With Jim Morrison’s death in Paris in 1971, one would assume that the final curtain had definitely fallen on The Doors as a functioning unit, or at least that’s what someone should have said to the remaining band members. Some of the songs presented here had actually been rehearsed with Morrison present, but not recorded proper until after Jim had left for France, with the intention of having several demos to play for him if and when he ever felt like returning to the group. But as that was not to be, the recordings were released just a few months after Morrison’s passing, obviously with the purpose of keeping the Doors alive. One thing’s for sure, Other Voices is a mixed bag of songs which range from so-so to very good.
Whether any of them would have been worthy of inclusion on any future album with Morrison himself is questionable, but as they are, they’re hardly what I’d describe as offensive, a few even have a little of that luminous sparkle heard on their previous albums. But the reality was that without their charismatic singer, the LP simply lacks the necessary presence and element of danger which only Morrison could bring. But none of this is the fault of the surviving players themselves, considering that Jim himself was larger in life than the rest of the band combined.
“In the Eye of the Sun” is as good a post-Morrison opener as you’re ever going to get, all primal rhythm augmented by Ray Manzarek’s distinct and eccentric keyboards. It’s classic Doors, and a fine song, however there’s only one thing missing; Jim Morrison. And that’s the problem with this album. No matter how accomplished the arrangements are or song writing, one knows one’s listening to something Morrison would have been capable of turning into gold. That’s how important he was to the band. Manzarek’s vocals are expressive but adequate at best, although to be fair, the band does seem to be giving it their utmost. Likewise “Variety is the Spice of Life”, where the trio just sound lost, like a ship without a captain. And speaking of ships, “Ships w/ Sails” is the most relaxing piece of the album, where Manzarek not only gives his finest vocal performance, but revisits some of the qualities which made The Doors great in the first place. It’s not a brilliant song by any means, yet nor is it boring or mediocre. The driving “Tightrope Ride” is a rollicking and reflective rocker, where Manzarek sings “But you’re all alone/Like Brian Jones”, perhaps as a reference to their old buddy Jim.
Robby Krieger’s “Down on the Farm” was apparently played for Morrison while recording LA Woman, but he rejected it outright. And I’m not surprised. Jim may have been a drunk, but his judgement was sober. It’s not exactly terrible, but not all that outstanding either. The same goes with “I’m horny, I’m stoned”, another Krieger tune, which is about as memorable as that last sponge cake made by your grandmother. On “Wandering Musician” The Doors make an attempt to get all deep and meaningful, although Manzarek’s strained voice does let it down a bit, to undermine the very sentiment which they are trying to express. There is a slight The Band moment here and there, as if they were wishing to reconnect with something that was no longer there. Either that or learn how to grow vegetables and live off the land. The Latin-infused “Hang on to your Life” is perhaps the most seamless number of the album, where the band appear to be in their natural element, until about the four-minute mark when all jazz-rock hell breaks loose, and for at least a minute seem like lions let loose from their cages. The sort of thing the LP could have done with a bit more of.
There is no doubt that the loss of Jim Morrison was a profound and major loss. And as talented as they were, there was simply no way the remaining elements of the group could ever be capable of recapturing the kind of magic they once had, and which their principle poet had given them. Other Voices makes for a decent and reassuring listen, but is hardly an essential one.