Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

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