Thursday, December 07, 2006

Strange Daze

Strange Daze
David Crosby, The Doors of Perception

WHEN BRITISH AUTHOR ALDOUS HUXLEY penned The Doors of Perception (via William Blake) in 1954, he could not have foreseen the eventual neverending phalanx of Jim Morrison fanatics who'd someday seek to glean meanings from his work. These latter pilgrims spawned by the mid-80s lionization of Morrison -- a period bookended by boomer "It was 20 years ago today ..." revisionism; Danny Sugarman's memoirs; Lizard King posturing from rock frontmen such as Bono, Michael Hutchence and Axl; and The Lost Boys and The Doors -- may or may not be sated by Elektra/Rhino's new Doors box set Perception. The box art features an old fashioned wooden door with peephole -- spy through and the vintage miens of Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore gaze back at the listener. Right away, this makes clear the desire to preserve the Doors in amber. Yet so much has occurred in music, pop culture and politics since Morrison's death in 1971 that it becomes harder and harder each year to dig just what made this famously bass-less band so incendiary in the late 1960s and early '70s. And reissuing the albums -- The Doors, Strange Days, The Soft Parade, Waiting For the Sun, Morrison Hotel, L.A. Woman -- in DVD format only juices sound geeks.

The latter LPs particularly suggest one had to be there, awash in the era's druggie cults -- as Huxley's essays centered on his mescaline use, acid was the key conduit to these songs' inner worlds. For my part, beyond Strange Days, it's difficult to grasp the pre-smack Mojo Risin' spirit powerful enough to inspire Patricia Kenneally-Morrison's Keltiad. But then again there's the popularity of such Doors songs as "Five to One" in hip-hop Nation -- see Jay-Z, Mos Def, Cee-Lo. Still, sans narcotic crutch, some of this music becomes unintelligible and self-indulgent. Standout tracks of blues simulating L.A. Woman -- including the title cut -- are so far above and divergent from the weird and lackluster poesy filler they seem to exist on a completely different plane. And none so much as the Doors' likely masterpiece: "Riders On the Storm." At 7:07 of perfection, the sultry, dark sonic reverie is powered by mournful electric piano and thunderstorm effects; the foretold shamanistic experience is finally made manifest. What's exquisite about its earthiness and quiet never diminishes, and "Riders" truly attains the threshold of the mysticism Morrison aspired to.

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