Cult Classics Album Breakdown 16

The Doors (1967)

For somebody with a Jim Morrison tattoo, it took me a surprisingly long time to get The Doors. But boy, when I got them, I really got them. They literally ended up under my skin.

The Doors, released in January 1967, was the debut album by the now-legendary American psychedelic-rock band, led by the zaney Lizard King and moonlight vocalist, Jim Morrison. Recorded in 1966 at Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California, it was produced by Paul A. Rothchild, and has not only ended up in the Grammy Hall Of Fame, but also included in the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress based on its cultural, artistic and historical significance.

So, yes, it’s a big deal.

In fact, this is one of the great albums of the 1960’s. Although it was primarily only a hit in America, it is now a globally recognised classic. Jim Morrison has become a cult legend since his death in Paris in 1971, immortalising the music of The Doors further – particularly heavyweights off this album, such as the doom-laden The End, which seemed to foreshadow his untimely demise. Complete with Oedipal speaking section from a deranged sounding Morrison, and built upon a hypnotic guitar riff, it is both bewitching and disturbing. Of course, throw a bit of death and martyrdom into the mix and music often becomes sacred. Maybe that’s because we know, as fans, that the chapter is forever closed? Or maybe it’s because martyrdom is duly justified? It’s contentious, but it doesn’t alter the facts. The Doors, despite its success and wide-reaching appeal, is a cult masterpiece.

This magical debut record is special for many reasons. None more so, of course, than the spiralling fable that is Light My Fire. The extraordinary performance by Ray Manzarek on the Vox organ is the feature of this pioneering, somewhat unhinged temptation…I mean, you wouldn’t want your little sister sneaking off to light Morrison’s fire, would you? It swirls and leaps like a blue flame through a vortex of psychedelic sounds for over seven minutes.

Break On Through (To The Other Side) – the album’s thumping opening track – was the first single release by The Doors, and became one of their staple songs. It was controversial because of its drug references (“She gets high!“), but demonstrated Morrison’s instinctive ability to devise poetic lyrics. After all, Jim Morrison was a poet, and true rock’n’roll isn’t complete without that dangerous edge.

Back Door Man, a stomping cover of Willie Dixon’s original, is delivered with all the sexual deviancy and angst that Morrison can muster. He delivers these tracks like sermons from the shadows, face in the dark, crotch in the spotlight. Soul Kitchen – my personal favourite on the album – is a surging, kaleidoscopic anthem that carries the fire from Break On Through. There’s something about going “Stumblin’ in the neon groves” that fills the mind with possibilities. John Densmore, the hippy on the drums, keeps a spectacularly metronomic beat.

Twentieth Century Fox is a stoner’s ode to a gorgeous girl, Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) the other riveting cover (interestingly enough co-written by Bertold Brecht) – yet another song loaded with danger and controversy, and End Of The Night a dreamy, hazy interlude. There’s a no-bullshit philosophy that permeates this record, and Morrison seems to thrive on revolt, disorder, chaos, and stirring his band into a sanitarium worthy frenzy. Had Manzarek not looked so much like a school teacher, and Kreiger a smacked-up high-school drop out, The Doors might have looked really menacing.

The Crystal Ship is a fantastic, progressive ballad with one of Morrison’s finest lyrics – so mature for a man so young. I Looked At You is a nihilistic boogie, and Take It As It Comes a decadent, mysterious but melodious belter – as intoxicating as anything Hendrix had to offer with the savageness and threat of Iggy Pop thrown in. Does that sound intriguing enough?

The Doors is an almost faultless collection of tunes. I became so heavily consumed by them in my late teens that I bought all their albums in short succession, and even made several homages to Jim Morrison’s grave site in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Their influence on my life has been phenomenal; Jim Morrison’s lyrics and posthumous collections of poetry have been huge inspirations for my own writing, and the amazing music created by Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger and John Densmore a soundtrack to my younger years.

If there’s one word I could use to sum this album up, it would be this: revolution.

