During the Doors' late '60's career, when their late legendary frontman Jim Morrison was still alive, many of Morrison's detractors theorized that the band's other three members (guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore) were the truly talented musicians, and that their potential creativity and genius was being stifled and repressed by Morrison's creative dominance. But after Morrison left this world in 1971, those three members proved that theory wrong. Not to say that they were not talented; Krieger was a very good guitarist, and Manzarek had an often dazzling keyboard style. But when the band attempted to continue without Morrison to record two ill-fated albums, they proved beyond all doubt that Morrison's vision (self-indulgent though he may have been) was essential to the Doors' eternally popular music. 1971's Other Voices and 1972's Full Circle have been out of print for decades in physical formats, but they were made available as digital downloads in 2011. These two albums only seem to be missed by ardent Doors devotees, and it's easy to see why; both albums are lackluster and forgettable.
Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore completed work on L.A. Woman, Morrison's final album, without him. After the recordings were finished, Morrison left for what was supposed to be a long but temporary vacation in France. The band completed the post-production work and released the album. L.A. Woman was well-received, and the band was awaiting Morrison's return so they could tour. While they were waiting, they began to write and work on some songs. But they never saw Morrison again; he died in France in July 1971. However, they chose to finish the work they had begun; the resulting album, Other Voices, was released before the end of that year.
Although one must admire the trio for trying to carry on, Other Voices only proved that the Doors as we know them were over. Most of the vocals were from Manzarek; although he had a distinctive speaking voice, his singing voice was somewhat insipid. The record begins promisingly with two lively tracks, but by the time the third track, "Ships w/Sails", is over, it becomes apparent that the record is going nowhere. One of the Doors' most celebrated assets -- the ability to create an effective mood -- evidently died with Morrison; one can only dream of what some of these songs ("Ships w/Sails" in particular) would have sounded like with the Lizard King performing them. Only "Down On The Farm" keeps the album's second side from being a total loss; the remainder is tiresome filler. "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" is an embarrassing hippie singalong that sounds like Country Joe and the Fish or something. These "Voices" evidently had little to say. Note: the song "Tightrope Ride" is available on Elektra's Doors box set; it is the only song from these two albums to be included on that set. Ironically, the so-called Complete Studio Recordings box set contained nothing at all from these two albums.
With richer production (credited to the band) than the previous album, Full Circle is easy on the ears, but the songs still sound uninspired, and the lyrics are often silly in the extreme. On this record it sounds like the band was trying to finally bury Morrison's ghost and go off in their own direction (although the closing track sounds awfully similar to "L.A. Woman"). But the vocal problem is still there. Manzarek sounds more enthusiastic this time around, but his vocals often sound strained; his stilted delivery on the oldie "Good Rockin' (Tonight)" makes one yearn for Morrison. Krieger's vocal turns on "4 Billion Souls" and "It Slipped My Mind" sound rather plain; Morrison could have made something of those. One surprise: "Verdilac" and "The Piano Bird" have a jazz flavor; veteran jazzman Charles Lloyd plays tenor sax on the former and flute on the latter. But did I mention silly lyrics? "Verdilac" has something to do with transcendental meditation, and "The Piano Bird" is about (I kid you not) the bond between a bird and a piano player! "The Mosquito", a mostly instrumental pseudo-Mexican number, is the only really memorable track. The album's title is appropriate; in late 1972, the Doors finally called it a day.
1. In the Eye of the Sun
2. Variety is the Spice of Life
3. Ships w/Sails
4. Tightrope Ride
5. Down on the Farm
6. I'm Horny, I'm Stoned
7. Wandering Musician
8. Hang On To Your Life
All songs on Other Voices are credited to Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore.
