Jim Morrison Lives -- Sort Of

Doors 'reunite' with deceased singer's vocal for box set

Although "The Doors Box Set" hits stores in less than a month, the band's surviving members -- John Densmore, Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek -- still can't agree on why they selected the songs on its four discs. "I wanted it to be a comedy album," claimed Bruce Botnick, the group's longtime producer. "All you hear about is Jim [Morrison]'s dark side." But Manzarek had a different conception: "People should listen for the spiritual side of our music."

Whatever their intent, the track sure to get the most attention is "Orange County Suite," which the band's record company, Elektra, is trumpeting as the group's first new song in two decades.

Huh?

Taking a page from the Beatles playbook -- though the comparison seems to rankle the band -- the song is a posthumous reunion with Jim Morrison, for which the three surviving Doors played new instrumental tracks over a vocal the singer recorded in 1970. As might be expected, the result sounds like an outtake from "L.A. Woman."

"It came together amazingly easily," Densmore said of the session at a press conference at Los Angeles' Whisky-A-Go-Go announcing the album's release. Although he, Kreiger and Manzarek worked separately on ideas for the song, they found they were still in sync when they entered the studio. "The rhythm I had in mind worked perfectly with the bassline that Robbie envisioned," Densmore added. Indeed, the only trouble came from some studio equipment, which broke down when they were ready to record. "We looked at each other and said, 'Well, Jim's here,'" Kreiger laughed.

Judging from the attendance at the press conference -- some fans waited overnight in front of the Whisky hoping to get in -- interest in the band remains strong. Still, some in the industry worry about the timing of the set, which also includes various live tracks, a 1970 performance at New York's Madison Square Garden and unreleased material, including some 1965 demos. "It's about five years too late," an executive at one reissue imprint said. "They're not nearly as hot a commodity now."

Others disagree. Todd Meehan, manager of Tower Records on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, has ordered 750 copies of the four-disc set to meet the expected demand. "People will be very excited," he said, adding that the time lag hasn't hurt the Cream box set, which sold out his original order in less than a week.