I FEEL A TINGE of guilt in appreciating two albums I probably shouldn’t even be listening to, by a supergroup whose legacy is untouchable. The contentious albums are by The Doors, released after Jim Morrison died in a bathtub in Paris in July 1971, and featuring the remaining trio of Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore. You can appreciate my reservations; both are missing from the remastered boxset containing all the previous albums. And as far as I am aware only one song from the Morrison-less remnant has been included on any Doors compilation.
While many of the supergroups of the time – The Beatles, The Faces, Stones, The Who and The Kinks were a gang, comprising massive characters who were all an integral part of the group, The Doors centred around Morrison. This should not detract from the talent of Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore, who were as vital to the group’s success as Morrison, but the Lizard King had a mystique that towered over his colleagues. He had the voice, the looks, the intelligence and the character.
To get a sense how badly these albums fared at the time, they have never been issued on CD in the United States. However, my local library in Wellington contains a German import disk of both albums. Even the compilers didn’t feel the albums merited individual release, or even a double CD. The cover of Other Voices features headshots of the surviving trio and its title is a statement of intent, that being: don’t forget about us. It was released just three months after Morrison’s untimely demise, leading to fans’ speculation about how much was done before Jim checked out of that Paris hotel permanently. The likely scenario is that it was rush-released to cash-in on the death; sex sells the saying goes, but death is a pretty good fund-raiser too.
The vocal duties were mainly performed by keyboardist Manzarek, which was logical as he often sang backing vocals. From the initial bar on In The Eye Of The Sun the thought crosses the mind: how would Jim have done this? And the answer is pretty emphatic, he would have empowered, caressed and whipped the track into a frenzy. Both Manzarek and Krieger are fine singers, but it was too much to expect to fill such X-sized boots
It certainly feels like a Doors album with the blues boogies intermingling with languid sorts like Down On The Farm (an
L.A.Woman outake), and the songwriting can’t be faulted. I’m Horny, I’m Stoned contains all the joie de vivre of any song written from 1966.
A year later, Full Circle appeared with an eccentric, halucinatory cover. It’s a less coherent effort but has some standouts, Hardwood Floor is jump-up-and-down boogie woogie, about “getting married down in Mexico” with a rousing chorus, and the set-closer The Peking King and the New York Queen (about Nixon’s visit to China) is cringeworthy with the use of a faux Asian accent but it’s an energetic, flighty number that I sometimes wanna dance to, and other times I wonder why this is worming its way through my ears.
By 1973, the realisation that the public didn’t have an appetite for a Morrison-less Doors had succumbed and the three went their separate ways. Four decades on, these albums deserve something of a second opinion. I am not in any way going to argue they are on a par with anything recorded between 1967 and early 1971; neither is even on a par with The Soft Parade, generally regarded as the quartet’s poorest effort. The critics panned them both, but how much of that negativity was down to a view that this group should have simply drifted apart? But let’s be mature here, there’s some nice efforts, and there’s a few standouts that would have suggested a great Doors album if Morrison hadn’t died in that bathtub.