Thursday, June 5, 2014


For a time in the late 60's and early 70's, it was considered uncool to release a basic greatest hits or best-of package by hip bands.  If it must be done, it had to be called something else, and not just be hit singles.  There was no Best of The Beatles, for instance, for several years.  You know it would have sold millions, and when the band relented in 1973 with the famous Red and Blue albums, they did in fact tear up the charts.  But it still wasn't a greatest hits, there were lots of album cuts included.  In the FM radio/album rock era, hip bands didn't do greatest hits, pop bands did

The Doors always considered themselves a hip band, so it's no surprise they downplayed the hits factor, even though they had a few significant ones.  After Jim Morrison died, there was a push for a compilation, so Elektra Records put out this set in 1972, a double album at the time that feels like a precursor to the box set model.  With its cryptic title coming from a line in Morrison's lyric for The End, the tracks came from all the studio albums put out by The Doors, with the hits scattered between a selection of album cuts.  There were even two rare tracks, Who Scared You and Don't Go No Further, b-sides to singles.  It wasn't a huge seller, but fans always liked it for the running order.  It was also the first Doors album I owned, so it gave me a completely different view of the band than those a little older who had grown up with the group's progress.  Kind of forgotten, this is the first time it's been issued on CD, making a lot of older fans very happy to see it again.

Break On Through starts us off, never a hit but a big favourite, and quickly different layers of the group's sound are unveiled, as the cuts jump from Strange Days to Shaman's Blues to Love Street, with psychedelia, blues and pop.  Odd choices continue, such as The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat), a deliciously bombastic number from the last true Doors album, L.A. Woman, sounding so out of place that it's always stuck out as a gem.  Finally a true hit is offered, Love Her Madly, and side two of the album (the end of side one on CD) is devoted to the eleven minutes of the notorious The End.

More proof that The Doors were prepared to sniff at the idea of Top 40 hits is found on the second album (or disc), as the cuts continue to get more obscure.  We find the b-sides here, but it's what is not included that is meant to impress.  There's no Light My Fire, their first hit, nor Hello, I Love You, their other #1 chart topper.  There's no Love Me Two Times, or Roadhouse Blues either.  Perhaps they didn't want to repeat the track list of 1970's 13 compilation, but that didn't sell much either, so there would hardly have been fan complaints.  Instead, we're treated to more fascinating cuts such as Running Blue, a catchy little number with hoe-down verses and a jazz bridge.  Weird scenes indeed.  So why, without the hits, would you be interested in this?  Because you probably own the hits somewhere anyway, and if you don't have all the albums or a box set, this is just what it was supposed to be, a different way to explore the band, a way to understand there was plenty going on besides the Morrison mania, possible public exposure and a greatest hits collection.

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