The Doors – Waiting For the Sun (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The Doors – Waiting For the Sun (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino Records)

Band’s only #1 album with improved sound, rare mixes and live tracks

Things were not well when the Doors went in to record their third album in 1968. Their first two records (The Doors and Strange Days) were built on repertoire the band had been playing live for years, but that well had just about run dry.  Plus, leader Jim Morrison was becoming increasingly erratic as his substance abuse ramped up, often not showing up to recording sessions.  Under these adverse conditions, the band completed Waiting For the Sun, recently reissued in a 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition from Rhino Records.

“Why should I buy another version of Waiting For the Sun…I think I’m being ripped off!”

These words, printed in the liner notes of the accompanying booklet, come directly from the band’s original engineer, Bruce Botnick, who put together this new release.  Of course, he goes into great technical detail on how modern technology has helped improve the sound – but does it really sound better?

The answer, yes.  Absolutely.  And, you don’t need to be an audiophile to hear the difference.

We learn, in the booklet, that Waiting For the Sun was one of the first rock albums to use Dolby Noise Reduction.  Honestly, to my ears, this album has always sounded flat and lifeless.  This new remaster adds some of the air back to these tracks – they “breathe” more.  The most obvious example is “Hello, I Love You,” which always seemed tinny.  In this new remaster, the bass is more full and the track sounds alive.

Another big example of improvement is on Morrison’s epic “The Unknown Soldier.”  His voice always sounded muffled.  In this new remastered form, you can really feel Morrison’s presence vocally.  Plus, Ray Manzarek’s frenetic keyboard and Robbie Krieger’s slashing guitar are crystal clear, and add to the psychosis.

Another selling point of this special edition is the discovery of some rough mixes of nine of the album’s original 11 tracks.  On the rough mix of “Hello, I Love You,” Krieger’s buzzy guitar and Manzarek’s organ are are hotter in the mix, while Morrison’s voice is spread out in the stereo spectrum.  The vocals have a different effect on the rough “Love Street,” while “Five to One” seems even more out of control in this early version.  It is certainly hear these tracks in a slightly different light.

Disc two also features five songs recorded live in Copenhagen in September of 1968, and this is the real selling point of this set.  These tracks were captured using a single microphone and aren’t of the highest quality, and yet, show the band ferociously tearing threw the setlist.  “Hello, I Love You” is especially volatile – drummer John Densmore is on fire, while guitarist Krieger lets loose a frenetic solo at the end of “Back Door Man.”  Low fidelity aside, these are some of the finest examples of the Doors playing live.

Augmented by the two CD’s is a newly-pressed copy of the album on vinyl.  I have an original, 1968 edition on Elektra and compared it with the new one.  For those wanting details, Botnick goes in-depth on what they did to make this sound better in the liner notes (even keeping the grooves away from the inner circle?).  To my ears, this new vinyl sounds better in every way.  First off, songs like “Hello, I Love You” and “We Could Be So Good Together” have a much warmer, fuller sound, especially on the bass.  The acoustic “Spanish Caravan” seems to have more presence, while “Five to One” snarls with the added fidelity.  The vinyl is nice and quiet too.

The final piece to this new edition is a 12×12 booklet featuring outtakes from the album cover shoot, as well as a pair of essays on the background behind the album (and those technical details I referred to).  The entire set is housed in a hardback case that will look cool sitting in anyone’s collection.

If you’re a Doors’ fanatic, you’ve got to own this one.  But, even the casual fan should find enough here to delve into – especially if you’ve got a turntable to play the vinyl on.  –Tony Peters