It’s a shame that The Doors documentary When You’re Strange isn’t playing in Toronto, or anywhere else in the country for that matter. The documentary by Tom DeCillo looks at the dynamics and cultural impact of The Doors through previously unseen footage of the band, narrated by Johnny Depp. As a fan of both Johnny Depp and The Doors, the idea of seeing the film certainly is compelling, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD release.
I try to carry over some of this curiosity as I listen to the soundtrack for the film. On paper, the album sounds great. 13 tracks from The Doors spanning six albums, featuring both studio recorded and live tracks with Johnny Depp reading Jim Morrison’s poetry between songs. Unfortunately, the album on stereo sounds a lot less exciting than it does in theory. The “poems” are really just brief spoken introductions, never reaching for even a minute in length. Certainly they’re well integrated with the music, but they also fall short of helping the album channel the beautiful strangeness of The Doors. The best thing I can say about the poetry is that it doesn’t actually hinder the music on this album.
The music itself is a little uninspiring. Don’t get me wrong, it is The Doors, but if you were expecting any surprises, this album has none in store. Studio recordings of “Moonlight Drive”, “Five to One”, “Hello I Love You”, “People are Strange”, “Soul Kitchen”, “Touch Me”, “The End”, “LA Woman”, “Riders on the Storm”, “The Crystal Ship”, and bonus track “Love Her Madly” (who exactly the easily accessible “Love Her Madly” is a bonus track for is unclear, it’s not exactly an exclusive). Live performances of “Break on Through”, “Light My Fire”, “When the Music’s Over”, and “Roadhouse Blues” are interspersed between the studio recordings. The live recordings are also not rarities by any means, and are taken from The Ed Sullivan Show, the Live in New York boxset, a Danish television performance, and 1970’s release of documentary Live at the Isle of Wight.
The soundtrack really has nothing to offer to the seasoned or even sometimes Doors listener. But even entry level Doors fans could have a hard-time getting into this record as it reads less like an album, and more like an audio recording of The Doors, for Beginners. Aside from a little negligible audio from Johnny Depp, this soundtrack is just another greatest hits recording with a future in a discount bin.
© Natascha Malta, Music Vice