The Doors, Greatest Hits. This isn’t the first or even second compilation from the Doors, but it is the best. Though quibblers like me might lament the omission of such tracks as “Love Her Madly” and “Moonlight Drive,” few would suggest that any of what has been included does not belong. Moreover, all 10 tracks have been remastered on the latest equipment, which makes these classics sound better than they ever have before. Partly for that reason, but mainly because of the quality of the music itself, the album seems remarkably vital and contemporary; it’s not just a major source for today’s artists but an equal to their best efforts. Among the selections: “Light My Fire,” “People Are Strange,” “L.A. Woman,” and “Break On Through.”
The Doobie Brothers, One Step Closer. The Doobies’ latest starts with a well-performed good song (“Dedicate This Heart”), follows it with what may be their best effort ever (“Real Love”), and then degenerates into a series of banalities and bungled ideas. The underutilization of Mike McDonald and overuse of the group’s disappointing new members account for much of the problem, which results in such amateurish supper-club jazz as “Thank You Love” and in trivia like “South Bay Street.” Recommendation: skip the album and pick up the single version of “Real Love.”
Joni Mitchell, Shadows and Light. This live set is Joni Mitchell’s best album in some time; it not only sheds fresh light on her jazz explorations and overall career but also adds an important chapter to the history of rock recordings. Almost without exception, Mitchell’s vocals here are her most elastic, emotive, and exhilarating to date; and her star-studded band, highlighted by guitarist Pat Metheny and saxophonist Michael Brecker, easily outranks past backups. The performances, which focus on relatively recent tunes like “Hejira,” “Coyote,” and “Dreamland,” nearly all outshine the studio originals.
The Records, Crashes. To an even greater extent than its Beatlesque predecessor, the Records’ second album sounds like a pointed effort to recapture the legendary Merseybeat style; you could make a game of trying to pick out all the references to Beatle tunes, and the production is straight out of Rubber Soul and Revolver. So the album falls flat on its pretentious, calculated face, right? Wrong. While not every track works equally well, the set is saved by the Records’ charm, sincerity, talent, and obvious sense of pleasure. Crashes is good fun all the way through and, for those who pine for more of that ol’ Liverpudlian warmth, it may be just what the doctor ordered.