Sunday, February 18, 2018

Waiting for the Sun - A New Perception for The Doors

While "Light My Fire" was the biggest selling single of 1967, Waiting for the Sun was the band's only No. 1 LP, and a long stride in a different direction from the Doors' first two albums. Far less gloomy than its predecessors, the LP nearly abandoned the blues in favor of jazz and classical influences; no more Willie Dixon covers here. In the studio (though not present on the album) is even a Doors' rendition of Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor; the blues were old news by album number three. It's no secret that Ray Manzarek drew inspiration from the baroque and Densmore was effectively a jazz guitarist; likewise, Robbie Krieger favored classical guitar when he wasn't playing slide. The Doors, in simple terms, had highly sophisticated musical backgrounds that shined on their 3rd LP.

And look at that, a whole paragraph on The Doors without once mentioning Jim Morrison. While there's no doubt that Morrison was the most enigmatic figure in rock music, his persona onstage and off so grand and mysterious that no one talks about anything else, and yet there was far more to The Doors than the Lizard King.

Waiting for the Sun is one of those rare records that pleases non-fans more than their rabidly devout following; indeed it's odd listening to something like "Love Street" after, say, "The End," yet The Doors, Part III was far from necessary. 

"Love Street," "Spanish Caravan," and "Yes, the River Knows" all sound straight out of the rococo chamber; they're hardly typical 1968 rock songs. Even the pseudo-bluesy "Summer's Almost Gone" is the bizarre love-child of baroque and blues influences. "Five to One" has a blues solo, but is ultimately somewhat more typical "Doors-style" acid rock, along with "The Unknown Soldier," the song most similar to the material on Strange Days. Then there are two somewhat out-of-place pop songs: the hit, "Hello, I Love You" and "We Could Be So Good Together" which clash like plaid and stripes with the "Celebration of the Lizard" excerpt "Not to Touch the Earth," an inaccessible psychedelic dirge that was skipped by most in 1968 like it was "Within You, Without You." ("The Celebration of the Lizard," which would have taken up all of Side-Two, was an idea to expand the free-form themes of "The End" and "When the Music's Over," but the Doors couldn't quite connect the music with the lyrics (which are included on the original album). Here we find Jim introducing himself for the first time as "The Lizard King" and Ray closing with dissonant chords and irregular time signatures - probably the closest an organ can get to replicating reptile noises. 

While Still a Morrison-Manzarak joint, Waiting for the Sun spotlights the least-lauded of all Doors, Robbie Krieger, who absolutely shines in his allotted moments (Harrison again). Normally second fiddle to Ray Manzarek's organ finesse, Robbie's defining performance on Waiting for the Sun is "Spanish Caravan," where he shows off his versatility and talent by beginning the song in the romantic realm of the Spanish guitar and ending it in a psychedelic frenzy, Ray and John behind him, strong as ever.

It sounds as if The Doors had really gotten their shit together. Nope. At times, tensions among band members ran so high that drummer John Densmore walked out mid-session. "I was just frustrated" he admitted. "Maybe I was trying to say to Jim, 'Don't be so self-destructive.'" Even if Waiting for the Sun never reaches the stupendous heights of The Doors and Strange Days, it remains one of The Doors' most enjoyable albums and their only No. 1. At 30 minutes long, it packs quite a punch, leaving little breathing room. We couldn't ask for more. That's what we always did with Morrison, right - hold our breath?

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