The Doors – Other Voices

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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.

  1. Funny thing with The Doors post Jim’s departure in 71 is that they had all these songs already in the wings or just wrote really fast but they reinvented themselves almost in to an entirely new band. Bootlegs have shown their transformation on stage as well as on record as they now included the rhythm guitarist/percussionist and, bassist to their live repertoire making them filler in sound and stage presence to make up for the loss of Jim who really commanded the stage pretty much on his own through his voice and theatrics. Keeping only two songs from the Morrison canon of music; Love Me Two Times and Light My Fire for their live sets to help keep the audience interested as the newer fare failed to ignite much of any fire under the asses of critics and fans alike. I actually like some of the post Jim material but selective about it and I never listened to them as THE DOORS but as a different band altogether. The new band had gone very jazz like and more standard rock formation with this record and albeit lyrically nowhere near their previous albums worth even though sometimes I don’t think Jim knew what he was going on about lol. But I digress. Other Voices, poignantly titled as they now found themselves looking to achieve a new level of audience to which they played to a mere 300 people at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Theatre in 1971, it wasn’t going to be easy. But they really should have changed the name of the band to “Other Voices” or something like that because one tends to associate The Doors synonymously with Jim Morrison. Their music was jazzier and with Manzarek and Krieger at the helm of vocals it gave a bit of a split decision to the lead of the band that had previously had one sole singer from 65/66-70. Out of both albums the Doors released post Jim, the other being “Full Circle” from ’72 I could take everything that was “GOOD” and make one decent record from it. They did however do some rehearsals with a guy to take Jim’s place the name completely eludes me right now but they did do this in late 71 but it never came to fruition and they carried forth as you heard on the two albums. Their very last show as the Doors was the Hollywood Bowl on September 10th 1972 where Frank Zappa premiered his Grand Wazoo tour opening up for them. There are many bootlegs circulating including the very last show where Manzarek says it’s great to be back in California as it’s too cold in new York, Toronto etc…. it hasn’t begun to snow in Toronto in September so it couldn’t be THAT cold! They had potential but realized that without Jim there were really no more Doors to open and explore under that moniker.