They called themselves The Doors, as in ‘the doors of perception’ – Jim especially liked their name. It suited the kind of lyrics he had prepared. The group were formed by College buddies Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. Ray played Piano, Keyboards, Organ. He had a love for the blues and a heavy liking for Jazz music. After Robby Krieger and John Densmore were added to the line up on guitar and drums respectively – they still lacked a bass player. The solution arrived partly due to a technique ray learned from boogie woogie piano ( the left hand plays all the bass parts ) and also with the aid of a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass sat atop rays vox continental. Ray Manzareks left hand became the groups bass player! It would continue that way through live concerts – though as the Fender Rhodes wasn’t so great in recording studios in terms of fidelity – they would switch to using assorted session guys for later albums. On this, their debut, Rays Fender runs through every song. I guess they stopped using it due to the way it would threaten to break up and distort. For me though it’s a key element to the sound and appeal of this record and sets it apart from other Doors albums. This isn’t really a slick sounding record but maybe because of that, it does have a certain edge.
John and Robbie were both adept at blues, rock and possessed knowledge of jazz. The long extended soloing in the middle section of ‘Light My Fire’ takes its inspiration directly from Jazz, certainly. Its also a thing of sheer hypnotic splendour! Its hallucinogenic – I can listen to that part over and over, and when it swings back in to Jim’s vocal – is a thing to behold. This entire middle section was cut out from the single version. Consequently, although it became a massive hit for them, lost much of its power. The full extended album version however, well. This rocks! A similar although much shorter break was featured on opening song ‘Break On Through’. Two and a half minutes of perfection. Everything The Doors ever were or would be is right here, in this one song. Plenty more to come though! Themes to be developed and expanded upon. ‘The End’ is also an important song, being the first extended epic The Doors produced. Well, the LP version of ‘Light My Fire’ clocks in at six minutes fifty ( although actually runs just past seven minutes ) but isn’t an epic in the terms of ‘The End’ or their latter ‘When The Music’s Over’. ‘The End’ is all atmosphere. An excuse for Jim Morrison to provide us with poetry but it remains captivating given his vocal performance. A vocal full of doom and preacher like intensity.
With all of this heaviness the likes of ‘Soul Kitchen’ and the slightly silly ‘Twentieth Century Fox’ provide welcome diversions. Lighter material but still in keeping with the sound of the overall record. We have highlights with a suitably intense version of Willie Dixon’s ‘Back Door Man’ as well as another cover, a dramatic, superb take on Brecht and Weills ‘Alabama Song’. Here, the keyboard takes on a weird European circus flavor that combined with Jim’s deep but playful vocal certainly raises a smile. And! Still more highlights! The wonderful ‘Crystal Ship’ almost defies musical explanation. A number of shorter, simpler songs appearing towards the end of the album perhaps lack the genius of other cuts here but each plays a part in adding to the album as a whole. An album that bears up well to repeated listening. A classic debut that even manages to have classic artwork on its front sleeve. The way Jim’s face is shown coming out at you is striking and it all combines to provide a wonderfully complete and superb album.