1. Get Up and Dance -- (Manzarek, Krieger)
2. 4 Billion Souls -- (Krieger)
3. Verdilac -- (Krieger, Manzarek)
4. Hardwood Floor -- (Krieger)
5. Good Rockin' -- (Roy Brown)
6. The Mosquito -- (Krieger, Densmore, Manzarek)
7. The Piano Bird -- (Densmore, Conrad)
8. It Slipped My Mind -- (Krieger)
9. The Peking King and the New York Queen -- (Manzarek)
In early 1972, in between the releases of Other Voices and Full Circle, Elektra released a two-record compilation called Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine. One of countless Doors compilations released over the years, Weird Scenes is interesting because it somewhat de-emphasized the band's hits in favor of lesser-known tracks from the six albums that were recorded with Morrison. What's more, it contained two tracks that were not previously found on any other Doors album. One of these, "Who Scared You", is quite good; it was originally the B-side for the 1969 single "Wishful Sinful", and it is now available on various Doors box sets and as a bonus track on the 2007 reissue of The Soft Parade. The other track, "(You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further", is a Willie Dixon blues song with a bland Manzarek vocal; that song was originally the B-side for "Love Her Madly" in 1971. The song is currently available on the Perception box set, and as a bonus track on the 2007 reissue of L.A. Woman.
Note: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine was reissued in 2014 as a 2-CD set, and as a limited edition double-LP pressed in amber-colored vinyl.
1. Break On Through
2. Strange Days
3. Shaman's Blues
4. Love Street
5. Peace Frog / Blue Sunday
6. The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)
7. End Of The Night
8. Love Her Madly
9. Spanish Caravan
10. Ship Of Fools
11. The Spy
12. The End
13. Take It As It Comes
14. Running Blue
15. L.A. Woman
16. Five To One
17. Who Scared You
18. (You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further
19. Riders On The Storm
20. Maggie McGill
21. Horse Latitudes
22. When The Music's Over
After the official demise of the Doors, Manzarek recorded two solo albums, both released in 1974.
The first of these, The Golden Scarab, was a strange art-rock opus. On many of the songs, Manzarek came across like a lounge singer/pianist on LSD, crooning pseudo-hip existential lyrics. Good instrumentation and arrangements keep the album engaging. If you can tolerate Ray's relentless self-indulgence (on one song, he advises us to "cut a little fart"), The Golden Scarab is a unique and entertaining album, good for a few (unintentional?) laughs.
On the follow-up, Ray unexpectedly reverted to standard singer-songwriter blandness. On The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It's Out Of Control -- a good title wasted on a dull album -- Manzarek is at his most stilted. With the arguable exception of "Bicentennial Blues", even the instrumentation is nothing to write home about. The album's low points are embarrassing: "Begin The World Again" is Ray's lame attempt to get funky, complete with laughable hippie lyrics; "Perfumed Garden" inexplicably incorporates the sound of a woman moaning. Tsk tsk, Ray; there's no point in faking stimulation if the music doesn't provide it. (Notes: the now-deleted CD version of The Golden Scarab (Mercury 314 512 445-2) contained three songs from this album as bonus tracks. They are marked with an asterisk below. In 2005, both of these albums were reissued on CD by the Lemon label).
THE GOLDEN SCARAB (A RHYTHM MYTH)
