What to Listen For? you ask?
ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.
The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.
Huh? I’m guessing this statement does not comport well with your own experience of the album, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide strong evidence for any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed, lifeless and sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like an old rock record.
The Butterfly and Small Red E labels are so contemptibly thin and harsh they are not worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. You would be much better off with the DCC Gold CD than any of the reissue vinyl we’ve ever heard. Good digital beats bad analog anyday.
Botnick Knocks It Out of the Park
But this album is engineered by Bruce Botnick. The right pressings give you the kind of low-end punch and midrange presence you hear on Love’s first album (when you play the right gold label originals). Botnick engineered them both, and what’s even more amazing is that The Doors first is an even better recording than Love’s!
All tube from start to finish, the energy captured on these Hot Stampers has to be heard to be believed. Not to mention the fact that the live-in-the-studio musicians are swimming in natural ambience, with instruments leaking from one mic to another, and most of them bouncing back and forth off the studio walls to boot.
But the thing that caught us most by surprise is how much LIFE there is in the performances you can hear on the best of these Hot Stamper copies. Morrison pulled out all the stops for his vocals on songs like Backdoor Man and Break On Through; unless you have a very special pressing there is almost no chance you will ever hear him perform with this kind of raw power.
It’s nothing short of amazing to hear that first testosterone-fueled yell at the start of Backdoor Man on side two. It’s also the best sounding cut on the album. We were hard-pressed to think of any other rock album recorded in 1966 (released in ’67) that can compete with it, not for energy and live-in-your-listening-room presence anyway.
Rolling Stone Review
By Parke Puterbaugh
April 8, 2003
The Doors arrived in 1967, the same year as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; both were psychedelic touchstones and among the first major rock discs that truly stood as albums, rather than collections of songs. But whereas the Beatles took a basically sunny view of humanity, the Doors’ debut offered the dark side of the moon. Their sound was minor-keyed and subterranean, bluesy and spacey, and their subject matter — like that of many of rock’s great albums — was sex, death and getting high. On “End of the Night,” the band invited you to “take a journey to the bright midnight.”
The key to the band’s appeal was the tension between singer Jim Morrison’s Dionysian persona and the band’s crisp, melodic playing. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger’s extended solos on the album version of “Light My Fire” carried one to the brink of euphoria, while the eleven-minute epic “The End” journeyed to a harrowing psychological state. Scattered among these lengthier tracks are such nuggets as “Soul Kitchen” (“learn to forget”) and Morrison’s acid-drenched takes on the blues (“Back Door Man”) and Kurt Weill (“Alabama Song”). Though great albums followed, The Doors stands as the L.A. foursome’s most successful marriage of rock poetics with classically tempered hard rock — a stoned, immaculate classic.
Break on Through (To the Other Side)
The Crystal Ship
Twentieth Century Fox
Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)
Light My Fire
Back Door Man
I Looked at You
End of the Night
Take It as It Comes
MoFi and DCC Vinyl
The Doors first album was yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for sucked-out mids. Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center.
When the DCC Doors first album was released on vinyl we noted that the vocals were finally back where they belonged: after having lived with the MoFi for so many years we’d almost forgotten. And now of course we can’t tolerate the smear and opacity of the DCC. We like to think we’re simply setting higher standards these days. We expect that you are too or you wouldn’t be on our site reading all this.
The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you play. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 40 years.
Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.
And note also that when you play your records too softly it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth. That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear the pressings with real presence and immediacy, because they’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts. If you have any of our killer Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.