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The Very Best of the Doors is a compilation album released in 2007, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band's self-titled debut album. The Doors, made up of singer Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore, released six studio albums between 1967 and 1971 (and a couple more, I believe, after Morrison's death in summer 1971). Two versions of this collection were released: a single disc version and a double disc edition. I purchased the double disc edition, which was the first Doors album I ever owned.
There are thirty-four tracks in total, on an album heavily weighted towards the band's first releases, their self-titled debut and psychedelic Strange Days. For example, eight out of eleven tracks from The Doors are included, as opposed to just two songs from The Soft Parade, the band's least critically acclaimed album. Next to each song on the track listing I have put the album from which it is taken, in brackets.
The band's most famous and memorable tracks are included on this collection. Break On Through was their first, anthemic hit and still makes an impact. Moonlight Drive was the first song that Jim Morrison ever wrote. The well-known drinking song Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) and bluesy Soul Kitchen are also present. Five to One, a blues rock anthem with a hard beat, is also here.
Oedipal epic The End is present in full (I gather from reviews on Amazon that a shorter edited version is presented on the one disc edition). My personal favourite, the haunting Riders on the Storm, is also here. When the Music's Over and L.A. Woman, two further epic experimental tracks, are also included so it's possible to see how the band's style evolved over the years and differed between their different tracks.
The Doors' psychedelic side is well represented, with the spaced-out Strange Days and haunting People Are Strange sitting alongside the melancholic Crystal Ship and Spanish-influenced Spanish Caravan. 'Driving song' Roadhouse Blues makes an appearance, as does uptempo Peace Frog. Like many of the band's songs, the jaunty melody belies the dark tone of the lyrics.
Several of The Doors' more commercial, straightforward poppy songs are included here: examples include Love Me Two Times, Hello, I Love You and Love Her Madly. These aren't exactly bad songs but I prefer the band's more blues and rock-orientated stuff and I would have preferred to see these replaced by some of my other favourites: haunting The Spy, experimental Not to Touch the Earth and evocative Summer's Almost Gone.
Not all of the songs on this collection are taken from the band's studio albums. Orange County Suite is a haunting, atmospheric track. Whiskey, Mystics and Men combines Alabama Song's 'drinking song' nature with Spanish Caravan's Spanish guitars. Stoned Immaculate is an edited and stripped down excerpt from the track The W.A.S.P., including a spoken version of part of the song.
The compilers of this collection have made a real effort to show all aspects of the band's sound and career, including Jim Morrison's interest in poetry. Bird of Prey is simply Morrison reciting his poem with no music. The haunting lyrics ("Bird of prey, flying high... am I going to die") remind me of John Keats' poem On Seeing the Elgin Marbles ("My spirit is too weak - mortality/Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep/And each imagin'd pinnacle and steep/Of godlike hardship, tells me I must die/Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky"). Ghost Song is another spoken poem with a backing track. Part of the poem also makes an appearance on the track Peace Frog.
Overall, despite its flaws, I think this is a comprehensive collection that has been thoughtfully put together. I recommend it to anyone who would like to get into the band but isn't sure where to start. The sheer variety here means that there should be something for everyone.
Track Listing - Disc 1
1. Break On Through (To the Other Side) [The Doors]
2. Strange Days [Strange Days]
3. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) [The Doors]
4. Love Me Two Times [Strange Days]
5. Light My Fire [The Doors]
6. Spanish Caravan [Waiting for the Sun]
7. The Crystal Ship [The Doors]
8. The Unknown Soldier [Waiting for the Sun]
9. The End [The Doors]
10. People Are Strange [Strange Days]
11. Back Door Man [The Doors]
12. Moonlight Drive [Strange Days]
13. End of the Night [The Doors]
14. Five to One [Waiting for the Sun]
15. When the Music's Over [Strange Days]
Track Listing - Disc 2
1. Bird of Prey
2. Love Her Madly [L.A. Woman]
3. Riders on the Storm [L.A. Woman]
4. Orange County Suite
5. Runnin' Blue [The Soft Parade]
6. Hello, I Love You [Waiting for the Sun]
7. The W.A.S.P. (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) [L.A. Woman]
8. Stoned Immaculate
9. Soul Kitchen [The Doors]
10. Peace Frog [Morrison Hotel]
11. L.A. Woman [L.A. Woman]
12. Waiting for the Sun [Morrison Hotel]
13. Touch Me [The Soft Parade]
14. The Changeling [L.A. Woman]
15. Wishful Sinful [The Soft Parade]
16. Love Street [Waiting for the Sun]
17. Ghost Song
18. Whiskey, Mystics and Men
19. Roadhouse Blues [Morrison Hotel]