Music

Celebrating 50 Years of the Doors' Experimental 'Strange Days'

Photo: Elektra Records

The 50th anniversary reissue of the Doors' second album, Strange Days, offers a direct, no frills edition that emphasizes the dynamic, solid music.

Strange Days (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
The Doors

Rhino

17 Nov 2017

The Doors' 1967 follow-up didn't match the success of their self-titled debut, but Strange Days excelled in delivering a much better overall record that documents the band's experimentation and musicianship. When originally released, critics cited its progression on the Doors' debut, with Rolling Stone praising it as more effective and representing the theatricality of the Doors' in opposition to counterparts like the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Seen through Jim Morrison, the band was evocative and expanded expressively upon rock and roll. Strange Days, though cited in 1967 as an improvement, only reached no. 3 in Billboard largely with The Doors still selling well on a lengthy stay in the charts. Regardless, this 50th-anniversary edition is a worthy reissue, with a simple approach celebrating the value of the original album and the two methods of listening to it in 1967: stereo and mono.

Released in a crowded and exciting year of music (1967), Strange Days documented a concerted attempt to expand on popular music and fully realize the Doors' uniqueness. The remastering for this reissue captures the raw quality and energy of the band's performances, while additionally highlighting their experimentation with new instrumentation and capturing sound to recreate elemental sonic realities. Both stereo and mono sound amazing on this edition, with an essay included that details the efforts undertaken to produce this edition as close to the original master as possible.

As with other anniversary editions using modern digital technology to clean-up analog recordings, minor unintended sounds are eliminated to enhance the album. These efforts maximize the presence of the different instrumentations, while organ and dynamic guitar work dominate to truly recapture the band's range and Morrison's emotional delivery. No bonus tracks are included, a missed opportunity in comparison to other 50th anniversary reissues like the Beatles' massive exploration of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but a different approach that contains the album perfectly and presents the work divergently different from that example as the album was in 1967. Reissues often give fans more information about the album, at the cost of stripping its legacy away in places, and this reissue retains the legacy and precisely celebrates what Strange Days offered listeners.

The album's most successful tracks like "Love Me Two Times" and "People Are Strange" retain their success in this reissue, but their placement alongside the album's stronger tracks without any single or other edits, out-takes, etc. emphasizes how they played next to more experimental and dynamic tracks. "Love Me Two Times" followed and preceded two tracks with a similar tone and feel, but "You're Lost Little Girl" and "Unhappy Girl" connect the singer to those subjects with a radically different emotional attitude. Likewise, the unsettling qualities of "Horse Latitudes" document Morrison's poetry and the band's willingness to challenge the listener upon what rock and roll could be. Equal in that regard is the final track "When the Music's Over", a monumental, 11-minute song that changes patterns and structure with a strength that propels the album far above its counterparts and competition of the time.

The direct approach offered on this anniversary release may offer the casual listener little beyond previous reissues of Strange Days, but to the fan celebrating a half-century of the Doors', or to the listener interested in the captivating qualities of the band, it's a welcome alternative to the massive reissues common with such anniversaries. Strange Days was a relevant exploration of rock and roll when it was recorded and released amidst the Summer of Love, and the 50th anniversary deluxe edition documents that achievement with ease. It is ultimately about the music and what it represented 50 years ago, focused on that achievement and the care to recreate it directly for those encountering the album ago and those hearing Strange Days for the first listen.

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