Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Previews & Novelties (Copenhagen, May 1971)


K.B. Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark – May 3rd, 1971

Disc 1 (72:26): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dazed And Confused, Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be

Disc 2 (50:21): Four Sticks, Gallows Pole, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Misty Mountain Hop, Rock And Roll

The greatest benefit in collecting unofficial releases is in hearing the rare and unique performances. For Led Zeppelin there are none more so than the audience recording of the May 3rd show at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen. Although they did the club tour in the UK and a mysterious tour of Europe, this is one of the least documented of any period in Zeppelin’s history. Outside of the Ireland tapes and the April BBC broadcast, Copenhagen is the best sounding and most complete live tape of the first half of 1971. The audience recording is very good and clear. The music is very enjoyable but Plant’s comments are very low. There is a small cut at the very end of “Black Dog” losing the final note, after “Stairway To Heaven,” after “Gallows Pole,” and after “Whole Lotta Love” and “Communication Breakdown.”

Two songs, “Four Sticks” and “Gallows Pole” are found on the vinyl Live In Copenhagen July 21 1971 & Staines March 25 1969(Rock Solid Records SSA-B) along with “Dazed And Confused” from the Supershow and Loose Ends (Supercharded Records SC004) has “Four Sticks” and “Rock And Roll.” The earliest CD release is the Australian Poles And Sticks (Black Cat BC-33), which runs at the wrong speed. It can be found also on Copenhagen 1971 (Cobra 012), Loove! (Tarantura T2CD-9) and its European clone The 2nd European Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL011/12), K,B (Image Quality IQ-051/52) and on In Concert In Copenhagen (Empress Valley EVSD 113/114) which sounds very flat compared to the others. Previews & Novelties was released in the summer of 2000 along with the other titles on this label and is one of the best sounding editions of this show. The others are cut fifteen minutes into “Dazed And Confused” but that is not found on Equinox.

The excitement builds early with the opening numbers, so much so that Plant sings the wrong lines in the first verse of “Immigrant Song.” After one of the heaviest “Heartbreaker” on tape there is a short delay with some in the audience causing a fuss. “Whoa, stop stop stop, whoa, tell him, tell him, tell him to stop. Tell him if there’s any trouble we walk off, right? We go. Leave him alone, leave him alone. We can’t play if there’s going to be this going on through every number. Somebody better tell him in Danish what the score is. We cannot, we cannot play if there’s going to be a constant passage of people moving. We’d rather people sit on the floor. So sit down. We want to give you a concert of music, and we cannot do it if there’s a lot of people running around.”

The arrangements of the pieces are most similar to the BBC broadcast from the previous month. “Dazed And Confused” in particular sounds very close with the same spaced out improvisations by the end. Three songs from the as yet released fourth album follow including one of the earliest versions of “Stairway To Heaven” before a live audience which is introduced as something that “goes on for some time and gets nice, another profound statement.” The new song “Going To California” and “That’s The Way” form a two song acoustic set in the middle. Plant goes into introducing a fourth new song, saying we’re gonna try something that we have never tried before, and there’s every chance it’ll fall apart” before realizing they have to play “What Is And What Should Ever Be” next.

After the Led Zeppelin II track he continues with his nervous introduction, saying, “Now this is a thing, I was saying we’re never done before. It seems we had to come round to it, so, so here we go. This ah, this hasn’t even got a title yet, but we’ll think of one as the night goes on.” Page tunes his guitar to some applause and Plant replies, “for your entertainment.” What follows is the first and only live performance of “Four Sticks” by Led Zeppelin and for such a difficult song they manage to pull it off well onstage. Plant is still able to hit the high notes and is effective in creating a tense and ecstatic atmosphere in the venue. The first full performance of “Gallows Pole” from the third album follows. The arrangement differs slightly since Bonham comes in with the drums during the first verse. The subtle build up of the studio recording is replaced by a live blast of fury.

A twenty minute “Whole Lotta Love” closes the set. The medley includes “Boogie Chillun’,” “Cumberland Gap,” “That’s Alright” with Page doing a great James Burton impersonation, “Mess O’ Blues” and “Honey Bee,” a carry over from the previous years medley. A long encore set begins with “Communication Breakdown” with a long bass solo by John Paul Jones and the first live reference to “Celebration Day” played in the middle. “Misty Mountain Hop” is played for the first time and the only time as an encore. It would form part of the regular set by the end of 1972 and the final new song ”Rock And Roll,” introduced as “It’s Been A Long Time” closes the event. Previews And Novelties is a unique Zeppelin show with a great recording and Equinox produced an excellent version of the tape. There is very little mastering done on the tape so it has a very dynamic and natural sounding timbre.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Previews & Novelties | , | Leave a comment

The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker (1990)


By 1990, the hard rock sound, which peaked in the early 70s, had long since worn out its welcome. It had progressed to the point of becoming a ludicrous parody of itself. Groups like Motley Crue, Poison and Def Leppard were the logical progression of the 70s hard rock sound. They took the look, sound and theatrics of the 70s rockers to ridiculous proportions.

This was thanks in part to Kiss, who proved that image could be more important than music. By the late 70s, rock groups were taking things a step further and exaggerating the look and style of Mick Jagger, Robert Plant and Steven Tyler.