1. He Can't Come Today
2. Solar Boat
3. Downbound Train
4. The Golden Scarab
5. The Purpose Of Existence Is?
6. The Moorish Idol
7. Choose Up And Choose Off
8. Oh Thou Precious Nectar Filled Form (or) A Little Fart
THE WHOLE THING STARTED WITH ROCK & ROLL NOW IT'S OUT OF CONTROL
1. The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It's Out Of Control
2. The Gambler
3. Whirling Dervish *
4. Begin The World Again
5. I Wake Up Screaming *
6. Art Deco Fandango
7. Bicentennial Blues (Love It Or Leave It) *
8. Perfumed Garden
Krieger and Densmore continued to perform together after parting with Manzarek. They formed a new group called the Butts Band, a quintet rounded out by vocalist Jess Roden, bassist Phillip Chen, and keyboardist Roy Davies. Although Davies is clearly from the Manzarek school, the self-titled Butts Band album released in 1974 does not rely too heavily on the Doors legacy. The album goes down the same blues-rock road often traveled by the likes of Eric Clapton and Gregg Allman, and it is a quite good entry in that genre. Roden is an admirably unpretentious vocalist who smartly doesn't try to emulate Morrison. The band showed considerable pop prowess on "Sweet Danger" and "Be With Me", and the closing track, a live rendition of Leiber and Stoler's "Kansas City", proved that the Butts Band were no joke. Unfortunately, the band didn't last. Roden left to record solo albums for the remainder of the decade, and the group fell apart.
But, God bless 'em, Krieger and Densmore were determined yet again to keep their broken band alive. They put together a whole new seven-member Butts Band, replacing the other three original members and adding congas and an additional percussionist. And the music underwent a similarly drastic rethink. The 1975 album Hear & Now! opens with a cover of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", and it's not just an aberration; the remainder of the album alternates between reggae and smooth r&b. Vocalist Michael Stull does an obvious but entertaining imitation of Barry White, and female keyboardist Alex Richman lends a genuinely soulful vocal to "Everybody's Fool" and "Feelin' So Bad". Hear & Now! is a pleasant surprise; it's a shame that the Butts Band were destined to be gone tomorrow. Note: both albums were compiled in their entirety on the 1996 CD The Butts Band - The Complete Recordings (One Way Records OW 30993). That CD is also out of print, but is easier to find than the two original albums.
1. I Won't Be Alone Anymore -- (Krieger)
2. Baja Bus -- (Krieger)
3. Sweet Danger -- (Roden)
4. Pop-A-Top -- (Chen/Roden)
5. Be With Me -- (Krieger)
6. New Ways -- (Roden)
7. Love Your Brother -- (Krieger)
8. Kansas City -- (Leiber/Stoler)
HEAR & NOW!
1. Get Up, Stand Up -- (Marley)
2. Corner Of My Mind -- (Krieger)
3. Caught In The Middle -- (Krieger)
4. Everybody's Fool -- (Richman)
5. Livin' And Dyin' -- (Krieger/Lydia/Tegret)
6. Don't Wake Up -- (Krieger)
7. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody -- (Clark)
8. Feelin' So Bad -- (Richman)
9. White House -- (Stull)
10. Act Of Love -- (Krieger)
11. That's All Right -- (Krieger)*
12. Lovin' You For All The Right Reasons -- (Krieger)*
*additional tracks included on The Complete Recordings, recorded by the Hear & Now! lineup.
Krieger's first solo album, released in 1977, was called Robby Krieger & Friends, the "friends" being about a dozen prominent session musicians. Krieger makes no apparent attempt to relive the past on this album. Five of the eight tracks are good rock instrumentals, showing Krieger doing his own jazz-fusion thing with style. The other three show Krieger's continuing interest in funk rock. "Uptown" almost sounds like a blaxploitation movie theme, with a pair of female singers repeating the title several times. "Every Day" is a George Clinton-esque funk tune, in which Robby sings in a robotic voice. Krieger's other vocal turn comes on the reggae-flavored "Marilyn Monroe", which doesn't have the most original subject, but it does feature Densmore playing the "reggae drum", as well as veteran jazz organist Jimmy Smith.
3. Every Day
4. Marilyn Monroe
5. The Ally
6. Low Bottomy
7. Spare Changes
8. Big Oak Basin
At that same time, Manzarek formed a band called Nite City, a quintet which featured former Rare Earth guitarist Paul Warren and Blondie bassist-to-be Nigel Harrison. Their self-titled 1977 Nite City album generally consists of fairly typical mainstream rock songs, built around -- and distinguished by -- Manzarek's engaging keyboard-playing. The songs were co-written by Manzarek and vocalist Noah James, with Paul Warren and Danny Sugerman sharing credit on a few. Aside from a bit of Morrisonian poetry reading in the title track, you'd probably never know that Nite City was a Doors offshoot. This album was once considered a prototype of west coast new wave, but it's now hard to figure why. The album is listenable but hardly memorable; "Love Will Make You Mellow" and "Bitter Sky Blue" are the standout tracks.
