The Singles 1
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The Singles (Remastered)
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This collection spotlights every single, and B-side, the band released, all gathered together for the first time. This 2CD/1Blu-ray release also includes four “Mono Radio Versions” of some of the band’s biggest hits, such as “Hello, I Love You” and “Touch Me,” which have never been made available anywhere after being sent to radio around their original release. It also includes high-resolution quadrophonic mixes of the 1973 compilation The Best Of The Doors on Blu-ray for the first time.
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The remastering has been done by Bruce Botnick, whose association with The Doors goes back to his engineering their very first album. The quality is superb – you’ll never have heard “The Crystal Ship” as crystal clear.
However, the real pleasure for me in listening to this collection lies in comparing single and studio versions to spot subtle variations between the two, such as the slight touch of echo at the start here of “When You’re Strange.”
After Jim Morrison had been arrested for lewd behaviour on stage in Miami, John Lennon was somewhat dismissive of The Doors, suggesting that true musicians had no need for such gimmickry. This great box set reminds anyone who needs reminding that The Doors represent a superbly talented quartet - keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger as much as frontman Jim Morrison – and that at their best they bear comparison with the very greatest.
Because of this, The Doors are no stranger to compilation albums and greatest hits packages, which seem to be a dime a dozen. Their core couple of dozen hits are well known and respected, and for good reason. But this new release from Rhino Entertainment offers something new. Specifically, this is not a greatest hits package; rather, it's a collection of all the singles that the band released over their lifetime--as in 45 rpm record singles--complete with both the A and B sides of that single. This is fantastic because some of those B-sides (I count three) never appeared on any of their original Elektra albums.
Furthermore, many of the A-sides are notable themselves for two reasons. The first, and perhaps most important, is that the singles were released in the late sixties and early seventies with radio play in mind. The uncut versions of the songs that exist on so many of the full-length albums would never have fit on a 45 record and weren't designed with radio play in mind. The mentality of radio stations and music companies at the time dictated that songs should be under three minutes, allowing for more music to be played per block. For an example, let's look at the song "Light My Fire" from the band's 1967 debut. That song, as it exists on the album, is over seven minutes long (7:06, specifically), which is too long for a radio single. It has lengthy organ and guitar solos, which were cut for the radio version, bringing the single edit of the song down to 2:52. That single version is what is represented on this album, and the track that follows it is the B-side to that single, "The Crystal Ship."
The other notable thing about this collection is that these single mixes are different from the album mixes. That distinction may not appeal to a casual listener, but if you're into The Doors, that's a big deal because it means that these songs sound different. Whereas the album mixes of some of these songs rise and fall in volume and offer a more nuanced experience (because The Doors were, if anything, very much about creating an experience), the single mixes are blasts of sixties rock perfection. They were meant to punch the listener and grab their attention, and they come out of the gate at full blast.
As a coincidence of this last reason, there are a handful of mono mixes (every track here is represented in stereo) offered as a bonus at the end of the compilation. This provides a glimpse into how these songs sounded when they debut on A.M. radio fifty years ago this year. They sound amazing, and the mastering done on these mixes is fantastic.
As for the specifics of the package, the collection contains 44 tracks spread across two CDs. The first disc covers all the singles and B-sides released while Jim Morrison was still alive, while the second disc offers the post-Morrison Doors singles that were released during the band's seventies years. This compilation even covers the singles from the controversial An American Prayer album in which the surviving Doors recorded music over Jim Morrison's reading of his poetry, as well as from their 1983 live album, Alive, She Cried, which itself was culled from earlier performances. Add in the mono mixes as a supplement and you've got an exhaustive and complete chronology of the band's United States singles releases with every accompanying B-side. The package itself is pretty minimal; there's no booklet or essays, simply a brief description of what date each single was issued and what album it came from.
It's rare that a compilation like this actually offers something both for new and old fans alike, but The Singles manages to do exactly that. For newcomers eager to dip their toe into the waters, the package is a terrific introduction to the raw power and energy of The Doors. For older fans who have seen and heard it all, this collection introduces mono mixes not heard in decades and single mixes that are different from the albums, plus a few rarities that had become hard to find. By putting all of this in one place, it's hard not to give this double-CD set the highest recommendation possible.