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The Doors: Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Doug Collette By

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The Doors' Strange Days did not have the cultural or commercial impact of the iconic band's eponymous debut earlier that halcyon year. And that's all the more regrettable because, in purely artistic terms, this second album is superior in (almost) every way.

Accordingly, the more streamlined 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of this laboriously-recorded landmark (compared to the lavish package afforded its predecessor) is wholly appropriate because it focuses on the band and its music, above all else.

The technical details engineer Bruce Botnick shares in his truncated essay (including his oddly quaint views on monaural sound) is representative of how seriously regarded is the work of the Doors even beyond their literal fan base. But that's only right when it comes to this sophomore album of theirs: uniform from start to finish in a way the debut was not, vocalist/songwriter Jim Morrison's persona remained in proportion to the contributions of the rest of the quartet, so that when the truly grand climax arrives in the form of the eleven-minute epic "When The Music's Over," the effect is cathartic in a way few albums, of any genre, ever are.

The sonic spectrum of Strange Days, like the surreal cover images front and back, remains too rife with shadows to rightly term it kaleidoscopic. Rather, the mix of instruments and vocals throughout, engineered and produced by Botnick and Paul A. Rothchild, is more akin to the brilliant facets of a jewel in motion on a brilliantly-illuminated pedestal. And that perspective is no more or less impressive in mono or stereo: the vertical orientation in the former mode of audio reproduction benefits a sense of isolation arising from the disorienting combination of recitation and sound effects on the ancient maritime saga of "Horse Latitudes," while the horizontal pan from left to right in the sound spectrum renders the title song disorienting and deepens the mood arising from the stark imagery of "I Can't See Your Face in My Mind." (as is also the case with the progressively focused intensity and suspense the aforementioned concluding cut).

Meanwhile, on both compact discs in this set, the acute clarity resulting from remastering enhances the continuity connecting these ten tracks, as well as the whole of this album with its predecessor: it's an effect accentuated by, but not limited to, the Doors' own blues "Love Me Two Times." The original September 1967 release of Strange Days was far too premature to allow the initial impact of the Doors to fully permeate the burgeoning cultural shift of the so-called 'Summer of Love,' so the potentially profound aftershock of an album keynoted by "People Are Strange" was frittered away.

Still, while it was a lost opportunity at the time—and all the more grievous given the fact the instrumental trio had found their respective levels as individual musicians, as well as complementary members a unified band-five decades later, the rigorous practice of playing extended sets in clubs the months prior to recording this album is fully evident in the complementary fusion of Ray Manzarek's multiple keyboards, flamenco-trained Robbie Krieger's guitar and John Densmore's attentive touches on his drum kit during a cut like "You're Lost Little Girl."

Still, the dangerous yet oddly alluring atmosphere conjured up on "Moonlight Drive" overshadows those pragmatic aspects of this reissue. In much in the same way, even the passionate insight of David Fricke's writing becomes secondary to the photo of the late lead singer in an accompanying photo: as a result of the shot's positioning spanning the last pages of the CD booklet, the Lizard King's inquisitive expression underneath the brim of his hat seems designed to reaffirm his personal perception of this album as quoted overleaf by the esteemed senior writer of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Track Listing: Strange Days; You're Lost Little Girl; Love Me Two Times; Unhappy Girl; Horse Latitudes; Moonlight Drive; People Are Strange; My Eyes Have Seen You; I Can't See Your Face In My Mind; When The Music's Over.

Personnel: Jim Morrison: vocals, percussion, Moog synthesizer; Ray Manzarek: Vox Continental organ, Fender Rhodes piano bass; tack piano; harpsichord; backwards piano; marimba; backing vocals ; Robby Krieger: guitars; John Densmore: drums; Douglas Lubahn: occasional bass.

Title: Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Rhino/Elektra

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