By The Doors’ third LP, the recording of which commenced less than a year after the release of their debut, the band had run out of songs and Jim Morrison was often drunk or absent from the studio. Three songs were composed solely by guitarist Robby Krieger (who had penned The Doors’ biggest hit, “Light My Fire”), and, like their sophomore effort, other tracks were leftovers from previous sessions. You can instantly recognize Krieger’s contributions due to their unabashed romanticism and the absence of Morrison’s cynicism (“Wintertime winds blow cold this season/Fallin’ in love I’m hopin’ to be!” goes the impossibly gushy first line of “Wintertime Love”), while “We Could Be So Good Together” is categorically pre-fame Morrison (“The time you wait subtracts from joy” is the kind of hippie idealism he’d long given up on).
With the radio-friendly “Hello, I Love You” as its first single (another song mined from the band’s catalog of unreleased songs), Waiting For The Sun appeared to many as The Doors’ attempt to regain the success they’d enjoyed prior to the remarkable but difficult Strange Days. Despite its trippy undertones and frenzied climax (heightened further by Morrison’s previously unheard screams on the newly expanded version of the CD), the song was innocuous enough to score the band its second—and last—#1 single, as well as their only chart-topping LP. The album is home to some of The Doors’ prettiest, most genial lilts: “Love Street,” a fictionalized sketch of the Bohemian street where Morrison lived with his wife, Pamela Courson; the wistful “Summer’s Almost Gone,” which includes the lovely refrain, “Morning found us calmly unaware/Noon burned gold into our hair”; and the placid piano ballad “Yes, The River Knows.” More and more, Morrison was starting to emulate one of his idols, Frank Sinatra—after all, they had an insatiable taste for women and alcohol in common.
But while Waiting For The Sun was decidedly more accessible, it also features some of The Doors’ most combative, political work. “The Unknown Soldier” is a barefaced antiwar polemic, a reaction to the Vietnam-era hostilities that were brewing on the home front and which undoubtedly informed almost everything the band did. In particular, Morrison was disturbed by the way the war was being sold to the public (“Breakfast where the news is read/Television children fed”), a sentiment that, four decade later, is still frighteningly relevant. He wasn’t exactly a peacenik, though, as the call-to-arms “Five To One,” reveals; addressing the generational divide, Morrison declares, “They got the guns but we got the numbers,” and then sneers, “Your ballroom days are over, baby.” That Morrison was obviously trashed when he recorded his vocal—exemplified by the unfocused, partially improvised lyrics—doesn’t detract from the song’s import. In fact, it highlights the desperation and often flawed logic of an entire generation.
Despite the fact that Morrison was becoming a self-destructing mess, Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore were never more lucid—perhaps to compensate. This was a band at its most dexterous, creative, and musically diverse: “The Unknown Soldier” is, at turns, jazzy and cinematic; you can hear the origins of heavy metal on “Five To One”; and Krieger’s flamenco guitar background steers the spectacular “Spanish Caravan,” which abruptly shifts into an electrifying second half worthy of one of rock’s best bands. The Doors, however, couldn’t pull things together quite well enough to finish the 17-minute opus “Celebration Of The Lizard,” which, according to the liner notes, is about “a mass exodus from modern civilization” and is featured here as a bonus track (the sinister climax, “Not To Touch The Earth,” is the only part that made it onto the original record). Despite the gratuitous addition of spoken bits at the beginning and end of various songs, the inclusion of this work-in-progress, along with the band’s rendition of Albinoni’s “Adagio In G Minor,” make the often overlooked Waiting For The Sun even more of a treasure in its reissued form.