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Best Doors Albums: Their Studio Discography, Ranked And Reviewed
List & Guides

Best Doors Albums: Their Studio Discography, Ranked And Reviewed

Dark, sensual and unafraid to ask the big questions, the best Doors albums continue to open the minds of successive generations of music fans.

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Any band fronted by someone with Jim Morrison’s photogenic appeal is going to be in with a chance. However, while the self-proclaimed “Lizard King” came suitably endowed with poetry and sex, he also needed the power, virtuosity and melodic suss of his bandmates, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, to turn The Doors into a truly world-beating band. As one of the best frontman in rock history[https://www.thisisdig.com/feature/best-frontmen-and-women/], Morrison has nearly always copped the plaudits, but The Doors were one of rock’s most democratic units and their team spirit meant they created music greater than the sum of its parts. During a feverish period lasting from the late 60s to the early 70s, the Californian outfit repeatedly set the night on fire with an immaculate catalogue, all of which jostle for place among our round-up of the best Doors albums.

Listen to the best of The Doors here, and check out the best Doors albums, below.

9: ‘Full Circle’ (1972)

Against the odds, The Doors’ first post-Jim Morrison album, Other Voices, suggested the band might still have a future together. Indeed, even without their talismanic frontman, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore discovered they could pack out prestigious venues such as the Hollywood Palladium and New York City’s Carnegie Hall, so they pressed ahead with a second – and, to all intents and purposes, final – post-Morrison set, Full Circle, in 1972. Sparks of inspiration fly on the songs Verdilac and the sultry The Piano Bird, and the unexpected European success of Krieger’s Mariachi-flavoured hit The Mosquito allowed The Doors to close with their credibility intact.

Must hear: The Piano Bird

8: ‘Other Voices’ (1971)

It was a bold move for The Doors to continue after Jim Morrison’s death, yet Other Voices proves that the three remaining bandmates were right to believe the music wasn’t quite over yet. Released just three months after Morrison’s death, the album comprised the songs the band were working up when their frontman took off for his ill-fated Parisian jaunt in the spring of 1971, and its best moments, such as the fierce Tightrope and the hypnotic In The Eye Of The Sun, certainly suggest The Doors could even have topped the magnificent LA Woman album, had Mr Mojo Risin’ returned to sprinkle his mercurial magic over these songs.

Must hear: In The Eye Of The Sun

7: ‘An American Prayer’ (1978)

Despite Jim Morrison not being a physical presence during the creation of the posthumously released An American Prayer album, any recording featuring the four original Doors deserves its place among the best Doors albums. Effectively the sound of the surviving bandmates improvising new music over the two poetry readings Jim Morrison committed to tape in 1969 and 1970, An American Prayer only came to pass when the record’s primary engineer, John Haeny, finally got the three musicians to agree to record accompanying music. We should be grateful that he did, as numerous tracks – not least the conga-enhanced Latino Chrome and the brilliant, widescreen Ghost Song – find the band and their leader alchemising magic despite inhabiting different astral planes. The results make for a legitimate final coda to The Doors’ story.

Must hear: Ghost Song

6: ‘The Soft Parade’ (1969)

1969 was arguably the most turbulent year in The Doors’ history. They began it as one of rock’s biggest bands, selling out vast arenas such as New York’s Madison Square Garden, but their reputation plummeted faster than Icarus after a drunken Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself in public during a chaotic gig in Miami, in March.

With concert promoters refusing to go near the group for several months afterwards, The Doors completed their fourth album, The Soft Parade, embroidering their gutsy signature sound with brass, strings and cinematic arrangements. With or without the sonic embellishments, The Soft Parade’s grittier moments (Wild Child, Shaman’s Blues and the mesmerising, suite-like title track) still stand up among the best Doors songs, ensuring The Soft Parade’s place among the best Doors albums in the process.

Must hear: The Soft Parade

5: ‘Waiting For The Sun’ (1968)

The Doors had intended to devote one whole side of their third album, Waiting For The Sun, to their 17-minute epic, Celebration Of The Lizard, but when repeated attempts to nail the song failed, the band were forced to change tack and dip into their stockpile of unrecorded songs while also penning fresh material in the studio.

The lengthy (by The Doors’ standards) Waiting For The Sun sessions were characterised by Morrison’s increasing reliance upon alcohol and producer Paul A Rothchild’s quest for sonic perfection, but, for all that, the record largely defied its precarious gestation, and it still ranks highly among the best Doors albums. Indeed, the finished work ranged from the hard-edged polemics of The Unknown Soldier and Five To One through to the flamenco-flavoured dread of Spanish Caravan and the atypically tender Love Street. With help from its successful Nuggets-esque lead single, Hello, I Love You, Waiting For The Sun became The Doors’ first (and only) Billboard 200 chart-topper.

