Ranked: The Doors

Following the recent 50th anniversary of The Doors’ debut album, here is my ranking of their studio albums. Now, only the first six albums (when Jim Morrison was still alive) will be included. Other Voices, Full Circle & An American Prayer will not be included in this ranking. The Doors were one of the true pioneers of psychedelic rock coming out from the west-coast of America in the late 60s.

It’s important to note that The Doors are a collective; every member has an integral role to fulfill. Whether it be Jim Morrison’s charismatic vocals and poetry-writing, Robby Krieger’s intricate and exploratory guitar work, Ray Manzarek’s driving, melodic organ sprees or John Densmore’s jazz-infused drumming.

 

 

[6]  Morrison Hotel (1970)

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It’s important to begin with stating that every Doors record (in this ranking) have tracks that are very strong. Morrison Hotel followed The Soft Parade, a pretty polarising record as it saw the band move towards more classical arrangements and less of the psych-blues rock sound they had established on their first few records. Now, it pains me to rank Morrison Hotel in last place as it features two of my favourite Doors tracks, ‘Waiting for the Sun’ & ‘Queen of the Highway’. However, the remainder of the album just doesn’t resonate with me as strong as other Doors records, despite its strong source material and themes.

Essential tracks: Waiting for the Sun // Queen of the Highway

 

 

[5]  The Soft Parade (1969)

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As soon as the first set of brass notes hit in opener “Tell All the People”, the band immediately communicate a change in sound and musical direction with their fourth studio album. At this point, the band struggled to handle frontman Jim Morrison and his drug/alcohol abuse and the results are well-documented within this record. Frankly, Morrison sounds bored and uninterested, especially on track “Wild Child” where he sounds to be phoning-in his vocals whilst planning his next hit (not for the charts). The band do wander into new territory by incorporating brass and string sections within their tracks, with additional jazz and blues influences. As in true Doors fashion, the closing title track of the record clocks in at over eight minutes long. Bookended by Morrison’s spoken-word poem, the track exhibits some of the best instrumentation and band chemistry found within the tracklist.

Essential tracks: Touch Me // The Soft Parade

 

 

[4]  L.A. Woman (1971)

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The sound of L.A. Woman continued that of its predecessor Morrison Hotel; a range of soft and hard-hitting blues rock tracks. The band’s final studio album, before Jim Morrison’s untimely death, does have some filler towards the back end of the record (namely ‘Hyacinth House’ & The WASP’). Closing track and fan favourite ‘Riders on the Storm’ is perhaps the highlight of the album. Guitarist Robby Krieger provides a hypnotic bass line, which paired with the sound of rain and crashing thunder creates some great imagery. Ray Manzarek adds some brilliant keyboard licks that complement the bass but are also a stark contrast.

Essential tracks: The Changeling // L.A. Woman // Riders On the Storm

 

 

[3] Strange Days (1967)

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Advancing studio recording techniques were becoming more popular in 1967, namely the 8-track recording machine. For their second album, this enabled The Doors to expand their sonic scope and drive their already established otherworldly sound to new, exciting dimensions. Ironically, Strange Days is a deeply strange record, more so when placed next to the band’s infamous debut that brewed two timeless hit singles. Thematically, Strange Days carries forth the dark and moody sensuality channeled in the band’s debut, yet multiplies it to a greater extent. Socioeconomic issues, such as the escalating events in Vietnam and the darker sides of the “Summer of Love” seem to be mirrored in the incoherency of the track listing and musical composition.

Essential tracks: Strange Days // You’re Lost Little Girl // People Are Strange // When the Music’s Over

 

[2] Waiting for the Sun (1968)

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Despite the apparently grueling recording sessions the band went through, including several hundred takes of multiple tracks, Doors’ third album contains some of their finest material. Waiting for the Sun, despite its relatively short duration, is a very pleasurable listen. Ray Manzarek’s keyboards are, once again, at the forefront of the band’s sound. Opening track “Hello, I Love You” which also became the band’s second hit, exhibits Manzarek’s ability to construct quirky keyboard licks which in turn form the foundation of the Doors’ established sound. Waiting for the Sun takes a deserved second place due to its solid consistency and fun listenability.

Essential tracks: Love Street // Not to Touch the Earth // Five to One

 

[1] The Doors (1967)

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Happy 50th Birthday indeed to this modern classic that partly spawned an entire sub-genre of rock music. The band’s debut features several timeless and quintessential Doors tracks; ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’, ‘Light My Fire’ & ‘The End’. It also features my all-time favourite ‘The Crystal Ship’. Debut albums typically consist of an artist’s initial ideas and energy. They are constructed to showcase all variants and strengths of their sound. The self-titled debut from The Doors is a fine example of this, and it turns out that throughout their tenure, they never topped it.

Essential tracks: Break On Through (To the Other Side) // The Crystal Ship // Light My Fire // The End

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