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.