Must hear: Spanish Caravan

4: ‘Morrison Hotel’ (1970)

Stung by some responses to The Soft Parade, Jim Morrison and co stripped away the strings and horns, refocussed and returned with one of the best Doors albums, in the shape of Morrison Hotel. Named after a real-life hotel in Los Angeles’ seedy Skid Tow district, the record also featured some of the band’s earthiest material to date, not least the rollicking, barroom-brawling You Make Me Real and the brilliant, down’n’dirty Roadhouse Blues. Jim Morrison also sounded re-energised, with his visceral lyrics on the funky, low-riding Peace Frog (“Blood in my love in the terrible summer”) sounding especially pertinent in the wake of the chilling murder spree recently undertaken in LA by Charles Manson’s disciples. The critics also dug the band’s renaissance (Creem’s Dave Marsh declared, “When they’re good, they’re simply unbeatable”), and Morrison Hotel’s multi-platinum yield put the band right back in contention.

Must hear: Roadhouse Blues

3: ‘Strange Days’ (1967)

In many ways the logical successor to their inspired, self-titled debut album, the Doors’ second album, Strange Days, found the group embellishing their dark, psych-rock sound with a broader sonic palette. Ray Manzarek added piano and harpsichord to his patented churchy organ on songs such as People Are Strange and the bouncy blues-rock of Love Me Two Times, and utilised Moog synthesiser to spectacular effect on Strange Days’ shape-shifting title track. Elsewhere, the band’s inherent desire to turn the studio into a fifth member led to more avant-garde-inclined tracks such as Horse Latitudes and Unhappy Girl, while The Doors’ second 11-minute power play, When The Music’s Over, offered a suitably dramatic finale for their second classic album in less than nine months.

Must hear: When The Music’s Over

2: ‘LA Woman’ (1971)

Morrison Hotel re-established The Doors as a force to be reckoned with, but the portents looked considerably bleaker when the group began to consider its follow-up, LA Woman. Not only had they decided to retire from touring after a disastrous show in New Orleans in December 1970, but their long-standing producer, Paul A Rothchild, passed on helming the new record, feeling the band’s initial demos were lacklustre. Lesser bands might have folded at this point, but the situation merely galvanised The Doors into action. As a result, they promoted engineer Bruce Botnick to co-producer, moved the album sessions into their own Hollywood office/rehearsal space and recruited two extra musicians, guitarist Marc Benno and former Elvis Presley bassist Jerry Scheff to bolster their sound.

Each of these moves impacted positively on LA Woman: The Doors were comfortable with their surroundings; they sounded like a powerhouse with the addition of Scheff and Benno; and – best of all – the intimacy of the setting rekindled Jim Morrison’s love for music. Instead of turning up drunk (or not turning up at all), the band’s mercurial frontman arrived early and ready to rock, while his gruff, alcohol-scarred delivery perfectly suited the record’s blues-tinged cuts such as Cars Hiss By My Window, Been Down So Long and a mesmerising take on John Lee Hooker’s Crawling King Snake.

Yet, while blues was certainly one of its flavours, LA Woman offered far more, with both band and singer truly excelling on material as disparate as the mournful, elegiac pop of Hyacinth House and the album’s driving, anthemic title track – effectively Morrison’s highly personal paean to his beloved City Of Angels. Further cementing its place among the best Doors albums, Robby Krieger’s infectious Love Her Madly and the sombre, brooding Riders On The Storm both went Top 20, and LA Woman was widely praised, vindicating the band’s methodology. It wasn’t designed as their swansong, but that’s what it became after Jim Morrison’s death, yet even now the record sounds far more like a creative rebirth than it does a eulogy.

Must hear: LA Woman

1: ‘The Doors’ (1967)

To many, The Doors’ self-titled debut album apparently came out of nowhere, the group sounding fully formed and fabulous just as 1967 dawned. The reality, however, was quite different: the band had honed these songs to perfection over 12 months of playing to virtually no one at one LA club, the London Fog, and then building a serious local following while employed as the house band at the city’s famous Whisky A Go Go.

At this stage, much of the band’s legendary excess was still ahead of them, so producer Paul A Rothchild captured what was effectively the bulk of the band’s live set in one relatively straightforward seven-day studio session. And what a session it was, with The Doors simply on fire as they laid down one career-defining tune after another, with the Aldous Huxley-indebted mission statement Break On Through (To The Other Side) succeeded by the swaggering noir of Soul Kitchen and the rapturous balladry of The Crystal Ship… and on and on. Many fans hold either the cathartic, seven-minute Light My Fire or the controversial, oedipal narrative of The End as the album’s finest moment, but, really, The Doors as a whole offers a lasting chance at bliss. Well over 50 years on, it remains one of rock’s greatest debut albums, and – despite a hefty challenge from LA Woman – it’s surely the winner in any round-up of the Best Doors albums.

Must hear: Light My Fire

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