★★★★★★★★★☆

9/10

Top track trio:

Soul Kitchen

Light My Fire

The End


Cult Classics Album Breakdown 10

Cooza – Our Day (2020)

Isn’t it fascinating how alternative genres of music emerge from standard genres we already know?

Cooza is a masked alt-folk musician from the west side of Liverpool’s River mersey who describes his music as freak folk. Freak folk. I love it, and I totally get it. It shouldn’t fit in. It shouldn’t really appeal, because ‘freak’ lives on the outside, right? The extremities? The borderlands of acceptability and beyond? Yes and no. I mean, who knows anymore? I feel that freak is chic in the roaring 2020’s. And Our Day is definitely chic.

In a world where artists are up against it if they want to make a living from the music industry, more and more independent projects are emerging. You see, when you write, record, master and self-produce your own music, you don’t have to deal with record executives, the unfortunate business of record labels, rip-off merchants and con-artists. You don’t have to have your image crafted to what they prefer. You don’t have to guide your art towards sales and the grip of the commercial jaw. You can do whatever you want, however you want, and use the multiple platforms afforded us in the technological age to reach an audience.

Now, I’m a record man. I like to buy a vinyl or CD copy. Cooza’s Our Day is currently still only available on streaming platforms, but I’m working on it. I’d love nothing more than this album on my vinyl shelf tucked neatly between Joni Mitchell and The Beatles. Hint Hint.

Cooza’s contemporary tones draw inspiration from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Adrianne Lenker, Bon Iver, Big Thief, Ben Howard and Flatsound, and his poetic lyricism derives from an attraction and preoccupation with the natural world. Other slightly more melancholy soaked themes explore the complexities of love, and the struggle to comprehend post-millenial relations. It’s no coincidence that this talented young songwriter is a Joni Mitchell and later-career Kate Bush fan. The aching and mystery is all there.

The highlights include hypnotic single Wooden Frame, in which the combination of guitar loops and delicately layered vocals bleed beautifully all over the audio waves. You Look Good In It could have been written by David Crosby in 1969 – an absolutely sublime, gentle anaesthetic. I adore the background noises, and the vocals that sound like they’re coming from another room. It’s as indie as it gets.

The fascinating Love Love (Interlude) has Dr John’s Gris Gris stamped all over it, Be My Man a spacious, ethereal lament, and Gentle Into The Good Night (Interlude) such a brain-worm mind-fuck that it could rest perfectly adeptly in a Boris Karloff film.

Henrio, a Spanish master of melody and fellow Liverpool based musician, joins Cooza for Hores De Capvespre in what becomes a lyrically intense, roomy declaration, and quite frankly, I could lie back in a field, eyes closed, and listen to Cut My Hair for just about forever. The album concludes with I Can See New Zealand From Here – not just a concept that raises a smile, but a simply gorgeous, scattered refrain.

When asked about the concept behind Our Day, Cooza had this to say:

“…the whole album is a series of snapshots from a relationship told through the narrative timeframe of a day- starting with waking from a dream full of questions, and ending on going to sleep and falling into a new dream that promises more freedom. ‘Our Day’ is about how you can claim a whole day as your own, forgetting the world exists when you’re with someone you love. It’s about trying to keep the feelings of love from that day alive for however long…” (courtesy of: http://www.gigsoupmusic.com)

And so here is a melting pot of extensive and diverse influences – Cooza is clearly a muso who listens with more than just two ears. The melodies that he crafts are an intriguing mix of melancholy & sunrise & soothing & aching & longing & surprise & grief & hope & green meadows & lemon trees & soul. His voice is unique, and his guitar playing so sparse that it makes the spaces in between do all the work. It’s brilliant.

I love nothing more than to discover a local artist whose music touches me. And it’s no wonder this record has already amassed more than 200,000 Spotify streams.

Listen to the album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5EpS9xRiHoo93AsV1Y6ShI

★★★★★★★★★☆

9/10

© Joel Saunders

Top track trio:

You Look Good In It

Wooden Frame

I Can See New Zealand From Here