“When You’re Strange: Songs From The Motion Picture” is a mixture of readings of Jim Morrison’s poems and non-sequiturs, interviews from all the members of The Doors, and the music of The Doors. At first a CD which incorporates the poetry of Jim Morrison and the music of The Doors may seem like a sequel to “An American Prayer”, but the soundtrack to “When You’re Strange” is quite unlike anything The Doors have released before. The soundtrack comes out Tuesday April 6th, and is the companion piece to the forthcoming release of the film the following Friday on April 9th.
The soundtrack includes the classic album versions of the songs such as “Moonlight Drive”, “Hello, I Love You”, and “Soul Kitchen”, plus live performances including “Light My Fire” from The Ed Sullivan show where Morrison famously refused to leave out the word ‘higher‘ as requested by the censors, “When The Music’s Over” from the Danish television broadcast, and “Break On Through” from the Isle of Wight.
Jim Morrison’s poetry is read by Johnny Depp who is reputed to have recorded the pieces on his boat in a darkened candlelit room. At first I thought that having Depp read Morrison’s poetry was a nod to increase the commercial potential of the soundtrack, Depp being one of the biggest contemporary actors, but he brings his own hip cache and was drawn to the project by allure and legend of The Doors (he’s a fan). Depp’s understated readings may not have the full dramatic weight that Morrison used when recording his poems for the birthday recording sessions that were later used in “An American Prayer”. Anyone who has heard Morrison reading his poems finds his voice compelling even without music. Depp’s candlelit reading works, it sets the tone, his reading of the poems has a sultry almost dusky tone to it, and you can almost hear the smoke of those black cigarettes Depp smokes curling around Morrison‘s words.
The soundtrack of “When You’re Strange” has a different feeling and tone than other Doors albums, CDs, or previous anthologies. First of all it doesn’t rely on the usual chronological placement of songs, or necessarily include all “the hits,” but aims more for giving the listener a sense of what The Doors were about, a fusion and interweaving of poetry with the music, as the poetry segues very smoothly into the songs. The poems don’t seem to have been picked to add any context to the songs, or compliment the songs — or even the reverse, the songs adding context to the poems — but they seem to naturally fit together. Morrison‘s poetry and the music of The Doors has always seemed to fit together as if they were always meant to be there. There’s a couple clips of interviews where the band speaks for itself following the film’s agenda of using only period clips and quotes from the band. Some of these may not be all that well known, and Morrison‘s “Dead Serious” gives you a little idea of where their heads were at.
This one disc CD includes a booklet with pictures of the band, plus quotes from the movie’s director Tom DiCillo, Johnny Depp, and producer Dick Wolf. The booklet opens up into a mini-sized print of the movie poster. “When You’re Strange: Songs From The Motion Picture” creates an aural documentary of the film that can either compliment the viewing of the film or stand alone as a piece that provides some of the documentary elements giving the listener a feel for the film.
Originally published April 6, 2010.