The Doors ‘Waiting for the Sun’ Deluxe: Review

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The original Doors released six studio LPs and one concert album during their brief existence, and all of them reached the Top 10 in Billboard. As the liner notes on this 50th anniversary deluxe edition of Waiting for the Sun remind us, however, it is the only one of their albums that made it all the way to the top of the charts. That doesn’t make it their best release—some of Jim Morrison’s vocals are actually below par here, as are a few of the compositions. Still, there’s a lot to like on this third Doors LP, and it’s not difficult to see why it did so well commercially.

It opens with the infectious—and licentious—“Hello, I Love You,” which as a single also topped the charts, and it includes two memorable apparent responses to the Vietnam War: “The Unknown Soldier,” where Morrison sings, “Bullet strikes the helmet’s head, and it’s all over for the unknown soldier”; and “Five to One,” where he proclaims that “they got the guns but we got the numbers!” Also here are “We Could Be So Good Together,” a holdover from sessions for Strange Days, the previous album; “Not to Touch the Earth,” which sounds as if it could also have appeared on that LP; and the atypical, a cappella “My Wild Love.” Perhaps most notably, the record features an unusually large number of songs that lean more toward gentle folk than hard rock: “Spanish Caravan,” which spotlights Robbie Krieger’s flamenco guitar; the melancholy “Summer’s Almost Gone,” “Wintertime Love” and “Yes, the River Knows”; and the bouncy, piano-flavored “Love Street.”

Related: Our look back at Strange Days, the album prior to Waiting for the Sun

This 50th anniversary edition offers an excellent remaster of the original stereo mix on both vinyl and CD by original studio engineer Bruce Botnick; a second CD with rough mixes of nine of the album’s 11 songs as well as five live tracks, all of which have not been previously available; and an oversized booklet with extensive liner notes by both Botnick and Rolling Stone’s David Fricke plus the text of Morrison’s “Celebration of the Lizard,” which was originally supposed to fill a side of the album but wound up being omitted.

According to Botnick, the rough mixes allow you to “get the intent without the effects and hear things that were in the final mixes but buried in the perspective.” Well, maybe, but the differences are relatively slight, and many listeners might not even realize they’re not hearing the released versions. Remember, these are just early mixes, not alternate versions.

Listen to the hit single “Hello, I Love You”

A bonus CD offers rough mixes of nine of the album’s 11 songs as well as five live tracks, all of which have not been previously available.

The bonus CD’s live tracks, which have a total playing time of 16 minutes, come from a September 1968 concert in Copenhagen, Denmark. They include versions of Waiting for the Sun’s “Hello, I Love You,” “Five to One” and “The Unknown Soldier,” plus the Willie Dixon blues classic “Back Door Man,” a song that also appears on the Doors’ debut LP; and “The W.A.S.P (Texas Radio & the Big Beat),” which originally surfaced on L.A. Woman.

First, the bad news: these tracks were recorded in mono with a single microphone that was 30 or 40 feet from the stage, and the sound quality isn’t great. The good news? Botnick’s assertion that these are some of the best live Doors performances on record. The reading of “Hello, I Love You,” for example, is much more intense and hard-rocking than the poppy one that rode up the charts.

A headline in the booklet poses a query that some fans may be asking: “Why in hell should I buy another version of Waiting for the Sun when I own so many other versions already?” It’s a good question, and some people—especially anyone who already does own “many other versions”—may indeed find insufficient reason to upgrade again. But this is a worthwhile purchase for anyone who has only the original LP or CD (not to mention those who don’t even have one of those). As noted, the rough mixes are no big deal. But the Copenhagen material, while primitively recorded, should interest serious fans; and thanks to Botnick’s remaster, the original album has never sounded better.

Listen to “Back Door Man” live in Copenhagen, 1968

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Jeff Burger

Jeff Burger's website, byjeffburger.com, contains more than four decades' worth of music reviews and commentary. His books include the recently published Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters as well as Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.
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