Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turn Off the Light: The Doors' Strange Days is 45

 The Doors - Strange Days
The Doors
Strange Days
Rating: **** 1/2

            In January 1967, the Doors has released their self-titled debut album. The album catapulted the band into superstardom and made the band a household name. Only eight months after the release of their debut album, the Doors released their sophomore effort entitled Strange Days on September 25, 1967. Much like the debut album, Strange Days was another hit album for the band. However, Strange Days is much different in terms of sound compared to the debut album: it’s much dark, moody, and depressing. Some people have gone on to say that Strange Days might be the best album the Doors ever made.

            The album starts with the self-titled track, which opens with a very spine-tingling keyboard playing from Ray Manzarek. You can tell that in between the debut album and Strange Days, the Doors have grown tighter as a band musically and even lyrically. The lyrics seem to question the hippie movement or society itself at that point in time. This is followed by the creepy “You’re Lost Little Girl”. Jim Morrison’s vocals on this song are superb and suite the darkness of the song. Much like “The Crystal Ship”, Morrison’s vocals are hypnotic almost. The bluesy “Love Me Two Times” is one of the most popular songs off the album. It’s very radio friendly (even classic rock radio stations still play it today) but still like every song on the album, it’s still pretty dark. Morrison almost shouts the lyrics while the keyboard solo from Manzarek is just wonderful. “Unhappy Girl” continues the dark feeling of the album, this time as a psychedelic rock song.

“Horse Latitudes” is different from all the other songs off the album as it’s basically a poem by Morrison. Apparently, it has been said the poem was one of the first things Morrison ever wrote. This is pretty hard to believe, even for Manzarek, who thought was “too mature”. Towards the end, the song gets a bit frantic to the point where you might just want to skip to the next song (yes, it’s that disturbing). “Horse Latitudes” segues into the calming “Moonlight Drive”. As the story goes, this was the song that Morrison sang to Manzarek while the two were on a beach. Once Morrison sang this to Manzarek, Manzarek immediately said they had to form a band. It’s a great song and the lyrics are very poetic. Morrison always thought of himself as a poet first, then a musician. Morrison’s vocals are sooth and Robby Krieger’s guitar solo fits right in there in the song.

            Side two starts with “People Are Strange”, which another highlight off the album. It’s a pretty catchy song that’s about alienation! Once again, the lyrics are almost poetic and that would be all Morrison’s doing. “My Eyes Have Seen You” is yet another moody track from the album. Krieger has an impressive guitar solo right after the “move upstairs” lyrics. Of all the ten songs off the album, “I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind” is probably the spookiest: the lyrics and even the music are downright depressing. The album wraps up with the eleven-minute “When The Music’s Over”. The song is an epic of sorts, with poetic lyrics from Morrison and even some impressive drumming from John Densmore. According to one source, Morrison found inspiration for the song from one of the clubs/bars the Doors were playing at in their early days. Apparently, he overheard the manager of the place tell someone that when the music’s over, they need to turn off the lights. Whatever the case might be, “When The Music’s Over” ends the album perfectly.

            Strange Days would be yet another hit album for the Doors. 45 years later, it’s still a great album. Still, I see that there is an argument over which album was better: the debut or Strange Days. Some might say the debut just for being the first album and for having the better songs. On the other hand, some people think Strange Days is better and really for one reason: all of the songs are dark and depressing. Sure the debut album was pretty dark but there were a few songs that were a bit pop-oriented (“I Looked At You” and/or “Take It As It Comes”). For me, the debut album is better but no matter what, Strange Days is an amazing album. 

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