The killer awoke before dawn. He put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery. And he walked on down to the mall. Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain, he came to a CD outlet between Orange Julius and Dress Barn. He looked inside. "Father?" he said. "Mother?" A voice answered, as infinite as the molecular, cosmic tendrils of time: "Go chase yourself, dirtbag."
It blew his fragile, eggshell mind.
As night arrived with her purple legion, so did the screaming-clown-microdot visions of William Blake's horsiest horse latitudes. "Who among you will run with the hunt?" the killer shouted on a crowded bus. "Who will accept a long-distance collect call from His Majesty ...the Lizard King?"
Plenty of folks -- or so the three surviving members of the Doors are hoping. With over thirty hours of live material poised for online consumption (available only through thedoors.com), Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore are banking on the kindness of strangers and blotter casualties alike. With plans to release three titles every six months for the next six years (now, there's numerology, man), they've launched the ultimate fire sale upon humanity: thirty-six "samplers" of lo-fi, quasi-bootleg-quality recordings, both "rare" and "remastered," of every Doors hit and miss to date. Sweet ashen lady! If the road of excess really does lead to the palace of wisdom, then anyone willing to run up his credit card on this tired load of crap is a bloomin' savant. (Then again, Jim could only "open" the doors -- not drag you through kicking and screaming.)
Hardcore collectors should find something to like in the first installment of this exhaustive series -- say, the umpteenth version of Lord Leather Pants slurring his way to the "other side" of the stage to collapse ("Break on Through"/New York). Or the laughable entry culled from a 1969 concert in Boston, a ninety-second interlude listed simply as "Bellowing." Maybe you groove to Morrison's aimless sermons disguised as poignant, shaman-inspired movie magic: "The day you die, you gotta watch your whole life recurring eternally forever...in Cinemascope...3-D...so you better have some good incidents happenin' there...and a fitting climax" ("Been Down So Long"/Detroit). The only thing in the way of continuity on this disc is the applause -- boosted to its high-end threshold from late-'60s-era microphone-and-soundboard technology -- which whisks the listener seamlessly from city to city during fourteen slapdash tracks. "What wasn't deemed commercial a quarter century ago now sounds like pristine history," the Web site trumpets -- along with endless product at rock-bottom prices. Like the Doors need any more of your money.
Besides cheating out real bootleggers (those good, hardworkin' folks who have more takes on the infamous Miami dong-wagglin' incident than there are theories to the Kennedy assassination), this intermittently listenable monstrosity smacks of pure vanity. It's as if the keepers of Mr. Mojo's estate were staring down Arthur Rimbaud on Jimbo's behalf, muttering, "This here Père Lachaise cemetery ain't beeeg enough for the two of us, Frenchie."
More opportunistic, though, is Stoned Immaculate, the clay-brained tribute album. Boasting today's hottest platinum-selling stars doing their best impression of Florida's lusty scamp, Immaculate refuses to stray from what's immediately familiar. With Manzerek, Kreiger and Densmore sitting in on every track to supervise their tributizing underlings, it all adds up to a mighty risk-free reptile reunion. (So don't expect Ween to jostle you from complacency with a left-field version of "Back Door Mang.") The trio joins Stone Temple Pilots as they storm out of the gate with "Break on Through," silencing any lingering criticisms one might have for the Doors' lack of a good, crunchy bass player all those years. (You see, while Manzarek's left hand plays the lowdown heavy, his right one dazzles us with tinny-sounding, churchlike, bounce-organ noodling -- a sound white hippies could always root-root-root for!) Big deal. It's too little too late. Even Bootsy Collins couldn't save this sinking crystal ship of irrelevance. But why try to? Today's glut of darkly charismatic, snake-skinned poseurs know a gravy train when they see one: The lead crooners for Creed ("Riders on the Storm"), Smash Mouth ("Peace Frog"), Days of the New ("L.A. Woman"/ "The End") and Train ("Light My Fire") sound as interchangeable as clock parts -- something the jackals of FM rotation prey upon like crack pushers. So while Aerosmith lurches through its predictably moth-eaten version of "Love Me Two Times" -- enough to harden the arteries of any denture-clacking Don Juan -- Oleander botches a quadruple bypass with the cloying bubblegum flavor of "Hello I Love You." Perry Farrell and Exene Cervenka vie for attention during what sounds like bad open-mike poetry ("Children of Night"), and Ian Astbury works his special ho-hum mojo two times, baby, with lusterless paint-by-number versions of "Wild Child" and "Touch Me." Oh, yeah -- Bo Diddley morphs "Love Her Madly" into a curious gospel-flavored number. Yippee.
In all fairness, longtime Doors impresario Danny Sugerman and producer Ralph Sall manage to plunder Morrison's grave for a few interesting moments. There's a decent "Roadhouse Blues" call-and-respond session between John Lee Hooker and Mr. Cornball Risin' -- a far cry from what Natalie Cole accomplished with old tapes of her father, Nat King Cole, but still worth noting. Sall also creates an odd smattering of "new" Doors material through a combination of beats and samples ("Under Waterfall," "Cosmic Movie") and the posthumous hijinks of Morrison screaming his head off over William S. Burroughs. It's two, two, two stiffs in one! On "Is Everybody In?" Old Bull, who never met a collaboration he didn't like, needles Jim for turning up dead in a Parisian bathtub -- a bit of twisted irony the Beat icon would likely relish. But since neither one will ever see a cent in royalties (unless it happens cosmically -- remember: "love hides in molecular structures"), let's just hope that Sugerman and his posse make a bundle and, y'know, avoid any weird scenes inside the retirement home.
If only this were "The End."
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