The Doors – Full Circle

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The Doors refuse to give up the ghost on second post-Morrison effort

When Jim Morrison finally checked-in to that big roadhouse in the sky, the remaining members of The Doors were naturally scratching their heads as to their next move. That they chose to continue in the absence of their lead singer and principle songwriter was a choice that was as logical as it was brave. Whether it was the right decision is something Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robbie Krieger have all commented on over the years, with Krieger reflecting: “We hoped to capture something, but it never felt very good. Without him (Jim) it was very awkward. There was no balance any more.” Manzarek was even blunter: “We wanted to recharge our batteries, just as Jim did when he went to Paris. But it didn’t really work out. It was time to close The Doors.”

Yet such closure wouldn’t happen until after the band decided to record one more LP following 1971’s Other Voices, before wisely calling it quits soon after. The result was Full Circle, which, like their previous effort, fell way short of capturing the public’s imagination. On a musical level, the playing is faultless, however without the charismatic Morrison, much of what was presented lacks the necessary spark and intensity of yore.

First up is “Get Up And Dance,” an upbeat rock-gospel number that is enjoyable yet hardly comes close to “Changeling” or “Roadhouse Blues” in terms of impact on the listener. Krieger’s “4 Billion Souls” is lightweight post-hippie filler, while their cover of Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” (a song sung by Elvis) is utterly superfluous.

It’s not until they branch out into jazz-fusion territory that the band truly succeed in transcending their past. “Verdilac” is one such song, with its funky, slinky grooves, augmented by Charles Lloyd’s tenor sax, and “The Piano Bird,” a wonderful predominately instrumental piece during which Manzarek’s playing is reminiscent of “Riders On The Storm.”

Everything else however is largely unmemorable. “Hardwood Floor” perhaps should have remained on the cutting room floor, Krieger’s “It Slipped My Mind,” despite some inspired guitar moments, never quite catches fire, while Manzarek’s “The Peking King And The New York Queen” is fun but forgettable.

The only other track of note is the quirky “The Mosquito,” not so much due to superior songwriting, but for the sheer entertainment factor. Mariachi interludes are contrasted with high-energy Booker-T style breakouts, all the while anchored by a Cheech and Chong siesta-oriented main chorus. If anything, it’s one of the oddest things The Door’s have ever done.

Ultimately, Full Circle is a pleasant, often enjoyable exercise in self indulgence. Obviously without Jim, the Mojo was no longer there, no matter how professional the playing. With Morrison, The Doors were dangerous, and edgy – on this release they come across as little more than an above average jazz-rock act performing at the local cabaret nightclub in downtown Hollywood – reduced to a pale imitation of their former selves. Still, at least they had the guts to carry on. It’s not like they were AC/DC or anything.

Oh, and that’s a young Meryl Streep on the cover too, just in case you were wondering.

5 thoughts on “The Doors – Full Circle

  1. This was the first post Jim Lp I bought by the Doors and even got ray to sign it one year and he couldn’t believe I brought THAT album! lol. After many listens to both Full Circle and Other Voices, you could take the best of both albums and make one decent album for sure. The Doors really went jazzier after Jim and a lot of their live shows really showed that. Plus bringing on the bassist and a percussionist on tour and on album gave them a different sound. I feel that if they changed the name of the band and carried on as something else and went where they wanted to go they would have lasted the 70’s at least. They only kept Love me Two Times and of course the standard Light My Fire in their live set which I found intriguing but they really went more jazzed out than before. They did audition a guy, name escapes me, around 1972 to be their new singer and it was in England while they were on tour and apparently made recordings of some Morrison era songs with him but it never came to fruition. Coulda Woulda Didn’t moment. I think that the Doors were scared of being seen as a sellout replacing Jim and the fact that this new guy wasn’t the “outrageous” Jim people had come to know and not the “Young Lion” image of 1967 that Gloria Stavers so poignantly painted him up as in photos. Robbie Krieger actually helped out putting a bootleg boxset together called Boot Yer Butt and the last portion of the box is dedicated to the post Jim period and decently selected pieces but with Ray and Robbie sharing the vocals it didn’t quite have the tenacity that a single vocalist has on a four piece rock band where you need a prominent frontman. For me I think it was a lot to do with Ray’s subtle ego and trying to emulate Jim’s voice a lot of times and even when Jim was alive it often got annoying listening to live performances where Ray’s gotta get his ad lib in where Robby and John did it through sound. Shut up and play your keyboards! lol But I digress… the last album by The Doors as The Doors was interesting to say the least and their final concert appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in September 1972 with Frank Zappa’s Grand Wazoo tour opening up for them didn’t do them any favours as their set list was new album material and the audience from the bootleg you can hear are not familiar with it and are expecting to hear all the Jim related material thus probably realizing that their music isn’t going over as well as they had anticipated and hoped for they called it a day.

    1. For me there is a mixture of sadness and celebration on those albums. Yes, Jim was gone, and while good on them for continuing, without that all important 4th element… But I absolutely agree that if you combine the best songs from each, then we’d have a superb album. Perhaps they ought to have waited a while, thought it through more. The fact you met Ray makes me jealous.

      1. I was 16 and my best friend and I ran, I mean BOLTED down the street to get to the place he was at and were THE last two to get in and get his signature and I got a pic with him and when I told him my name was Duke all he could say was, “Is that some kinda John Wayne thing mannnn?” LOL

  2. “Full Circle” is the first of the two albums released after Jim Morrison’s death in 1971. I would say, the Album is good, if not very good. The musical interpretation and interpretation of each song is slightly different, as with the Doors albums with Morrison. The songs are mainly characterized by Manzarek’s rocking electric organ, and by the voices of him and Robby Krieger. The titles Verdillac, The Mosquito, and The Pianobird are particularly fascinating: it is enough to listen to the record once a day, because otherwise the pounding organ-phrases will be too much .

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