The Doors - 'Waiting For The Sun'1968
Rating - 7/B
No, this isn't the strongest Doors album, and is probably even a bit shocking if you hear it in sequence, after their debut (catchy hard rock with dark, apocalyptic yearnings) and follow-up, Strange Days (dark, apocalyptic yearnings and scary hard rock). After establishing themselves as these really dark and dangerous acid-rocking poet messiahs (at least, that's the story), they loaded their third album with chirpy pop songs, gentle ballads and just a trace or two of the patented Doors mystical menace. And to be fair, a lot of the material on this album is weak or at least forgettable. But I don't believe The Doors ever went so far as to release a really bad album, so much as a couple of slightly confused and uneven albums (it's easy to be a bit confused and uneven when you're behaving as if drugs are a speedway to nirvana, let this be a lesson to you!). So let's take a look at the highlights, lowlights and so-so's of this not entirely disposable little album by the late Jimmie Lizard and his Reptiles.
Hello I Love You and Love Street are both upbeat and even poppy little songs, but they're both good at what they do, which makes them a lot more creditable than if they'd been failed pop attempts. They both have terribly memorable vocal and instrumental bits, good hooks and a neat weaving of lines between Krieger's guitar and Manzarek's keyboard. A trace of lyrical quirk and edges of musical weirdness keep things Doors-worthy, if you're worried about that. I especially like the bit in Love Street where Morrison breaks out of the verse cadence to sing a few slightly out of place lines about liking the year fine...so far. You can see that he just ran out lines, invented something at random and later on made a virtue out of necessity. This little flash of uncertainty actualy endears me far more to the band than all the sub-HuxleyBlake posturing. Not To Touch The Earth, The Unknown Soldier and Five To One are all fairly menacing and dark rockers, and more consistent with previous expectations. Not To Touch The Earth is an excerpt from their whole poetry-and-music performance piece, The Cannonisation Of The Wizard (or was that Uriah Heep?) and having heard that whole thingujib on a live recording I can assure you that nothing has been lost. The Doors have wisely chosen the most musical excerpt from the suite, and it works quite well on its own as a driving, menacing piece with some really queasy-making flirtation between bent-notes and things on both keyboard and guitar, relieved now and then by a reasonably buoyant refrain. The Unknown Soldier, with it's Sousa-march remniscent melody,firing-squad break and so on is a nifty little audio drama that serves as an anti-war song. Five To One is just downright alarming, with Morrison sounding like a bloodthirsty caveman as he rips out his revolution-calling lyric over progressively more fluid and melodic guitar lines. Interesting study in contrast, there.
The minor songs are all perfectly nice love songs, and some of these can conceivably become anyone's personal favourites. Summer's Almost Gone is a haunting song which could be about the turn of the seasons, the loss of love or just as easily the end of the world. It has a gripping mood of sorrow and yearning that flows nicely into the wistful and guarded optimism of Wintertime Love. I think the sequencing really gives these two songs added strength, and then after all that lyricism you have the dramatics of The Unknown Soldier which helps to keep me awake and engaged, at least. Good dynamics.We Could Be So Good Together is not exceptional in any way, but it does its job well enough with a good groove and a reasonable melody. Yes The River Knows is another minor little ballad, and mostly suffers because we'e already had several of these on the album.
And now we come to the stinkers! I used to love the classical guitar work on Spanish Caravan, but so much of it is lifted from actual classical pieces for guitar that I find it hard to respect, let alone love the song any more. It's okay, otherwise, I suppose, but too much of a novelty tune anyway. As is the egregious desert-chant My Wild Love. It's amusing enough the first few times, but really, songs just don't cut it without things like instrumentation, groove and melody, sorry. I suppose it's okay as a sort of period piece - look at the kind of things those craaaaazzzyy acid kids used to put on their albums ha ha (like that grotesque 'What's Become Of The Baby' contraption on The Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa) - but that's about it.
And there we are. A perfectly reasonable album that should only be panned if you were expecting unrelenting genius from these clever, imaginative but also young and all-too-often stoned fellows. The good songs are pretty good (if sometimes from a direction that you may not have expected), the okay songs are all capable of being someone's personal favourite if approached with tact and sympathy and the weak material serves its own documentary purpose, possibly (certainly Krieger wasn't the last rock musician to rip off classical lines without credit - hello, Steve Harris!).
The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline: Not the best album to begin with, but, tell you what, it's probably best to begin with a Best Of so you don't get the sort of one-dimensional view of the band that would prevent you from appreciating the charms of this oddly beautiful little album.