Nite City recorded a second album called Golden Days Diamond Nights, on which Manzarek received name-above-the-title billing, but it was only released in West Germany, due to internal troubles at the short-lived 20th Century record label. If this album had seen the light of day elsewhere, it may have found a larger audience than the first. Give or take a subversive lyric or two, the album has a very commercial sound; it's not unlike a Jefferson Starship album from the day. James was no longer in the band, and most of the vocals were now handled by Warren, who sounded a little like Marty Balin. Golden Days Diamond Nights is no great achievement, but it's easy to take. "Ain't Got The Time" and "Blinded By Love" could have been hit singles. Manzarek takes the lead vocal on the eight-and-a-half-minute "America", a uniquely Manzarek-esque road song.
1. Summer Eyes -- (Manzarek/James)
2. Nite City -- (Huxley/Manzarek/James)
3. Love Will Make You Mellow -- (Manzarek/James)
4. Angel w/No Freedom -- (Sugerman/Manzarek/James)
5. Midnight Queen -- (Sugerman/Manzarek/James)
6. Bitter Sky Blue -- (Manzarek/James)
7. Caught In A Panic -- (Manzarek/James)
8. In The Pyramid -- (Manzarek/Warren)
9. Game Of Skill -- (Warren/Manzarek/James)
GOLDEN DAYS DIAMOND NIGHTS
1. Riding On The Wings Of Love -- (Hunter/Warren/Manzarek)
2. The Dreamer -- (Manzarek/Warren)
3. Holy Music -- (Warren/Champion)
4. Ain't Got The Time -- (Warren/Harrison)
5. Die High -- (Warren)
6. Blinded By Love -- (Warren/James)
7. Barcelona -- (Harrison)
8. America -- (Manzarek)
Manzarek's next non-Doors release was his 1983 labor of love Carmina Burana, a modern interpretation of the 1937 German classical opera by Carl Orff (who had died the previous year). Produced by Philip Glass and Kurt Munkacsi, the album finds the ever-existential Manzarek in the seemingly unlikely role as arranger of the German-language opera (yes, the male voice belongs to him). But he came across surprisingly well in this endeavor; perhaps he missed his second calling, as a new age artist? Carmina Burana is decidedly not the average Doors fan's cup of tea, but it's an interesting change of pace from a well-known musician, and has more immediacy than you might expect.
1. Destiny: Ruler Of The World
-- a. The Wheel Of Fortune (O Fortuna)
-- b. The Wounds Of Fate (Fortune Plango)
-- a. The Face Of Spring (Veris Leta Facies)
-- b. Sunrise (Omnia Sol Temperat)
-- c. Welcome (Ecce Gratum)
-- d. The Dance (Tanz)
-- e. Sweetest Boy (Dulcissime)
-- f. If The Whole World Was Mine (Were Diu Werlt)
3. In The Tavern
-- a. Boiling Rage (Estuans Interius)
-- b. The Roasted Swan (Olim Lacus)
-- c. In The Tavern (In Taberna)
4. The Court Of Love
-- a. Love Flies Everywhere (Amor Volat)
-- b. A Young Girl (Stetit Puella)
-- c. Come, My Beauty (Veni Veni Venias)
-- d. The Lovers (Blanziflor et Helena)
5. Destiny: Ruler Of The World
-- a. The Wheel Of Fortune (O Fortuna)
In 1983, Krieger and Densmore released a 12-inch single under the name The Krieger-Densmore Reggae Bonanza. It contained an interesting cover of the Bob Marley song "Kinky Reggae", performed by most of the Butts Band's 1975 lineup. That lineup's male (Michael Stull) and female (Alex Richman) vocalists took turns singing the song's lead vocals. The B-side contains the same version of Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" that opened the Butts Band's 1975 album Hear & Now!. The songs were recorded in 1975, but this single was released in 1983 as a tribute to Marley, two years after his death. The back cover contains a written essay by Densmore, describing his memories of Bob Marley and of two visits to Jamaica by Densmore and Krieger in 1969 and '73. An interesting collectible.
