Doors' "Waiting for the Sun" shines despite shadows

Third album from LA-based group shoots to the top of the charts

Catchy lyrics. Bouncy keyboards. Sinewy, jagged guitar. "Hello, I Love You," the leadoff song from the Doors third album "Waiting for the Sun," had all the hallmarks of a hit single.

The tunes that followed threw critics for a loop. "Love Street" was a tinkling ballad describing a beloved's idyllic yet vaguely nightmarish abode; "Summer's Almost Gone" found lead singer Jim Morrison in a detached, melancholy mood; in "My Wild Love" the Los Angeles-based four-piece eschewed rock n' roll for hand claps, rattles, and chants.

Described as autumnal and mellower than the Door's first two records, the album was nevertheless embraced by fans who sent it and the first song to the top of the charts. Released July 11, 1968, "Waiting for the Sun" became Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore's first and only number one album.

It was originally conceived as a vehicle for "Celebration of the Lizard," a theatrical nearly 15-minute long multipart song that was to be the highlight of the album. But the centerpiece was dropped after the band failed to perfect the song in the studio. Still, the lyrics were printed inside the gatefold sleeve of the album's cover, which featured an illustration of a lizard.

The record that was eventually released does have one or two weak moments but they're balanced by searing recordings such as the apocalyptic and eerie "Not to Touch the Earth," excerpted from "Celebration of the Lizard," and "The Unknown Soldier," an urgent, dramatic jab at the Vietnam War that featured the sounds of an execution by gunfire followed by cries that "the war is over!" Clocking in at under 33 minutes, the album closed with "Five to One," where a sultry, vaguely menacing Morrison growled lyrics about the young getting stronger and "no one here" getting out alive.

There were other albums that July. The Grateful Dead released "Anthem of the Sun"; a cast recording of "Hair" hit the shelves and so did The Band's "Music from the Big Pink." But there was nothing quite like the Door's "Waiting for the Sun." Urgent, morose and often creepy, the record is a perfect soundtrack to the year's unsettled summer.