The Doors – Other Voices / Full Circle (review)

The Doors – Other Voices / Full Circle (Rhino) review

First time on CD, the Doors try to carry on after Morrison’s death

Replacing any lead singer can be a difficult task. If that person happens to be Jim Morrison, one of the greatest frontmen is all of rock, it’s damn-near impossible. That’s the quandary the surviving members of the Doors found themselves in after their enigmatic vocalist was found dead in July of 1971. Instead of finding a new singer, the remaining band carried on as a trio, releasing a pair of albums – 1971’s Other Voices, and 1972’s Full Circle. These two records have never been released on CD. Rhino records has just remedied that fact – remastering both LP’s in a 2-disc set.

Without Morrison, the vocal duties fell to both keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger – neither whom were gifted in that territory. Not surprising, both albums sound great musically – it’s the singing that is lacking. Yet, there’s still plenty of surprises here to make this worth a listen.

Other Voices begins with the bluesy “In The Eye of the Sun,” which sounds like a perfect continuation of the band’s previous studio album, L.A. Woman; with Morrison’s growl, this would’ve been fantastic. The honky tonk piano of “Variety is the Spice of Life” would’ve sounded right at home on Morrison Hotel. “Ships w/ Sails” is one of the strongest tracks – a jazz-infused mood piece with Manarek on lead vocals. The instrumental parts here are really good – some of the finest moments of the trio’s tenure together. “Tightrope Ride” recalls the Doors’ version of “Gloria” – and here Manarek shows a decent ability to growl. “Down on the Farm” is interesting in its multiple parts, beginning with a gentle segment, before segueing into a countryfied middle, then returning back again to gentleness.

Not everything works – Krieger’s “I’m Horny, I’m Stoned” is directionless – he sings “life ain’t so easy when you’re on your own” – yeah, for sure. “Hang on to Your Life” is jazz fusion, and shows the remaining Doors stretching out. The ending is a shock – a frenetic freakout that resembles Santana turned inside out.

Full Circle finds the trio trying to reinvent themselves. It was recorded outside their comfort zone of the Doors’ Workshop, at A&M Studios. “Get Up and Dance” with its hand claps and background vocals, was a failed attempt to write a hit single. “Verdillac” has an interesting sax solo, but a spoken word middle sounds like a parody of Frank Zappa – and I don’t think they were going for that. ”Hardwood Floor” is funky, with horns and harmonica, while “Piano Bird” is jazz funk with an excellent flute solo.

Krieger’s “The Mosquito” is the standout of the entire collection. Starting out as a goofy, Spanish-flavored novelty, it morphs into a furious rocker – the entire band sounds completely energized – Krieger turns in an absolutely blistering guitar solo, while drummer John Densmore grooves like nowhere else on these pair of albums. This is not Morrison’s Doors – but something completely different. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of these spectacular moments. A tepid rendition of Roy Hamilton’s “Good Rockin” sounds forced and uninspired, while “It Slipped My Mind” is very similar to “Love Me Two Times.”

In addition to the two albums, this new set includes “Treetrunk,” which was only available as a b-side.

While certainly not to be compared to their work with Morrison, Other Voices and Full Circle are not the embarrassments you’d think they’d be either – there’s actually a surprising amount of good music to be heard. If you’re a fan of the Doors, this is certainly worth a listen. —Tony Peters