a. Kinky Reggae
b. Get Up Stand Up
During the 1980's, there were two now-deleted Doors live releases: Alive, She Cried in 1983 and Live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1987. Most of the tracks from these two albums are now available on the double-CD In Concert, with the exception of two from Hollywood Bowl, so only completists need to search these titles out.
Alive, She Cried is a strong set of seven songs recorded live between 1968 and 1970. Morrison reads poetry during some of the tracks. "Texas Radio & the Big Beat" was done live in the studio to good effect. Their cover of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" features John Sebastian on harmonica. The high point is the band's awesome rendition of Van Morrison's "Gloria", which contains a raunchy midsection that can only belong to Jim Morrison.
Live at the Hollywood Bowl was a 19-minute EP released to coincide with the home video release of that July 1968 concert (MCA VHS 80592; currently available as part of the Doors Collection DVD). The EP contains a few highlights from that show, including good performances of "Light My Fire" and "Unknown Soldier" along with theatrical Morrison psych-outs. The sound quality is excellent, making the EP a good souvenir of a legendary band in mid-career. Four of these tracks, excluding "Light My Fire" and "Spanish Caravan" are included on In Concert.
ALIVE, SHE CRIED
2. Light My Fire
3. You Make Me Real
4. Texas Radio & The Big Beat
5. Love Me Two Times
6. Little Red Rooster
7. Moonlight Drive (incl. Horse Latitudes)
LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
1. Wake Up
2. Light My Fire
3. Unknown Soldier
4. A Little Game
5. The Hill Dwellers
6. Spanish Caravan
In 1989, Krieger recorded an album called No Habla; as the title would suggest, it was entirely instrumental. (In fact, it was part of a No Speak series on the now-defunct I.R.S. label, which also distributed instrumental albums from Stewart Copeland, Wishbone Ash, and several lesser lights. The label was owned by Miles Copeland, whose brother Stewart would briefly replace Densmore as the Doors drummer for their 2003 reunion tour). No Habla is a respectable showcase for Krieger's talents, showing him to be equally adept at rock, blues, jazz and flamenco styles. He can be forgiven for revisiting his past with two Doors compositions ("Wild Child" and "You're Lost Little Girl"), since new dimensions are added to both. "Eagles Song" and "Piggy's Song" were both composed by Krieger for a children's project that was scrapped. Besides his own material, Krieger puts a distinctive stamp on a few oldies; on "Lonely Teardrops", he really makes his guitar talk.
1. Wild Child
2. Eagles Song
3. It's Gonna Work Out Fine
4. Lonely Teardrops
5. Love It Or Leave It
6. The Big Hurt (Dolores)
7. Piggy's Song
8. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
9. You're Lost Little Girl
The Krieger compilation Door Jams was also released by I.R.S. in 1989. It is a well-rounded collection of 14 instrumental tracks from Krieger's first three solo albums, containing almost all of the instrumentals from Robby Krieger & Friends, seven out of ten tracks from the accessible 1982 album Versions (including "Crystal Ship" and "Her Majesty" with Manzarek and Densmore), and three out of five tracks from his self-titled 1985 album (which was a meandering jazz-fusion indulgence). The latter two albums were issued together as a 2-on-1 CD called Versions/Robby Krieger (One Way OW 33657), which is now out of print as well. Door Jams is fine if you just want a sampler of Krieger's solo work, but devotees are better off searching out the 2-on-1 CD Versions/Robby Krieger as well as Robby Krieger & Friends so they'll have the three complete albums.
