Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Doors - Other Voices (1971)

In 1971 Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger, & John Densmore decided to soldier on without Jim Morrison.

Wait, the Doors without Jim Morrison?! That does not compute, doesn't make sense by any stretch of the imagination.

But at the same time Morrison was constantly trying to shift focus away from himself to his bandmates. There are group photos where, while he is front and center, he's kind of cowering lower to try to put the focus on Kreiger, Densmore, and Manzarek. So something tells me, on some level, this is a decision that Morrison might have smiled down on.

I have to give credit where it's due. The music is actually pretty damned good and the three remaining Doors did right by Morrison by not trying to replace him, they merely continued on without him-- Kreiger and Manzarek taking on the vocal duties in the Lizard King's absence.

Manzarek was no stranger to singing for the Doors as he was known to sing lead for them on many ocassions when Jim was still alive but too inebriated or incapacitated to perform. Rather than cancel or reschedule, often times the Doors would perform with Manzarek handling the vocals.

But Manzarek is no Morrison, nor for that matter is Robby Kreiger. It took some serious stones to soldier on without Mojo Risin' but as a tribute to Morrison perhaps they should have changed their name.

In order to listen to this album objectively it's best to forget it's a Doors album. Close your eyes and listen to it for its own sake. The music IS good and good music should be enjoyed without prejudice. The keyboard/organ playing is trademark Manzarek, the drums are still John Densmore, and the guitar is still good ol' Robby Kreiger.

When a person goes blind or deaf his or her other senses tend to grow stronger to compensate for the loss of that sense. As a trio the Doors play even tighter than as a quartet. It's almost as if Morrison's passing brought the remaining three members of the band that much closer together.

Even if deep down inside I can't bring myself to refer to Other Voices as a true Doors album, I also can't deny that it's thirty-nine plus minutes of damned good music. I just wish that Densmore, Manzarek, and Kreiger had made a fresh start and recorded under a new band name. They and their music deserves to be appreciated free from the ghosts and constraints of their past. Retaining "The Doors" moniker severely handicapped the album's potential success before the first note was even recorded.

Related Links
The Doors (official site)
The Doors (wikipedia)
Ray Manzarek (official site)
Ray Manzarek (wikipedia)
Robby Kreiger (official site)
Robby Kreiger (wikipedia)
John Densmore (official site)
John Densmore (wikipedia)


Dan said...

I did not remember this album by the reconditioned The Doors. After reading a bit about it they had actually started some of this before Jim went on "vacation" in France. It really does sound pretty good. I had also forgotten until today that I used to own the album "13" (1970) which was a greatest hits of the Doors at that time. I think it was my first Doors album. Not sure but sounds good.Thanks for jogging the memory banks.

Perplexio said...

Dan: Glad you enjoyed it. At some point I plan on reviewing the other post-Morrison Doors album, Full Circle, as well. Not sure when that will happen though. There are some reviews I've been wanting to write for years that keep getting pushed down in my queue so to speak.

drewzepmeister said...

After collecting and hearing all the Morrison led Doors albums, I've been dying to hear the other two without him. I wonder if they can ordered for? It's so refreshing to such read such a good review on them!

Charlie Ricci said...

While I never heard this album I used to own its followup, Full Circle (I wish I knew what happened to it) and I was astonished how good it was. True, Morrison was such a good vocalist and frontman he was difficult to replace but the guys did a decent job. It proved that The Doors were not just Jim's backup band. Full Circle had a really cool song called "The Piano Bird" that got some radio airplay. While it wasn't classic Doors it was good, if not outstanding, music.

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas said...

I've been aware of but never heard The Doors stuff minus Jim. I did know a guy who claimed to have seen the Lizard King-free incarnation live, though.

Sean Coleman said...

I like this one a lot. The best moments recall passages from LA Woman, though Jim's presence defined the image of the band to such a great extent that these guys could do little but struggle in his shadow from a commercial standpoint.

Haven't listened to it in a while but I recall "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" having a decent hook and some nice slide guitar (despite the poor choice of title)

Perplexio said...

Drew: From what I've read this album has never been OFFICIALLY released in the US (although it has in Europe). I'll see what I can do about getting you this and Full Circle (the other post-Morrison Doors album).

Charlie: Morrison had the benefit of a solid trio of musicians backing him up and I think both Other Voices and Full Circle really show how good the rest of the band was. It's a pity that these albums ended up largely ignored-- eclipsed in the shadows of Morrison's cult of personality.

Barely Awake in Frog Pajamas: I used to correspond with a guy who said he saw Ray Manzarek live once. But I think it was just Manzarek, I don't believe Robby Kreiger or John Densmore were present at that performance.

Sean: Agreed about these guys struggling in Morrison's shadow. I really think if they'd changed the band name as a tip of the hat to Morrison they might have been taken a bit more seriously rather than being largely ignored by the public.

drewzepmeister said...

Thanks Perplexo!

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I agree with all you wrote except the part you think it would've been better if they changed the band's name... We know for a fact that it doesn't have to be that way. There are other great bands that lost their lead vocals (Queen - i.g.), and still kept going even better or in the same rate... Plus it's freekin' hard to get a band's name going! So... that's my view on that! Other than that, like you said, it's a great (Doors) album! And there's a taste of Jim's touch in their voices too... very noticeable! Don't you think?!