critic’s pick 323: the doors, ‘weird scenes inside the gold mine’

The-Doors-ReissueWhen The Doors’ Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine was first issued in late 1972, the band was no more. Frontman Jim Morrison, wrecked from years of drug and alcohol induced abuse, died in Paris the previous year. His bandmates – Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore – quickly recorded two post Morrison albums (Other Voices and Full Circle) that went nowhere, confirming that The Doors without Morrison as its commanding though combustible focal point were a non-starter.

Reissued this week for this first time on CD, Gold Mine has always been a curiosity because it was never designed as a greatest hits collection. There were hits scattered among the two-album set, but they were employed sparingly (Touch Me and Light My Fire didn’t make the cut, Break on Through and Riders on the Storm did). The thrust of the anthology was to plunge deeper into The Doors’ catalogue. That meant exploring the darker extremes of the band’s musical psyche.

That’s a greater task than one might expect, seeing as The Doors released only six albums (excluding concert sets and the post Morrison efforts) during its five year recording career. But for every hit the band got onto AM radio, two or three counterparts were embraced by FM. Each of the original Doors studio albums revealed a degree of that duality. On Gold Mine, it positively gleamed.

The breakdown on Gold Mine split the Doors’ songs into three categories – the obvious hits (Love Her Madly), the popular album tracks (L.A. Woman) and the obscurities (Horse Latitudes). The tunes were then reshuffled into no particular order except, perhaps, for musical flow.

For example, the sordid jazz drive of Break on Through, which begins the anthology, gives way to the trippy keyboard dervish of Strange Days. That, in turns, melts into harpsichord/guitar psychedelia of the overlooked Shaman’s Blues.

There are also buried treasures. Among Gold Mine’s discoveries are two forgotten, blues-directed B-sides – 1969’s brassy Who Scared You and a 1971 cover of Willie Dixon’s Don’t Go No Further. The crowning touch was the choice to use the band’s two most twisted epics – The End and When the Music’s Over (clocking in at 11 minutes each) as epilogues for its two discs.

What all this translates into is, in essence, a grand mix tape. Frustrated that the band would be remembered only for a smattering of radio hits, Gold Mine sought to unleash all of The Doors’ dark, poetic charm. While many of these songs have been heard over the decades in countless other reissues and anthologies, hearing them bond so readily on Gold Mine gives the full exotic extremes of The Doors a renewed presence and purpose.

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