When Ritchie Blackmore quit Deep Purple for the first time, in 1975, the late Jon Lord once told this writer “we spent several months running around like rather distraught headless chickens”. That wasn’t the case with the remaining members of The Doors after Jim Morrison died in a Paris bathtub in July 1971.
Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore had begun recording the album that would become Other Voices (4⁄10) the previous month, in anticipation of their singer’s eventual return. Jimbo snuffed it. But with barely a pause for breath the three completed sessions with long-time producer Bruce Botnik, and the first of two Morrison-free albums emerged in the autumn.
But this wasn’t a seamless transition into a bold new era. It was clear that The Doors had lost their mojo – in more ways than one. Shorn of their shamanic leader, the surviving trio sound like lost souls. A portion of Other Voices had been rehearsed with Morrison prior to his departure for France, that much is evident in the structure of certain songs and the vocal phrasing. But everything sounds surprisingly lackadaisical; devil-may-care, even. There’s no tangible sense of loss, no moments of sombre reflection, just a sense of wiping the slate clean and carrying on regardless.
Krieger and Manzarek alternate on vocals, but neither can command the mic like Morrison, Manzarek’s booming approach being particularly grating. Tightrope Ride is throwaway garage rock; I’m Horny, I’m Stoned promises much but is simply the consequence of too many glasses of Tizer; Wandering Musician sounds like something Ronnie Lane might’ve tossed off for The Faces. And did they really not see the bitter irony of titling the closer Hang On To Your Life?
Full Circle (1972) (4⁄10) is the better of the pair simply because it doesn’t sound particularly like The Doors. Verdillac might contain a typical Morrison couplet – ‘If you don’t bring me coffee in my favourite cup/You’re gonna make it necessary for me to conjure up spirits’ – but its jazz-funk groove, weird Sanskrit chants and heavy use of tenor saxophone mark a definite departure. The Mosquito might recall Joe Dolce singing Speedy Gonzales, but it’s irresistibly off-the-wall. The Piano Bird has a moody, Riders On The Storm vibe.
But there are inconsequential tracks aplenty – Get Up And Dance, Hardwood Floor and It Slipped My Mind, to name but three. Tree Trunk tells the trite tale of two lovers sheltering in the – you guessed it – trunk of a tree during a rainstorm. The End it isn’t – but the end it was./o:p