1. Gavin Leggit **
2. East End, West End **
3. Her Majesty **
4. Reach Out, I'll Be There **
5. I'm Gonna Tell On You **
6. Spare Changes *
7. Big Oak Basin *
8. Reggae Funk ***
9. Crystal Ship **
10. Underwater Fall **
11. Bass Line Street ***
12. Bag Lady ***
13. Low Bottomy *
14. The Ally *
* - from Robby Krieger & Friends (1977)
** - from Versions (1982)
*** - from Robby Krieger (1985)
Love Lion is a recording of a collaboration between Manzarek and beat poet Michael McClure, recorded at the Bottom Line in New York in 1991. McClure gave dynamic spoken word readings of his poetry, while Manzarek played improvised old-fashioned jazz and blues on a piano. Manzarek's musical accompaniment fits McClure's material so well that you would think it was rehearsed. This may be a bit arty for many tastes, but it's far less esoteric than Carmina Burana, and is not a bad way to spend an evening. Some of the high points: "Czechoslavakia", "Action Philosophy", "High Heelz", and "In Memoriam: For Jim Morrison", in which Manzarek uses piano lines from "Riders On The Storm". Note: this performance was also released on home video (Island/Mystic Fire VHS 76244). The CD has better sound, and it spares us from Manzarek's corny introduction to "Czechoslavakia".
1. Action Philosophy
2. Love Lion Blues
3. In Memoriam: For Jim Morrison
4. Maybe Mama Lion
6. Antechamber of the Night
8. High Heelz
9. Paragon of Danger
10. Spanish Roses
11. A Breath
12. Rose Rain
13. Stanzas in Turmoil
The Robby Krieger Organization was a '90's jazz combo consisting of Krieger, organist Skip Vanwinkl, and percussionist Dale Alexander. Their only recording was the 1995 CD RKO Live!, released on One Way Records. (The spartan packaging and sound quality have led some to mistake it for a bootleg). It mostly contained mellow jazz fusion instrumentals, including compositions by Miles Davis ("So What") and Chick Korea ("Spain"). The trio also interpret a few Doors songs, including the well-known Krieger compositions "Light My Fire" and "Spanish Caravan". Krieger sang the lead vocals on the Doors songs adequately enough, although vocals are still not his strong point. RKO Live! is not a bad showcase for Krieger, though its mellow jazz sound is probably too mellow for most Doors fans' tastes -- as well as my own.
2. Back Door Man
3. Blue Note Shuffle
4. Spanish Caravan / Spain
5. Riders On The Storm
6. So What
7. African Daisy
8. Gavin Leggit
9. Light My Fire
Krieger's studio CD Cinematix, released in 2000, is a set of more fiery fusion instrumentals than the ones on RKO Live!, most of them quite lengthy; only one track runs less than four minutes, and one runs for more than ten. There's plenty of contemporary rock and roll edge applied to these well-polished jams. Genre veteran Tony Newton plays bass on four tracks, including two Newton compositions ("Snake Oil" and "Red Alert") which were originally written for Tony Williams' 1976 album Believe It. Another notable guest is Edgar Winter, who plays sax on "Psychedelicate" (an eight-minute piece that is more delicate than psychedelic). On "Brandino", Krieger works up a riveting head of funk-rock steam with bassist/percussionist Kevin Brandon, who has since become a prominent session player for younger r&b artists. In an obligatory nod to Krieger's glory days, the closing track "War Toad" is a pointless high-tech remix of the Doors' "Peace Frog", complete with samples of Jim Morrison's vocals. Aside from that false note, Cinematix is an otherwise reassuring sign that Krieger does not intend to stay trapped in his past.
1. Snake Oil
4. Missionary Jam
6. Haunted Spouse
7. Red Alert
9. Out of the Mood
10. War Toad (Peace Frog remix)