The Upshot: Following Jim Morrison’s untimely death, the three surviving Doors released a pair of albums, neither of which is a classic but both containing a handful of solid cuts.
BY FRED MILLS
Let’s be honest: neither of the two post-Lizard King Doors records have maintained the collectible status they once enjoyed roughly a decade ago; nowadays both are easily found in stores’ used bins. And it’s not like they were exactly prized back in the early ‘70s when they were originally released. Though the trio of surviving members did manage to tour a bit behind 1971’s Other Voices, by the time of 1972’s Full Circle the inspiration was clearly on the wane. With the vocal department clearly lacking for the band, they wisely decided to put the beast to rest once and for all. (They would, of course, return to the well a few decades later, to mixed response, but that’s a story for another time—or at least for a John Densmore memoir.)
Still, there will always be a certain mystique to anything with the name “The Doors” attached to it. And we rock fans will always have a certain weakness for reunions of any sort when it comes to favorite bands. Soldiering on following the death of a key member, however, is another thing entirely. The Who did. Led Zep didn’t. What you and your band chooses is, ultimately, between the devil and the deep blue sea—or maybe just a decision on how you’re gonna pay the bills. Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, however, let “artistry,” with a smidgen of “ego,” be their guide and convince them to cut a pair of albums and even tour following the death of that Morrison dude (remember him?). Not surprisingly, Other Voices and Full Circle would go on to common-wisdom status of “meh,” but to my ears, both records, though clearly flawed (particularly in the—duh!—vocal department), help complete the picture of The Doors as a full-blown, 4-headed collaborative unit.
Rhino’s two-fer CD reissue solidifies that notion, in part because original Doors engineer Bruce Botnick oversaw the remaster job, with each member’s musicianship fully showcased (Manzarek’s keyboard work especially). Also, the passage of time has now allowed the albums to be regarded on their own songwriting and performing merits rather than a this-is-what’s-missing context.
From the sinewy Latin rock of Other Voices’ standout “Ships w/Sails” (at 7 ½ minutes, and with a lengthy instrumental segment, it’s an obvious descendant of “Light My Fire” and “When the Music’s Over”) to the bluesy, “Roadhouse Blues”-styled boogie of “It Slipped My Mind” to the jazzy strut that is “Treetrunk” (a rare non-LP British B-side), there’s plenty here to like, although revisiting both albums now it’s clear that, based on the respective strengths of each record’s songwriting, by the time of Full Circle the men were spent, creatively. Well, at least as a unit. Each musician’s solo career has yielded intermittent moments of brilliance.
Interestingly, this appears to be the first legit CD release for either record; both have been blatantly pirated over the years, and so-called “official” Russian reissues, including the “Still Shakin’” label’s edition featuring bonus tracks of Full Circle’s “The Mosquito” b/w “The Piano Bird” (single versions), are of dubious provenance at best. Ergo, additional reasons to cheer for digital fans; although wax aficionados are also well served by each album’s fresh appearance on 180-gram vinyl, with Full Circle also boasting an accurate reproduction of that record’s original “zoetrope” design, a complex fold-out sleeve purportedly depicting the human life cycle from infancy through adulthood to elderly.
DOWNLOAD: “Ships w/Sails,” “It Slipped My Mind,” “Treetrunk”