I don’t know if I have come across a debut album that delivers as strongly as today’s album, at least so far on this ride. “The Doors”, by The Doors, really hits the mark and it’s really quite impressive how a relatively inexperienced band of musicians produced this work on their first release. Rated #86 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, this record hits the ground running and almost never loses momentum.
Fronted by the legendary poet-singer Jim Morrison, with Ray Manzarek on keyboards, Robbie Krieger on guitar and John Densmore on drums, this four-piece act ultimately had an extremely productive ~ four year run before Morrison’s mysterious death in 1971. This album opens with “Break On Through”, a perfect track for bursting onto the scene with intensity and significance. The entire first side is just outstanding, heading next into the funky “Soul Kitchen”, the cosmic piano song, “The Crystal Ship”, the ode to modern beauty, “Twentieth Century Fox”, and the circus-like bar sing-along, “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)”. Side one ends with one of their most famous songs, and certainly the most recognized song from this album, “Light My Fire”. Jim Morrison handled almost all of the lyrical songwriting for the band, but this song was written by guitarist Robbie Krieger, and is the most classic representation of their sound.
Side two starts with a look back at American blues, with “Back Door Man”, co-written by Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf. Overall, the second side isn’t quite as consistent as side one, and ends with the 11:35 production, “The End”. Many view this song as one of Morrison’s finest achievements, but it has never really captured my enthusiasm the way much of their catalog has. I do enjoy the beginning and the basic verse and melody, but it strays a bit too long in distance for my taste. There are many long songs that I find appealing from beginning to end, so this demonstrates that no matter the length, it is what the band does with that time that matters. I personally think it drifts through the psychedelic haze of the mid-section of the song, and the “Oedipal Complex” theme is just a bit bizarre for my personal taste.
Those minor skirmishes aside, I really love this album, and can only imagine how new, unique and groundbreaking their music and Morrison’s electric persona were when they kicked off 1967, the year I was born, which also will prove to be another remarkably influential and productive year in the evolution of popular music.