By the early/mid 80s, the hard rock look and sound pioneered by the aforementioned names had reached the point of absurdity. Hair metal was all the rage and MTV had ushered in a video era where the look was now just as important as the music, if not more so. With this new image, the quality of the music suffered immensely. This new generation of rockers was so enraptured with the rock and roll lifestyle that they completely forgot about musicianship and artistry. This music is now affectionately known as Cheese Metal or Hair Metal. Music that seems laughable nowadays, with snicker-inducing hair and fashion to match. Music that could, in no way, be taken seriously by any true lover of music.

The trend wore on and throughout the late 80s, many now-forgotten hair metal groups came and went. Then, in 1990, a group came out of Georgia with a completely different ideology. This group, The Black Crowes, was making music that was completely out of style in this world of hair spray and spandex. Their debut, Shake Your Money Maker, was full of tight, fiery spurts of boogie-rock, the likes of which had not been heard on a major record since the mid-70s. Songs like “Twice As Hard” and “Jealous Again” stood out like a sore thumb amidst the dreary sea of synthesized, phony hard rock of 1990. This was rock that went back to the basics. This was rock that was genuine. Rock that forsook image and style and concentrated on the music and the interplay between musicians.

Shake Your Money Maker was a godsend for rock fans who were tired of rockers who leaped about on the stage in tight pink pants while flames erupted from the stage floor. This is real rock and roll. This is not an image. This is music. The Black Crowes took the influence of the best of the early 70s scene. Lead singer Chris Robinson encapsulated the 70s rock lead singer. Summoning a bit of Rod Stewart (The Faces), Steve Marriot (Humble Pie), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Paul Rodgers (Free/Bad Company) and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) with each song, Robinson took the lead-singer image and idea back to its roots.

The guitar work of Rich Robinson and Jeff Cease was concise and bluesy, recalling the Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones. The stinging slide guitar on “Twice As Hard”, must have been a revelation since nearly every bit of blues influence had been drained since the hair-metal revolution. Songs such as “Could I’ve Been So Blind”, “Seeing Things” and “Thick N’ Thin” resuscitated the deceased blues-rock form with vibrance that was sorely lacking from even the best of the mainstream rock acts.

Shake Your Money Maker proved that good, old-fashioned rock and roll had not died. The Black Crowes brought it back to life. Los Angeles’ Guns N’ Roses was the only other group to come close to retro blues-rock with their “Appetite For Destruction”, but they were too nihilistic and nasty to truly channel the spirit of classic early 70s rock. Shake Your Money Maker and its follow-up “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” was overshadowed by Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, which took rock and roll in a new, unexplored direction. However, The Black Crowes were really the only group to give classic rock lovers their fix of hard riffs, tasty solos and bluesy, wailing vocals.

Shake Your Money Maker is an important album, and an oasis in the desert of the 1990 rock scene. This is probably the only 1990 album that sounds as if it could have been recorded in 1973. In 30 years, Shake Your Money Maker will still sound great, whereas most of 1990’s other musical offerings will be long forgotten, and more than likely, unlistenable.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Live In Charlotte 1972 (June 1972)


Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC – June 9th, 1972

Disc 1 (64:10): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp

Disc 2 (67:10): Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown

Live In Charlotte 1972 is the latest release of the great sounding third show from Led Zeppelin’s eighth tour of the US. The first silver release was an incomplete fragment of the show on Acoustic Tales In Charlotte (SIAE CS.CD.10-003) which has “Tangerine,” “That’s The Way,” “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” “What Is And What Should Never Be,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock And Roll,” “Communication Breakdown,” and “Dazed And Confused” out of proper sequence.

Don’t Do It If You Don’t Want To (Holy Grail HG-104/105) and Knees Up Mother Brown (Image Quality IQ-024/025) both have the entire show but run a bit fast. Compositions (Tarantura CC-001, 2) was issued in the summer of 1997 and is one of the final titles released by the original Tarantura label. Charlotte 1972 (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin Vol. 80) came out several years later, running at the correct speed. The new no label sounds much fatter and heavier than TDOLZ, presenting a more dynamic version of the common tape. It also runs at the correct speed as Diagrams.

Charlotte serves as an interesting contrast to the other, more well known tapes from the era. It isn’t s wired and wild as New York, Seattle or Los Angeles since Zeppelin are playing before a most quiet and boring crowd. In fact the tapers hold conversations throughout the show which serve as an interesting commentary of the event. It was not a sell out and the audience are very quiet and perplexed throughout the first half of the show.

The tape picks up right before “Immigrant Song” which is segued directly with “Heartbreaker.” At the end of the second song Page breaks a string on the guitar and instead of just waiting around doing nothing the band play “Celebration Day” on which he uses the double neck.

A regular in the 1971 set, this song was dropped from the new set list and was played in Brisbane and Amsterdam before Charlotte. Page flubs the first solo but plays a meditative solo at the song’s conclusion. Afterwards Plant says, “Alright, we got the string fixed. It’s really nice to be on holiday again. After ten months in England it gets…” He gets distracted by Bonham warming up and then goes into the usual story of “Black Dog.” Plant’s speech before “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is cut but the taper gives a remark about the police in the crowd.

“Good evening in the back” Plant says afterwards. “I didn’t even know you were there until I heard you snoring. Nice one. Sounds very much like the beginnings of a bull fight” as Page and Bonham get into the melody for “Knees Up Mother Brown” and Plant sings, “Knees up, knees up, never let the breeze up / Knees up Mother Brown.” “That’s on the next album actually. This is something from the last one. It will requires a bit of silence.”

