The Doors have had no shortage of collections in the CD era, whether the 10x-platinum The Best of The Doors, Legacy: The Absolute Best, The Very Best of The Doors, or The Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors Hits – just to name a few. Happily, the latest such release from Messrs. Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore distinguishes itself with a true raison d’etre. Rhino’s simply-titled The Singles lives up to its name with 44 A-and B-sides on two CDs, originally released between 1967 and 1983 and in their original mixes. A deluxe edition adds a Blu-ray disc with the quadraphonic surround mix of 1973’s The Best of The Doors (the first compilation to bear that name), while a vinyl box is also available, with 45 RPM replicas in individual picture sleeves. Not only does this set fill in a major gap for collectors, but it’s also a fine introduction to, and anthology of, the band’s music.
The Singles compiles all 20 of the singles released by The Doors beginning with the band’s 1967 debut A-side, “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” through the tracks released off their 1971-1972 post-Jim Morrison albums, 1979’s An American Prayer, and 1983’s Alive, She Cried. Not only did the single of “Break on Through” first showcase the Doors’ fusion of slinky jazz and aggressive rock, but it established their penchant for controversy when the lyric “she gets high” had to be excised for the single release and radio airplay. The suggestive “Light My Fire,” their second 45 and first of only two Number One records (the other being “Hello, I Love You”), proved that the band could push the envelope while still crafting a pure and exciting pop song. Strains of pop, rock, blues, R&B, and jazz (plus the dark side of Sunset Strip psychedelia) all informed The Doors’ discography.
As all of the original, unique and rare single mixes and edits appear here, many for the first time on CD, there are variations from the familiar album tracks. The tight single edit of “Fire” (which only now makes it first wide appearance on U.S. CD) excised the lengthy instrumental break, but it’s still the version most listeners first heard blaring from their AM radios and continue to hear on oldies radio today. Other songs were edited from their LP appearances, such as “Love Me Two Times,” “Riders on the Storm,” “Tightrope Ride,” “Ships with Sails,” “The Mosquito,” “The Piano Bird,” and the live “Gloria” and “Roadhouse Blues.” Still other singles were remixes, like the vibrant, strings-and-brass-infused “Touch Me” and the Vietnam commentary “The Unknown Soldier” (the band’s fourth consecutive top 40 entry but one of their lesser-known A-sides) which has different sound effects.
While purists may never embrace the single edits, the 45 RPM format was one that was important to the band. The 1968 release of “Hello, I Love You” was one of the first major label 45s to be issued in stereo; to show off the format, sound pans vividly from the left channel to the right during the song. Before long, stereo singles were becoming more commonplace, including for The Doors. (The mono radio versions of “Hello, I Love You,” “Touch Me,” “Wishful Sinful” and “Tell All the People” included here as bonus tracks have been entirely unheard since their appearance on promotional singles.) In all, the first ten tracks on CD 1 are in mono, as well as the 1970 “You Make Me Real” b/w “Roadhouse Blues” single from Morrison Hotel and the aforementioned bonus promo versions.
There are numerous fun discoveries here, such as the fact that Elektra released seven of the nine songs on 1969’s The Soft Parade on 45s; only one (“Touch Me,” unveiled months before the LP’s street date) made much of a chart impression. The Doors only issued three non-LP B-sides during their career, all of which are of course here: “Who Scared You” (flipside of “Wishful Sinful”), “You Need Meat (Don’t Go No Further)” (backing “Love Her Madly”) and “Treetrunk” (B-side of post-Morrison track “Get Up and Dance”). In addition to rediscovering these songs, The Singles gives listeners the chance to do a full immersion into the post-Morrison period of the band (also recently addressed with the official reissue of Other Voices and Full Circle in 2015.) The second CD begins with “Tightrope Ride” b/w “Variety is the Spice of Life,” with which Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore attempted to press on – with some artistic success, it should be noted – without their charismatic frontman.
The Best of The Doors, the 11-track compilation from 1973 presented here in 4.0 surround sound on Blu-ray Audio (playable in all Blu-ray players), makes for a special bonus on a very affordably-priced deluxe edition of this title. Best was previously reissued by the Audio Fidelity label on a now out-of-print multichannel hybrid SACD, but this is its debut in the Blu-ray format. The quadraphonic sound, with discrete instrumental and vocal placement among the four channels, makes for an illuminating and immersive way to enjoy these very familiar songs anew. The quad mix isn’t subtle but is tasteful, allowing for new instrumental nuances to be heard with each listen. One needn’t be an audiophile to enjoy this bonus disc, either; anyone equipped with a Blu-ray disc player and surround setup will find ample pleasures.
The 2CD/BD edition is packaged within a simple six-panel digipak featuring all credits, discographical annotation, and small replicas of the many Elektra label designs found on the original singles. Unfortunately, there are no liner notes – an unhappy surprise for such a collector-oriented release. The Doors’ original engineer and longtime keeper of the flame Bruce Botnick has co-produced and remastered The Singles from original analog sources, and the sound is faithful to the original 45s.
The Singles is a reminder that, while The Doors are well and justly remembered as “rock” artists in the albums era, they were also more than capable hitmakers. This set is a true “greatest hits” for one of the most enduring bands of their era or any other.
The Doors’ The Singles is available at: