[Review] The Doors: Strange Days (1967)

No strangers to success, the band’s dazzling followup joined their debut album at the top of the charts.

Kronomyth 2.0: We want the world and we want it now.

My fourth-grade teacher kept a copy of this album in the classroom for students to listen to during their free time. I never reconciled such a cool album with such an uptight person, but I’m sure anyone would be tense after spending all day with a bunch of 9-year olds. The Doors’ second album is every bit as brilliant as their first album, more musical and less intense than The Doors but still a powerful sensory experience rich with animal magnetism, shamanism and what (on When the Music’s Over) may be the first truly progressive rock guitar solo.

Released a mere 10 months after their first record, which I’m sure felt like an eternity to fans, Strange Days is classic Doors from beginning to end. In between, the group writes a few more timeless classics (Love Me Two Times, People Are Strange, Strange Days) and really explores the music interplay between keyboards, bass and guitar. Douglas Lubahn’s bass is especially prominent on the first two tracks, and it’s a shame he didn’t accept The Doors’ offer to join the band full time. The combination of Ray Manzarek’s keyboards and Robby Krieger’s bottleneck guitar is psychedelic, delicate and intoxicating all at once.

Where the band’s first album burned with a dark intensity (and was still burning brightly when their second album was released), Strange Days has its light moments, even if they’re revealed to be only moonlit. Songs like Unhappy Girl, Moonlight Drive and I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind come dancing from the speakers (I’m pretty sure “Moonlight Drive” is a tango). There are dark moments too, none darker than the spoken poetry of Horse Latitudes, but gone are the burning blues of “Break on Through” and “Back Door Man.”

The album closes with another dramatic opus, “When the Music’s Over,” which was actually part of their live setlist before the first album was released. No doubt the group realized that two 11-minute songs would be one too many for a single album. The performances from Krieger and John Densmore on this track may be the best of their careers. When it’s all over, Strange Days doesn’t leave you exhausted like The Doors, but lingers in sweetly remembered melodies and ghostly encounters. This and their next album, Waiting for the Sun, lack some of the intensity of the first in favor of psychedelic exploration, but I don’t think any band could have maintained that intensity for long.

Original elpee version

A1. Strange Days (3:05)
A2. You’re Lost Little Girl (3:01)
A3. Love Me Two Times (3:23)
A4. Unhappy Girl (2:00)
A5. Horse Latitudes (1:30)
A6. Moonlight Drive (3:00)
B1. People Are Strange (2:10)
B2. My Eyes Have Seen You (2:22)
B3. I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind (3:18)
B4. When the Music’s Over (11:00)

All selections written and arranged by The Doors.

The Players

John Densmore (drums), Robby Krieger (guitar), Ray Manzarek (keyboards and marimba), Jim Morrison (vocals) with Douglas Lubahn (occasional bass). Produced by Paul A. Rothchild; production supervised by Jac Holzman; audio engineered by Bruce Botnick.

The Pictures

Cover photography by Joel Brodsky. Cover concept & art direction by William S. Harvey.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in October 1967* in the US (Elektra, EKS-74014) and the UK (Elektra, EKL 4014). Reached #3 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). (*First appeared in 10/28/67 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in November 1971 in the UK (Elektra, K42016) [butterfly label].
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Elektra, EKS-74014) [butterfly label].
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in Japan (Elektra, P-8370E) [butterfly label].
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Elektra, EKS-74014] [red-black label].
  5. Re-issued on elpee in the 1980s in the UK and Germany (Elektra, K42016) [red label].
  6. Re-issued on elpee in Yugoslavia (Suzy, ELK42016).
  7. Re-packaged with The Doors as Two Originals of The Doors on 2-for-1 2LP in Germany (Elektra, 62013).
  8. Re-released on remastered compact disc and cassette on May 24, 1988 in the US (Elektra, 74014).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Elektra, WPCR-11602).
  10. Re-released on remastered 180+ vinyl elpee and gold compact disc in the US (DCC, LPZ/GZS 1026).
  11. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the UK (WEA, 60657).
  12. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in Japan (Elektra, AMCY-6152).
  13. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2000 in Europe (WEA Int’l, 62548).
  14. Re-released on remastered elpee in 2012 in the US (Analogue Productions, AAPP-74014-45).
  15. Re-released on remastered mono 180g vinyl elpee and remastered stereo blue-grey vinyl elpee in 2017 in the US (Rhino, 081227931810, 081227932541).

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