The band, and especially Plant give a passionate delivery which gives them the first loud ovation of the night. The long acoustic set follows and the crowd offer polite applause but it is obvious they are bored and want only the heavy electric numbers. “Tangerine” is about “far away places in England like Glastonbury where King Arthur had his bands, or whatever he did. I don’t know if he had bands…It’s about as close as you can get when you’re in New York.”

Before “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” tapers have another interesting conversation: “I’m hoping they’ll get better. Looks like they’re kinda drunk or something.” “You don’t think they’re good?” “Oh, they’re pretty good but I hope they get better. They are much better than this. We’ll put that on the record.” “Did they play acoustics last time?” “No, this is the first time they ever done this on the tour.”

Someone in front of the stage requests “Hey Hey What Can I Do?” However, the band are getting ready for ”Dazed And Confused.” The audience perks up during the fast part after the second verse so much so that they rush the stage and Plant has to calm them down, singing “keep it cool / don’t do it if you don’t want no trouble / cool it cool it cool it.”

Page plays a slower majestic sounding riff before the violin bow section. During the long improvisation in the middle they get into ”Walter’s Walk” and “Hots On For Nowhere” with Plant scatting over the melody. There is a cut in the tape eliminating some stage dialogue but it picks up with Plant speaking about “reaching a rapport with officialdom. So whatever you do don’t collapse the stage. Don’t sit on the stage. Otherwise we’re all gonna blow it. Okay?”

After “What Is And What Should Never Be” Bonham extends “Moby Dick” to almost twenty minutes, completely losing any momentum gained in the preceding half hour. Things pick up again with “Whole Lotta Love” and the song begins great. During the theremin section Plant bangs the keyboard with elbows like John Lennon would do during “I’m Down.”

They get into ”Everybody Needs Somebody” and a bit of the boogie. But instead of singing “Boogie Chillun’” Plant sings “woman…way down inside” leading them back into the song’s finale. This is the only show on the tour with no medley. When they come back for the encores someone begs them to boogie, but they play “Rock And Roll” instead and afterwards Plant says, ”Good night. Let the sun shine on you.”

When the come back for the second encore Plant says, “Right. We were just on our way to the airport and we couldn’t do it.” “Liar!!” someone loudly shouts. Live In Charlotte 1972 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with several photographs from the tour on the artwork in the inside. This is a good production of a good but very bizarre and frustrating concert.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live In Charlotte 1972 | , | Leave a comment

The Doors: Unhinged Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes On Trial by John Densmore (2013)


I grew up in the 60’s to the strains of not “selling out” to the man, corporate America, and it was the musicians of the era that voiced those sentiments. When the 60’s were over, and the Vietnam War was over, and the sit-in’s and love-in’s were history, the baby boomer generation of hippies very quickly metamorphosized/mutated into the yuppies.

Some of the same rock stars of the 60`s that swore they would never sell out now have, or allowed their songs to be used in advertising. So were the 60’s ideals just a fad or real? Are those ideals relevant today? Doors drummer John Densmore tries to answer these questions in The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy on Trial as he recounts his experience in suing Doors keyboardist and guitarist Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger for using The Doors name and logo without permission. A book or manifesto from someone of Densmore’s generation on this issue is long overdue.

The Doors were a group that famously didn’t “sell out.” Jim Morrison didn’t change the lyric’s of Light My Fire for the Ed Sullivan show, and when he heard the rest of the group had sold the rights to Buick to use the same song he threatened to sue the rest of the band if they didn’t kill the deal and he would bring a Buick onstage and destroy it with a sledgehammer (more than a decade before Wendy O. Williams would do it in the Plasmatics) to see if Buick still wanted to use the song. Among fans, The Doors are famous for being a democratic organization, that is all four members of the group were equals and any one could veto a plan or suggestion and it wouldn’t happen. This was their practice and even documented before Jim Morrison left for Paris in the spring of 1971.

Unlike other rock bands of the era, The Doors had avoided the internecine battles and courtroom wars that other bands had gone through until Manzarek and Krieger decided to launch The Doors(in large type)of the 21st Century (in much smaller type)in 2002. The advertising used the logo of The Doors and pictures of Jim Morrison in the marketing of the band. Densmore stated his concerns early to Krieger who never followed through and soon The Doors found themselves in the last venue they would play as a group, in court. Soon Manzarek and Krieger would countersue Densmore for vetoing an ad for Cadillac that wanted to use “Break On Through” as a slogan (an ad that later ran with only the words `Break Through’ in it with a Led Zeppelin song instead of The Doors), the sides were drawn, Densmore and the estate of Jim Morrison versus Manzarek and Krieger.

The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy on Trial is John Densmore’s telling of the events in and around the trial. It isn’t a question by question transcript of the trial in legalese (such as Lenny Bruce got caught up in at the end of his career), but a highly accessible narrative of the highpoints of the trial plus what was going on in Densmore’s head surrounding the trial. At certain points the writing of the trial is riveting. Some of things we learn in The Doors Unhinged is that Stewart Copeland played a key part in Densmore’s case, that when Jim’s father testified that most of his testimony was his resume and status as a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, and he disapproved of those trying to use his son’s image without permission. It seems the Manzarek/Krieger legal team didn’t think it would help their case to try and discredit a man with those credentials. We learn that Jim Morrison had added a clause to their contract with their business manager stipulating that The Doors’ songs couldn’t be used in advertising without the written consent of all four members of the band.

A couple of things that stand out there are some anachronistic errors in the book at one point Manzarek/Krieger’s lawyer asked Densmore about the late Michael Jackson owning and selling to advertising The Beatles catalogue, but Michael Jackson wasn’t dead at the time of the 2003 trial. In the midst of the book is a chapter and half of Densmore’s political philosophy and beliefs (and as much as I agree with them) which seem a bit tedious and add nothing to our understanding of the trial or the issues involved in it. It also seems anachronistic speaking more to our current political situation as opposed to the 2003 political situation

One of Densmore’s stated goals in publishing The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy on Trial is that he hopes the last chapter will be a healing letter to his “musical brothers.” Will Ray and Robby read Densmore’s last chapter? I don`t know. Will it have the effect Densmore says he is looking for? Again, I don’t know, but there are a lot of reasons in The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy on Trial to read this book whether you’re a Doors fan or a rock fan in general. It is an intimate look inside a rock band and the dynamics that drive not only a band but individuals. You’re free to judge the members of The Doors based on their words and actions, through the prism of Densmore’s viewpoint. But The Doors Unhinged should also bring up questions in the reader’s mind such as what is the goal and message of an artistic work, is the song in itself the message, or is the message what a corporation wants you to hear in one of their advertisements?

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Book The Doors: Unhinged by John Densmore | , | Leave a comment

Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors by John Densmore (1991)


I feel sorry for John Densmore. Despite having been a rock star, the member of what was one of the world’s top half dozen rock groups, with all the groupies and money and glamor that that entailed, he remains at this book’s writing phenomenally insecure – a nebbish who never found himself despite immersing himself in the California human potential culture purported to deliver exactly that.

He’s insecure about girls, insecure about who’s his friend, insecure about his drab middle-class roots, insecure about his life prospects and failure to have accomplished much of anything until he became part of the Doors. Some of the introspection in here is so bare and revealing it’s almost embarrassing to read. The picture of this naïve Everyman locked into a creative foursome with Jim Morrison, the quintessential dangerous and destructive rock star, is priceless.

America was transiting from harmless British Invasion into superficially benign Flower Power, but Morrison meanwhile was wearing black, singing about sex and death, leading concerts that were like dark seances with sombre endings, and challenging band mates and audiences alike to confront their darker selves and deeper fears. He scared the hell out of the likes of John Densmore.

Morrison, as we know from organist Ray Manzarek’s book “Light My Fire”, once demanded that Densmore be kicked out of the group; he was just too neurotic and got on Morrison’s nerves. Densmore found Morrison, particularly as his alcoholism and erratic behavior grew, so disturbing that Densmore had chronic skin rashes from the stress.

Densmore represents a certain sad byway of that era – people whose pursuit of peace and love, meditation and marijuana, sought to cover or compensate for intense feelings of inadequacy. Many young people who haven’t quite found their way in life can feel lost in this way. Marijuana seducing them into compulsive introspection certainly couldn’t have helped much. But accomplishing something – like, say, being a pretty fine jazz-rock drummer as Densmore was and putting out a unique body of work like the Doors’ music – ought to have helped someone get past that. Densmore doesn’t seem to have done so, remaining both lost and searching well into middle-age, and failing to see that maturity required moving beyond that. (Although later chapters touching on his men’s movement involvement with Robert Bly suggest that perhaps he was getting a clue about this.)

Densmore’s insecurity notwithstanding, this is still a worthwhile book. His painful honesty renders his memoir less varnished than Manzarek’s and occasionally more convincing. Densmore gets us a little closer to what really happened with Morrison’s death. Most signs point to an accidental heroin overdose, with the heroin provided by girlfriend Pam Courson, who later OD’ed herself, and who was being pursued by a French count who also used and also died of it. Densmore also gets us closer than Manzarek to the tragic sense Morrison projected and held of himself, that he told people he didn’t think he’d live beyond youth, that he started every day rebelling against the universe before breakfast. Densmore found playing live behind him “intoxicating … my new religion,” but saw what a price Morrison paid for the edge-living that fed his fire, too brightly and too quickly consumed. A Doors concert, Densmore says, left “everyone in attendance … cleansed – security guards included. What a show. A truly religious experience. Much better than church. Almost as good as sex! Better! A communion with twenty thousand people.”

Densmore loved him as well as fearing him; some passages of the book are written as the letters Densmore would be writing him, if he could. Densmore finds common themes in Morrison’s self-destruction and the suicide of Densmore’s own mentally ill brother, including his own survivor’s guilt and wondering if he could have done more to have saved either – concluding, ultimately, that no, he couldn’t. Morrison in a later age might have gone through rehab, but at that time his associates had no clue about what he was doing or how to deal with it. A pity. There have been many dead rock musicians but few took so much potential with them when they went.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Book Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors by John Densmore | , | Leave a comment

The Doors Live in New York, Felt Forum (January 1970) (2009)


The Doors, well known for releasing the same material over and over again in a new package (hello original six albums), have done much to atone for those sins since 2000. That year, they set up Bright Midnight Records, which was dedicated to releasing uncut, un-doctored live material from the band’s archives…the same archives they claimed were barer than die-hard fans knew. They’ve released some very excellent product, including most of the material recorded for Absolutely Live. This includes full, uncut and professionally recorded shows from Detroit, LA, Philadelphia, and other locales. They haven’t released as many shows as originally envisioned, but what they have put out has been reverent. The only real hiccup along the way was the Matrix release from 2009, which was a great opportunity to finally provide an official outlet for well known bootleg material (the four Matrix shows over two days in early 1967).

Finally, finally, they deliver what fans have been clamoring for, especially since Bright Midnight was established: all four Felt Forum shows in their entirety, uncut, and (for the most part) un-doctored. We get six CDs, and only a little bit of this was ever officially released before; bits were included in Absolutely Live/In Concert, and the 1997 box set had a single disc that cherry-picked tracks from the four shows.

This release, another highly recommended gem, just about rounds out the Absolutely Live material. In January, 1970, The Doors played four shows over two consecutive nights at New York’s Felt Forum, the smaller concert venue under the main Madison Square Garden arena. (They played the main arena in January 1969, but for their new tour, post-Miami, they opted for the superior acoustics and intimacy of the Felt.) Both nights they played an early and a late show, and packed a lot of material into each. Not only were these shows recorded in their entirety, but they sound (for the most part) like great shows.

While Absolutely Live and other older Doors live material were the product of Paul Rothchild’s great talents as a producer, splicing together numerous takes of a single song to create the best-sounding concert album experience, the Bright Midnight releases revel in what fanatics and the bootleg-obsessed have always been interested in: complete, un-doctored shows. The good news is that the band and particularly Bruce Botnick (original Doors sound engineer) are very open with exactly what was done with the source tapes. Since those tapes were cut up for previous releases, there are gone-forever snippets here and there, and they went through a painstaking process to review the two-track live tapes versus the eight-track masters in order to determine exactly what was missing. In those cases, they swapped in parts of another 1970 show that fit the mood. You would be pretty hard pressed to identify these snippets in your ears, the work is seamless.

The biggest manipulation here is actually the overdubs done by John Sebastian, who joined the Doors on stage for one of the shows but whose harmonica was not picked up by the mic. I believe the ‘bare’ tracks will be released online, so fans can get both.

Many will note the differences between the early and late shows on each night. Typically, the later shows are longer and a bit more revved up, including longer jams and more improv. However, having four professionally recorded shows is a major bonanza. Once again, all of the in-between tuning, crowd noise, and chatter is included (tracks are titled ‘Tuning / Breather’, for instance). Yes, these tend to break up the momentum, and we now realize that bootleggers were regularly trimming these breaks to death in order to fit shows on a record or CD, but they reflect how the band performed. You’d be much harder pressed to see a band today that took a long breather between songs, and indeed, The Doors famously never agreed on a set list before each show, but rather let the vibe and the audience dictate where they would go. This was the band getting back to just the music, and returning to the blues work that defined their earlier club days. They also play several tracks from the not-yet-released Morrison Hotel.

Despite the glut of recent quality releases, Doors fanatics know that there is a good chunk of material still out there, ripe for the official outlet. This includes a number of professionally recorded or broadcast shows, including Seattle, 1970 (by many accounts a poor show with a very drunk and distant Morrison), Vancouver 1970 (significantly better), and the Isle of Wight performance, a crisp, broadcast version having been available on bootleg for over a decade. And there’s plenty more if they want to get back into releasing audience stuff (the Boot Yer Butt box, while expensive, had some very, very rare material, though some of it was in horrendous quality).

Highly, highly recommended for the Doors fan. New fans, too…if you want a great intro to the live Doors, and a lot of value, this set is a great boon. Note the cover of the box, which reproduces an actual ticket from these shows, and the $5.50 price of an orchestra ticket. You can still go to the Felt Forum today (which has since gone through about 100 name changes), but for $5.50 you might only be able to get a box of Cracker Jacks.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Live in New York Felt Forum | | Leave a comment

The Doors In Concert (1991)


Review From the first track you know you are in for a treat. An unruly and uncooperative crowd has surged into the aisles and front rows in “House Announcer” in anticipation of the band, and it’s exactly the tone and mood that will take you through an incredible and exotic journey of 31 tracks of rock & roll, cabaret, performance art, and poetry readings.

The Celebration of the Lizard (King), tracks 13 through 19, are perhaps the highlight of this album. Morrison’s poetry rings true to the feeling of the uncertainty of the era, shamanism, Greek tragedy, and mysticsm reminiscent of Omar Khayyam, all backed by a hard rock band that had few peers equal to the drums of Densmore, the classically trained guitar style of Krieger, and magician-like hands of Manzarek playing a bass line on one keyboard and simultaneous rythm/lead on another.

Other highlights for In Concert include an extended version of “The End” that supercedes the studio version in its soul and ambience. Also, the Doors lighten up the dark mood set by their more epic pieces, excellent unto themselves (“When The Music’s Over”, “Light My Fire” w/ an excellent inclusion of the brooding and picteresque “The Graveyard Poem”), with fun versions of “Dead Cats”/”Break On Through” and “You Make Me Real”.

The list goes on and on, song after song of a band that was moving forward in its abilities and destined for something even greater and more unique, halted by the death of their charismatic and insufferable lead singer Jim Morrison. Note the comparisons of this album to other live albums, and you will see “In Concert” is a little bit of everything, a comprehensive collection of the “better” live recordings available commercially.

At the time this album was issued, my initial reaction to some of the song selections was of slight dissapointment. Yet many bootlegs and live Doors albums later, “In Concert” now reigns supreme and is a trusted old friend.

Review …this is the one to get. This album was released in 1991 and was digitally remastered from the original master tapes by Paul A. Rothchild (The Doors’ original producer) and Bruce Botnick (The Doors’ original sound engineer). The sound quality of this release is outstanding, particularly in comparison to today’s overly compressed mastering and remastering techniques.

