Rock god striving for poetry

By Graham Reid

The Doors back catalouge

The Doors: The Doors. Herald rating: * * * * *

The Doors: Strange Days. Herald rating: * * * * *

The Doors: Waiting For The Sun. Herald rating: * * *

The Doors: The Soft Parade. Herald rating: * *

The Doors: Morrison Hotel. Herald rating: * * *

The Doors: LA Woman. Herald rating: * * * * *

Four decades on from their remarkable debut album, the Doors' studio albums are remixed and repackaged with essays, lyrics and extra tracks. Jim Morrison's death in 1971 at age 27 ensured he will always be Adonis in leather pouting out of iconic photos, his image untarnished by age.

Ask Doors' fans what the appeal is and answers invariably come back to Jim: poet, shaman, sexual rebel ... In the end - as these reissues of the studio albums, remixed by the band's original engineer and producer Bruce Botnick, with bonus tracks, prove - the Doors' longevity comes back to that often thrilling conjunction of Morrison's image and words with the music provided by drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek on organ.

Listening to the reissues - a four-year journey from the commanding optimism of Break On Through to a glimpse into the abyss of Riders On The Storm - it is the music which still impresses.

Jazz-trained Densmore punctuates even the most mundane of songs with accents and angles; Manzarek draws on his classical training and love of blues, and Krieger's guitar shifts seamlessly from raw blues to mercurial jazz-styled phrasing and provides eerie atmospherics on the more brooding material.

The Doors were greater than the sum of their parts and that was evident on their exceptional, self-titled debut in 1967 which charted territory previously unexplored in rock and provided a blueprint for their career.

Consider the landscape it covers: the challenge and optimism of Break On Through; sexuality and a celebration of life and death; and two exceptional covers, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) and Back Door Man. The final track is The End, a vision given new life in 1979 when Francis Ford Coppola used it in Apocalypse Now.

Strange Days (1967) which followed was its equal and contained the hit Love Me Two Times (the Doors always cracked radio hits), the bad trip paranoia of People Are Strange and the 11-minute nihilism of When The Music's Over.

But by Waiting For The Sun (1968), Morrison was an uncontrollable drunk yearning for recognition as a poet. Densmore repeatedly threatened to quit. The album did, however, contain the Vietnam-influenced sonic drama The Unknown Soldier, and the pop hit Hello I Love You. But not much else.

The more experimental The Soft Parade (1969) is their nadir, not even elevated by the single Touch Me. Morrison distanced himself from the album, preferring to concentrate on his poetry.

Morrison Hotel (1970) was more instinctive and earthy with Krieger angrily on fire in places - but it wasn't until the bluesy LA Woman (1971) that they recovered their form. Morrison sounded like the mature mix of bluesman and rock poet he wanted to be.

It contains some exceptional songs: Texas Radio and the Big Beat (Morrison's most successful spoken word track); the dirty Crawling King Snake, Cars Hiss By My Window, the obligatory radio song Love Her Madly, Hyacinth House and it closed with the still compelling Riders On The Storm.

It also opened with The Changeling ("see me change") which may have been Morrison's public farewell to rock. Shortly after he went to Paris where he drank, and died, but got what he wanted: his death certificate reads "poet".

Jim Morrison wasn't much of a poet, but for four years he was a rock god, albeit flawed, and - with the support of exceptional musicians - he realised it in places on these albums, three of which are essential.

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