Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Doors

  • The Doors [Elektra, 1967] B-
  • The Soft Parade [Elektra, 1969] B-
  • Morrison Hotel [Elektra, 1970] B+
  • Absolutely Live! [Elektra, 1970] B
  • 13 [Elektra, 1970] A-
  • L.A. Woman [Elektra, 1971] A-
  • Other Voices [Elektra, 1971] C+
  • Full Circle [Elektra, 1972] C
  • Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine [Elektra, 1972] B-
  • The Best of the Doors [Elektra, 1973] B
  • Alive, She Cried [Elektra, 1983] B-
  • Live at the Hollywood Bowl [Elektra EP, 1987] C-
  • The Very Best of the Doors [Elektra, 2001] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Doors [Elektra, 1967]
I admit that some of the tunes retain considerable nostalgic appeal, but there's no way I can get around it--Jim Morrison sounds like an asshole. B-

The Soft Parade [Elektra, 1969]
No one even thinks about the Doors any more--such is fame--but this is an acceptable record, with predictable pretensions and two or three first-rate songs ("Touch Me," "Wild Child"). Nothing to get excited about, either way. B-

Morrison Hotel [Elektra, 1970]
One side is called "Hard Rock Cafe," the other "Morrison Hotel." Guess which I prefer. Now guess which is supposed to be more "poetic." And now guess which is more poetic. "The future's uncertain and the end is always near" is just the Lizard King's excuse for mingling with the proles who "get on down," but it sure beats the Anaļs Nin tribute for originality and aptness of thought. Still, the band is rocking tighter than it ever has, Robbie Krieger's phrasing keeps things moving, and Morrison's gliding vocal presence--arty and self-absorbed though it may be--provides focus. He's not the genius he makes himself out to be, so maybe his genius is that he doesn't let his pretensions cancel out his talent. B+

Absolutely Live! [Elektra, 1970]
Strong performances and audio. Two previously unrecorded blues, a predictable new original called "Build Me a Woman," a surprising new original called "Universal Mind," several new fragments, and an intelligent medley. Plus "The Celebration of the Lizard" in its full theatrical glory--or rather, since this is a record, half of it. Problem is, I don't happen to be into reptiles when the music's over, much less while it's on. B

13 [Elektra, 1970]
Greatest hits plus, and minus--album tracks that should have been singles and dud forty-fives, respectively. As for those who believe such a collection drives the final nail in the sepulchre of Jim Morrison's AM acceptance, well, I prefer his Tommy James to his Antonin Artaud. Although I admit that "Touch Me" goes too far. P.S. I know sepulchres don't have nails--that was just a test for the Artaud fans. A-

L.A. Woman [Elektra, 1971]
The tip-off is when in the middle of a lyric about needing someone who doesn't need etc. etc. Jim intones the line "I see the bathroom is clear." That's how you know the "raaght awn"s in "Cars Hiss by My Window" (hiss, huh?) and the jungle talk in "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" (wasps, huh?) and even the cover of John Lee Hooker's "Crawling King Snake" (take that, lizard-haters) are jokes. Which is nice, because the band has never sounded better--the blues licks are sharp, the organ fills are hypnotic, and they've even hired a bass player. But if "Been Down So Long" is also a takeoff, I prefer Randy Newman's. And Newman has better ideas about "L'America," too. A-

Other Voices [Elektra, 1971]
Anyone can sing rock, but that doesn't mean just anyone. Richard Nixon can't, and neither can Barbra Streisand, and I bet Peter Fonda can't either. Well, neither can Ray Manzarek or Robbie Krieger, whose voices share one salient quality: uptightness. This record has some terrific moments, starting with the first hook riff, and the musicians deserve their reputations. But even a good singer couldn't do much with a line like "To roam is my infection," and this band could use a good singer. C+

Full Circle [Elektra, 1972]
Is this slick eclecticism what all those experts who used to claim Jim Morrison was limiting his musicians had in mind? C

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine [Elektra, 1972]
This two-LP compendium has a theme that goes beyond "He's dead, so we'd better get in there quick." It's Morrison-as-politician, compiled by an a&r guy who took him seriously, and why not--in Morrison's politics, a&r guys were adjuncts of the prime movers of history. This includes enough solid album tracks and post-13 hits to suck in the poppyboppers plus the best of the pretentious stuff--"Five to One," "Horse Latitudes," "When the Music's Over," and of course "The End." Which latter is the test--specifically the line "Mother I want to yeearrrgh." When I first heard it, it made me grimace; how it makes me guffaw. If it still gives you chills, you may want to buy this for your favorite niece of nephew. Inspirational Image: "mute nostril agony." B-

The Best of the Doors [Elektra, 1973]
Not counting the live double (from which this inexplicably includes "Who Do You Love") and the two non-Morrison albums (from which this explicably includes nothing) the Doors recorded six LPs. Now they've amassed four discs worth of reissues in addition. That's what he gets for dying on his record company. B

Alive, She Cried [Elektra, 1983]
The concert and sound-check tapes they've unearthed for the revival are of some quality, with Robbie Krieger a white blues twister on "Little Red Rooster" and Jim Morrison an effective focus as long as he just sings. But when he emits his poetry or deigns to lay his narcissistic come-on on an imaginary teeny-bopper, it is to duck. If kids today feel cheated by history because they never experienced the fabled Jimbo charisma first hand, that's one more reason to be glad there are no new rock heroes. B-

Live at the Hollywood Bowl [Elektra EP, 1987]
Teaser "soundtrack" to the MCA video of the same name. Bad rockpoets never die--never. C-

The Very Best of the Doors [Elektra, 2001]
Shaman, poet, lizard king--believe that guff and you'll miss a great pop band. Ass man, schlockmeister, cosmic slimeball--that's where Jim Morrison's originality lies, and he's never been better represented. Right beneath the back-door macho resides a weak-willed whine as El Lay as Jackson Browne's, and the struggle between the two would have landed him in Vegas if he hadn't achieved oblivion in Paris first. Compelling in part because he's revolting, Jimbo reminds us that some assholes actually do live with demons. His three sidemen rocked almost as good as the Stones. Without him they were nothing. A

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