‘Aboslutely Live’ was The Doors’ only live album to be released while Jim Morrison was alive and that album (originally a double disc set on vinyl) is presented almost in it’s entirety on Disc One (“Close to You” has been inexplicably moved to the second disc). Disc Two opens with the definitive ‘An American Prayer’ live version of “Roadhouse Blues” before presenting the ‘Alive She Cried’ album in it’s entirety. The last two numbers on Disc Two are taken from the ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ video. “Unknown Soldier” was previously available on the ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ EP (now out of print) but the live version of “The End” from that show had never been available on CD prior to this release.

For a multi million record selling pop band, their live show often skirted their most popular hits in favor of lesser known album tracks, unreleased tracks, covers and epic pieces. This set is no exception. Missing from this set are hits like “People Are Strange” and “Touch Me” in favor of lengthier pieces like “The End,” “When the Music’s Over,” and the (at the time) otherwise unreleased “The Celebration of the Lizard.”

Morrison is at times austere and a times humorous but is always engaging. The band is a crack unit and genuinely shines on the epic pieces.

At nearly two and half hours with no repeated songs, this is a great value.

Review …this is the one to get. This album was released in 1991 and was digitally remastered from the original master tapes by Paul A. Rothchild (The Doors’ original producer) and Bruce Botnick (The Doors’ original sound engineer). The sound quality of this release is outstanding, particularly in comparison to today’s overly compressed mastering and remastering techniques.

‘Aboslutely Live’ was The Doors’ only live album to be released while Jim Morrison was alive and that album (originally a double disc set on vinyl) is presented almost in it’s entirety on Disc One (“Close to You” has been inexplicably moved to the second disc). Disc Two opens with the definitive ‘An American Prayer’ live version of “Roadhouse Blues” before presenting the ‘Alive She Cried’ album in it’s entirety. The last two numbers on Disc Two are taken from the ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ video. “Unknown Soldier” was previously available on the ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ EP (now out of print) but the live version of “The End” from that show had never been available on CD prior to this release.

For a multi million record selling pop band, their live show often skirted their most popular hits in favor of lesser known album tracks, unreleased tracks, covers and epic pieces. This set is no exception. Missing from this set are hits like “People Are Strange” and “Touch Me” in favor of lengthier pieces like “The End,” “When the Music’s Over,” and the (at the time) otherwise unreleased “The Celebration of the Lizard.”

Morrison is at times austere and a times humorous but is always engaging. The band is a crack unit and genuinely shines on the epic pieces.

At nearly two and half hours with no repeated songs, this is a great value.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | The Doors In Concert | | Leave a comment

The Doors Live At The Bowl 68 (2012)


“We were going to blast the sound all the way down the hills to Hollywood”. Ray Manzarek.

Here it is, 71 minutes of The Doors during their early (and arguably best) period in 1968. The band wasn’t allowed to play at the volume level they wanted (loud), so the overall recorded impression is ever so anemic compared to what they were capable of. But they knew this concert was so important, that they rehearsed beforehand. And for once, all the talk about the sound being “the best ever” is pretty accurate. The technical problems on three tracks-“When The Music’s Over”, “The Wasp (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)”, and “Hello I Love You”-basically not having Morrison’s vocals-have been “fixed”.

In order to rescue the songs, in a carefully worded explanation, Morrison’s vocals from the “Absolutely Live” set were used for these three tracks to “restore” the vocals on the CD. Were these tracks left over from the tracks used for “Absolutely Live”, but not used? Is it “cheating”? Well, maybe yes a bit. But it does sound pretty good nonetheless. And we now get to hear the complete concert. There seems to be some confusion concerning the vocals for these three songs, so I’ve quoted them in the comments section to answer the question from “Avalon Don”, to hopefully clear things up.

The CD slips inside an envelope in a “bill-fold” style cardboard holder, along with the booklet, in the other edge. The 10 page booklet has a short essay by Bruce Botnick about the recordings, plus there’s a paragraph from each of the remaining band members, that bring back some of the flavor of those times. There’s also a list of the various microphones used, and related recording information. Also included are a few images from the concert, photographed by Henry Diltz.

But the music-whoa! This is The Doors in their prime, putting it all out there. Morrison’s vocals are full of swagger and power. His command of the lyrics-the tone and the timing-have a visceral quality that makes other L.A. bands of that period sound like wimps. But that’s only part of the picture. The instrumental firepower, coupled with a certain finesse when called for from Manzarek, Densmore, and Krieger, add depth and excitement to Morrison’s vocal timing and energy.

From “Back Door Man”, to “Hello, I Love You”, to “Moonlight Drive” (listen to Krieger’s guitar), to “Spanish Caravan”, to (of course) “Light My Fire”, and “The End”, anyone who thinks The Doors was Jim Morrison and “backing band” will get a real wake up call. Quite simply, the band play with the same intensity, the same sensitivity, the same intuitiveness, that Morrison uses vocally. Just listen to “Horse Latitudes” for a good example of what THE DOORS sound like live, without a net. And then listen to how well Morrison’s poetry fits in so well with the other compositions. But that kind of excitement runs all through this set-take your pick. The intensity builds as each song builds on the one before it. It’s explosive and controlled intensity all at once.

For those of us lucky enough to have witnessed The Doors live, during their early (and arguably) best period, this concert brings back a lot of memories of that initial excitement and wonder of what was going on onstage. And just what was going on onstage? For me as I think back to that era, when they came to my town, it was Morrison rocking back and forth with the microphone stand-all barely controlled pent up feelings, Manzarek was hunched over his keyboard-occasionally looking up at Morrison, Densmore was cool looking-with his seemingly effortless drumming, and Krieger, standing in one spot, was full of concentration and intensity-getting just the right sound from his guitar.

