Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
I'm a relatively avid Doors fan, but I only recently discovered the existence of their keyboard man's 1974 solo album. As you may guess, there are plenty of the groovin' organ sounds that you might expect, along with Manzarek's not completely embarrassing attempts to create a Morrison-like vocal croon. With some studio pros like drummer Tony Williams and bassist Jerry Scheff along for the ride, we get some quality playing here that pushes the sound into jazzier territory than we typically heard with the Doors.
We'll start with noting the centerpiece of the album, "The Purpose Of Existence Is?" Starting with a whispy organ solo, we end up right smack in a L.A. Woman-style sleeze bar groove, complete with the philosophical lyrics. Not that this is a carbon copy of the Doors. The musicians here swing way more than the Doors ever did, and Manzarek's vocals add an inviting playfulness that never appeared on a Morrison recording.
Really, the first half of the album comes across a whole lot better than you might expect. "He Can't Come Today" is a cool Latin-tinged rocker where Manzarek's singing doesn't sound completely assured, but the band certainly does. There's also the fine title track, which is a funky tune where Manzarek spews forth a bunch of Egyptian mythology, and that manages to amuse me pretty well.
Coming far out of left field is the instrumental "The Moorish Idol." It's sort of like a slab of 50's style exotica shot through latin jazz-rock and a piercing synthesizer. I guess that makes it sort of a fusion piece, which makes perfect sense with Tony Williams being around. Anyhow, it's a nice change of pace that nicely spices up the album.
The Golden Scarab is fortunately more than a curiosity piece. Manzarek manages to both acknowledge his past with the Doors and press on in a few new directions. It's too bad that this (along with a second solo album) seems to have been more of a false start than a proper solo career.
Ray Manzarek - 1974 - The Golden Scarab