Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ray Manzarek - Another Door Closed

Yesterday, I learned the unfortunate news of the passing of one of members of The Doors – keyboardist Ray Manzarek. At 74 years of age, Manzarek succumbed at a clinic in Germany where he was being treated for bile duct cancer. Along with Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore, the four were architects of a sound that helped define a generation.

Key to that sound was Ray Manzarek. One of the best examples of Manzarek’s keyboard talent is found on the last song recorded by the band, “Riders on the Storm.” Released as a single from their LP “L.A. Woman” just prior to Jim Morrison’s death in 1971, the single only peaked at #14, but it remains one of their best known tunes.

While credited to all the members of the band, Manzarek was the primary author having been inspired by the western tune “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Unlike earlier recordings by the band which featured Manzarek on standard keyboard instruments and a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass, “L.A. Woman” used an actual session musician, Jerry Scheff, playing bass. He can be heard on this cut.

The song was written in E Dorian mode and Manzarek’s Fender Rhodes piano is integral to the song including imitating rain drops with his classic run down the keyboard – probably one the better known keyboard licks in all of rock music. Typical of the Rhodes, there is a little bit of distortion from the instrument.

Morrison’s vocals were recorded on two tracks – one in which he sung the main vocal line and another where he whispered the lyrics – creating a unique faux echo effect at the end of the tune. Add to this real sound effects of thunder and rain and the keyboard interplay with Robby Krieger’s guitar, the final mix created a haunting melody. I can’t imagine a world without Ray Manzarek – we are the fortunate ones to have heard him play and improvise. Long live his music. Rest in Peace Ray.

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