The volume of Morrison and the band’s sound swelling and then coming back down again-only to rise to another crescendo-it’s all here. This set from “The Bowl” will give fans a good idea of what this concert, and the band as a whole, was like. And if you want only one album of The Doors live, this will fill the bill nicely.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Live At The Bowl 68 | | Leave a comment

The Doors Absolutely Live (1970)


The only live album released when ol’ Jim was still prowling around, this one was intended to showcase the Doors at their live best, and it does.

Well – almost does. Because the album also showcases the Doors at producing the kind of show they’d never ever allow on their studio albums, and I’m speaking of the 14-minute long ‘Celebration Of The Lizard’ suite which is the usual Jim kinda suicidal/necrophilian wailings (ok, ok, it’s not really about that, but you know it’s all the same to me) and it’s brain-muddling. It does include ‘Not To Touch The Earth’ as a substantial chunk of it, but the rest is just not music at all.

Which is not what they used to do in the studio. The only quasi-musical piece is ‘A Little Game’ which is indeed monotonous, a little ode to schizophrenia (‘I think you know/What game I mean/I mean the game/Of go insane’) based on one nursery chord; apart from that, it’s just Jim reciting his poetry bits to bits of acid noisemaking. I can’t really tell you if I like it or not – at least they don’t set his poetry to disco backing like they would do it eight years later – but nothing is really exceptional or particularly memorable or impressive; not being a fan of Morrison’s life attitude, I will never drool over his poetry when it’s not stuck to the actual instrumental background. Face it, the Doors could have been a band with just instrumental compositions; but without the instrumental background, Jim was just Jim. Do you like Jim? I don’t. Not particularly, in any case.

But if you throw that 10-minute stinker away (and you should), you get yourself an excellent document with brilliant playing, clear vocals and an overall great sound. The funny thing is that while by 1969, when the performance was recorded, the Doors had already gotten rid of covers and were successfully penning all the material themselves, they still do a lot of covers, most notably classic blues covers, on stage. Thus, both ‘Alabama Song’ and ‘Back Door Man’ are present, albeit in a medley which also includes ‘Five To One’ and a little ‘previously unavailable’, but very pleasant ditty called ‘Love Hides’; and you also get acquainted with their interpretation of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Close To You’.

The first one sounds particularly Doors-ish, as if the main vocal melody was written specially for Jim to perform and the stomping Bo Diddley rhythm written specially for Ray to imitate on his organ. ‘Close To You’ is less comfortable, though, as the lead vocals are taken by Manzarek himself, who overgrumbles and overhoarsens his voice quite a bit and makes things look somewhat cheaper than they actually are. ‘Build Me A Woman’, though, is a good Jim vocal highlight. Ah well, anyway, I suppose the fact that all of these songs sound so good in the hands of Jim are obvious proof that blues is an offspring of Satan, don’t you think? Morrison’s Blues Wears Satan’s Shoes…

In general, though, I’m rather pleased that Absolutely Live never actually equals a ‘greatest hits live’ album and offers the listener enough diversity and little hidden gems that he won’t find on any studio records. Apart from the already mentioned ‘Love Hides’, for instance, there’s also an introspective, deeply moving ballad called ‘Universal Mind’ (yeah I know the title can be offputting, but give it a try, it’s actually a nice song), and a new hilarious – if you get black humour, of course – introduction to ‘Break On Through’ called ‘Dead Cats Dead Rats’… these guys were sick, really.

Meanwhile, the oldies are all performed with enough vehemency and enough little details to distinguish them from their studio peers. Naturally, they’re all extended: the Doors used to build up tension very slowly, which, unfortunately, doesn’t always come out well on an album. For instance, they used to stretch out the organ intro to ‘When The Music’s Over’, slowly wearing out the listener with repetitive keyboard riffs until all of a sudden Densmore kicked in with the drums and Jim threw out his mighty ‘YEAH’ roar and the quietly dreaming listener was kicked out of the seat with a sonic wave. Which sounds cool in theory, but in an audio version it quickly becomes unbearable. Thank God the version on here is shorter than on the Hollywood Bowl concert recording.

But then again, Jim does compensate for all the fuss with his wonderful crowd interaction during the short pieces. ‘SHUT UP’, he roars, ‘is that the way to behave at a rock’n’roll concert?’ And as he bellows out ‘we want the world and we want it…’, the whole audience keeps howling ‘now, now, now!’ to him. Later on: ‘That’s New York to you. The only people that rush the stage are guys.’ Things like that really turn the simple listening process into… well, into an experience.

‘Soul Kitchen’ is brilliantly chosen as an encore (brilliantly, since Jim wisely changes the closing lyrics to ‘Well the cop says it’s time to close now/I think we have to go now/I’d really wanna stay here all night…’), and overall, the album leaves a very good feeling. The sound is excellent (although I feel the organ and drums are mixed way too high, overshadowing Robbie’s guitar all the time), the song choice is wise and entertaining, and you can actually feel the audience if you want to.

