Ray. Over in England, they did The Old Grey Whistle Test, and then Beat-Club in Bremen, Germany. Good performances for the TV audience, but what did they really sound like live for a full show, and what songs did they play?

I got a hold of a bootleg CD of a live show they did in Chicago, to kick off the Full Circle tour, in July of 1972 (take from a radio broadcast at the Aragon Ballroom). They did mostly material from the two albums they did, but threw in "Love Me Two Times", and closed the show with "Light My Fire". They didn't sound bad as they were, and the audience actually sounded like they were enjoying it. "Ships W/Sails" had an interesting drum duet/solo in the middle, which was great, considering that John Densmore had never really soloed on stage before.

Hear it here: The tour came to an end that September, at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a daring and bold move to go on and prove themselves as more than just Jim Morrison's old backing band, but a lot of the public simply didn't share that opinion, and I've heard that the show was rather tepidly received. The band flew to England to promote their latest (as well as the Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine compilation), but decided to split up. And that was it, leaving this misunderstood and forgotten chapter of the band to be exhumed only by hardcore followers and collectors.

On their third attempt, though, they got it right. We had a copy of this album around the house for a while, with Dad having got a small pile of Doors albums from the Columbia House catalog in the summer of 1984, but we never really played this one much until after the aforementioned movie, when certain selections from this album carried some of the dead spots in the movie. However, we did like the now-legendary live version of "Roadhouse Blues" on it, but now the album was being played more regularly after seeing the movie.

Most people say you have to be a hardcore fan to enjoy this one...fair enough. It takes a few listens to get into, but it gets better with each successive play. Makes you wish they'd have thought of this idea a bit sooner, recording new music to Jim's spoken-word poetry. I've often read where Jim had read more than a few hours' worth of poetry; too bad they didn't make at least one more album using the same idea, instead of further remixes/edits of "Ghost Song".