Not that the record lacks any defects – I think I’ve listed some of them above – but you can’t get any better with a live Doors album, and really, with the Doors, you oughta be there to truly understand the event. Such a pity I wasn’t…

May 21, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Absolutely Live | | Leave a comment

Light My Fire My Life With The Doors by Ray Manzarek (1998)


Review Since this book appeared in 1998, The Doors–sans John Densmore, who had an iota of self-respect–have played Las Vegas. Thank God Jim Morrison didn’t live to see his bandmates mutated into an embarassing lounge act, singing his songs in the performance graveyard that is Vegas.

It’s clear Ray Manzarek does not like Densmore. It’s clear now and it’s bitingly clear in this book. Ray Manzarek has a real go at the history of The Doors, rewriting it exactly as he’d like it to sound in his mind. Ray conveniently ignores entire albums, tours, and other events in favor of waxing on about the chi, about how unbelievably incredible The Doors were and still are.

He has a lot of love for Jim Morrison, but even this is tinged with a nasty shade of green. Instead of facing the fact that Morrison had a serious drug and alcohol problem, Manzarek creates an alter ego for Morrison known as ‘Jimbo’. See, it’s all ‘Jimbo’s’ fault. Jimbo is the redneck alcoholic idiot that Morrison would become at random times, not the regular Jim Morrison who was a brilliant poet and all around nice guy.

You can imagine why he hates Densmore. Riders on the Storm, Densmore’s version of the story, clearly shows that the drummer felt guilt over Morrison’s spiral downward. Densmore came off as honest; he didn’t beat the reader over the head with endless babble about Dionysus or the Age of Aquarius and the massive amount of acid Ray appears to have taken.

Meanwhile Manzarek would rather attach some kind of cosmo-spiritual explanation to Morrison’s decline. He claims to have seen the spirit literally leaving Morrison’s head the night of the final Doors performance in New Orleans in 1970. It’s embarassing, it’s manipulative and it speaks volumes about Ray’s character.

Ray always looked like an erudite. He was well-spoken and he loved Morrison, backing his friend up as a serious poet.

However, Ray comes off as vindictive, clouded, and plain silly in this book. He has a serious beef with Oliver Stone, referring to him as a fascist, a term Ray still throws around like it’s 1968. Ray was horrified at another version of The Doors’ story by another artist since Ray wants it told according to hiw own memory. Unfortunately, what Ray remembers is very selective. This book spends eternity to reach the release of the first Doors album in 1967 and the same year follow, Strange Days.

Ray just doesn’t want to get too involved in the REST of The Doors’ days. He hardly makes mention of the fact that after Morrison died the band kept going, releasing two studio albums and touring. Conveniently, those two albums STILL have never been released to CD. As with their impressive resume of doctoring live albums, The Doors are unmatched in selling the same material over and over while keeping the stuff fans really want tucked away (hence the boxset delay and its underwhelming content).

I would recommend this strictly as an offical version of the story from one of the band. However, be very careful in reading Ray’s story. He wants everyone to remember The Doors only as he does…

Review After reading this book I was left with the impression that Manzarek has a very narrow definition of what a poet should be. Thus he attempts to recreate Morrison to fit into this definition. Any of Morrison’s personality traits which don’t fit into Manzarek’s image of a poetic genius (There seems to have been many in Morrison’s case) he lamely dismisses as the bufoonish behavior of an alter ego he creates and calls ‘Jimbo.’

Manzarek often refers to Morrison’s associates, who do not share his own passions in life, as ‘losers’ and ‘degenerates.’ He describes a friendship Morrison had with two such individuals whom he shared an interest with in horseback riding and target shooting. Obviously, in Manzarek’s view, such all-American activities should not be pursued by poets. Thus he forcefully confronts these men and tells them “Jim does not f***ing ride horses.”…Only ‘Jimbo’ would ride horses.

He also describes Morrison as a nonviolent advocate of peace. Thus when he relays such incidents of Morrison getting into a brawl with Chicano low-riders or whacking a woman with a board, he dismisses this as the actions of ‘Jimbo.’…Jim would never do such things.

I also get the feeling that Manzarek was not supportive of any artistic ventures that Morrison undertook independently of the Doors. He makes very brief mention of Morrison’s poetry publication and, oddly I feel, offers no personal insight into this collection of works. When Morrison collaborates with several friends in the filming of a Doors documentary, Manzarek is skeptical of this artistic endeavor because only ‘Jimbo’ would lend his creative vision to a group of ‘degenerates’ who were unimpressive in film school. Manzarek also quickly dismisses Morrison’s independent film project called “Highway” as a silly attempt at art… Only something ‘Jimbo’ would do.

I give this book 3 stars because I feel that Manzarek, unkowingly, provided deep insight into what was a very complex and often combustible relationship between himself and Morrison. It is obvious that Manzarek had great respect for Morrison as a creative genius and lots of love for him as a person. But reading between the lines I get the feeling that this relationship was not unlike that of a responsible individual and his rebellious and wayward kid brother. I also get the feeling, that like most relationships of this sort, along with the mutual love there is also a strong hint of mutual resentment.

Morrison was obviously a very complex person with many facets to his personality. One of which was a two-fisted Celtic boozer with a bit of ‘good old boy’ American South in his blood. And obviously those aspects of Morrison were (and still are) very difficult for Manzarek to accept. Thus he picks and chooses the traits of Morrison that he himself feels an artist should convey and attributes those to a man he loves and respects called ‘Jim.’ But any Morrison traits that do not neatly fit into Manzarek’s own ideals of who a poet should be, he easily dismisses and attributes these to a man whom he resented and could not understand, called ‘Jimbo.’

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Book Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek | , , | Leave a comment