Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Doors 1st Album (1967)

MI0002015335From starling.rinet.ru

Their debut album was shocking and immediately put them in the superstar league.

Rightly so: and not only because the general aura of this debut was quite different from anything anyone was doing at the moment, but also because it was incredibly catchy, melodic and displayed signs of genius in most of the tracks. Darkness and dreariness that was given a catchy pop edge – something that Jefferson Airplane, the world’s most depressing band at that period, could only have dreamt of and never managed to achieve in the end.

There’s a certain shy feel about it, too, as if the band wasn’t yet ready to overflow us with self-penned material. So they do a couple of covers – surprisingly, they manage to totally fit into the standard paradigm. The Broadway musical ditty ‘Alabama Song’ is by now a rightful Morrison classic, as Jim delivers the ‘show me the way to the next little girl’ lyrics with enough conviction to guarantee us that ‘tomorrow we must die’.

As for Willie Dixon’s ‘Back Door Man’, now there’s a tune that drives me nuts, at times it managed to edge out ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘End Of The Night’ as my favourites on here. There’s something Zeppelin-ish about the way the dudes treat this blues cover, sharply accentuating the main heavy riff and ‘whetting’ all the edges of the song so that it slices through your mind as nothing else can. Jim’s lionish roar on this track is easily his best vocal delivery on the entire album, and Krieger tops it off with a wall-rattling guitar solo. While the Doors were never a generic blues band, this track showcases, from the very beginning of their career, Jim’s ability to assimilate old blues to his own dark, dreadful, terrifying style.

Thus the main problem with the album is definitely not the presence of covers, but rather the presence of some rather nasty filler: the short little ditties ‘I Looked At You’ and ‘Take It As It Comes’ are nothing but your average pop songs set in the same ‘negative’ environment. ‘I Looked At You’, in particular, irritates me every time I put it on with its pedestrian lyrics – ‘I looked at you/You looked at me/I smiled at you/You smiled at me/And we’re on our way’. Together with ‘Take It As It Comes’, the song feels pretty much out of place on the record; add to this that ‘The End’ has never been my favourite ‘epic’ Doors song, and you can understand why I so often turn it down right after ‘Back Door Man’ which is the first song on side two.

By no means are these two tunes ‘bad’, but they are certainly not up to the standard of the first-rate songs which are mostly grouped on the first side of the record. The album opener ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ is the first fast ‘dark’ rocker ever recorded, and it announces the Doors’ arrival on the scene with a crash boom bang: a low, grumbly, but amazingly catchy guitar riff, ominous, mathematically precise organ solos and above all – the lyrics: ‘you know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run tried to hide/Break on through to the other side’.

The seven-minute anthem ‘Light My Fire’ raises all kinds of emotions, especially with Ray’s organ and Robbie’s guitar solos which are so well constructed and so flawlessly played that you never regret their lengthiness even for a second. A crying shame that they were edited out of the single version – but that’s how it goes, and the band couldn’t really do anything about it. Thus begins the lengthy war of the Conceptual Album Creators with the Hit Single Producers.

It’s the ballads, though, that best display Jim’s talents: the gentle and beautiful ‘Crystal Ship’ which deals with matters far wider and far more dangerous than a simple love story, and especially the haunting mystical ‘End Of The Night’ where Ray sounds like a professional Dark Magician and manages to create an atmosphere so dreary and majestic at the same time that it really makes one shiver.
The two lesser tracks are ‘Soul Kitchen’, which nevertheless boasts a really memorable melody, with a strange naggin’ organ riff that borders on the genial, and ’20th Century Fox’ which, strange enough, some people dislike, but I really don’t see anything that nasty about it. It’s just a little poppy, but just a little, and it has a great solo; what else do you need? ‘But she’s – no – drag – just – watch – the – way – she walks’, chants Jim, and the line sends me laughin’ down the alleyway.

Last comes the least. Actually, the lengthiest. ‘The End’ is often hailed as the Doors’ most successful ten-minute-long (actually, eleven) ‘gothic’ epic, the one that sets a pattern for all the following stream-of-conscience, rambling poetical deliveries by Jim set to a somewhat rudimentary, but strangely effective musical backings. But me, I’m not convinced. I like the poetry, and most of the images that Jim conjures along the way, all the ‘weird scenes inside the gold mine’, ‘the blue bus is calling us’, ‘ride the snake to the lake’, and, most important, the famous Oedipus complex description where the line ‘Mother I want to fuck you’ is effectively buried in the mix under an undecipherable mess of roar and hum – all these things are quite flashy and effective.

The problem is, the musical accompaniment is WAY too monotonous and, frankly speaking, boring to let you enjoy the number from beginning to, well, the end; more or less, the thing consists of just two or three guitar lines being endlessly repeated over and over, and even the ‘transitions’ in the sections (both this and ‘When The Music’s Over’ off the next album are built according to one scheme: intro – fast transitional passage – main psycho part – fast transitional passage – outro) don’t seem all that great. While the song still stands out as one of the Doors’ main trademarks, I simply don’t think it has enough musical potential in it to live up to all the hype.

In the light of this, I wouldn’t give the album a better rating than an eight: while the album’s absolutely groundbreaking nature is doubtless, and the Doors wouldn’t really make much conceptual innovations over the next four years, the record still betrays signs of relative inexperience in the studio. It’s been often called one of the most impressive debuts in rock history, and maybe it was: the album’s sales skyrocketed in no time, and the Doors became superstars almost overnight (although the singles buying public wasn’t so sure: ‘Break On Through’, the first single from the album, flopped).

In retrospect, though, the album’s flaws become all the more evident: there ain’t much of ’em, but the inclusion of ‘I Looked At You’ and the monotonousness of ‘The End’ are among the most offensive. Their next record, however, would shut out all doubts about whether they would be able to better themselves, and it still remains an absolute masterpiece of the ‘dark psychedelia’ genre. At least, that’s how I regard it.

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May 31, 2013 Posted by | The Doors 1st Album | | Leave a comment

The Doors LA Woman: The Workshop Sessions (2012)

51LIgTkWQdLFrom amazon.com

No this one isn’t just another reissue of the well known album but also one for the discerning Doors fans and collectors, featuring as it does different versions of 7 of the 10 tunes (exceptions being “Hyacinth House” (unfortunately as it is a beautiful song), “L’America” and “Crawling King Snake”) plus the unissued “She Smells so Nice”/Rock me Baby”. There’s also the image of Morrison crucified on a telegraph pole included with the early original vinyl issue on a poster and on the inner sleeve (referred to here as “Electric Woman”).

They were all recorded in The Doors Workshop at the time of the “LA Woman” sessions (hence the title of the double vinyl edition, “The Workshop Sessions” (which features only the alternate versions and unissued tunes). The quality of the alternative versions is, as one would expect, excellent of course and I’m surprised that they have never appeared before though that’s probably down to the cynical record company penchant for making maximum money off old material (not that I am a cynic myself, you understand).

Enough has been said about the original album so I’ll concentrate here on the alternative versions. I haven’t actually compared any of them to the originals, merely listened to the unreleased ones and said what comes to mind, but I can say with certainty that most of the alternate versions are less polished than those used on the album and, indeed, sound at times like demos at times rather than alternate takes or versions. One does, in fact, mention the take number, which probably means that none of them are actually demos. Studio chat features too.

“The Changeling”, which Jim tells the band is his favourite number, is longer at nearly 5 minutes and powers along at around the same speed as the album version but with a different keyboard riff. It is, perhaps, more powerful and certainly bluesier with more raucous lead guitar. A few bum notes slip in but do not spoil the overall feel of the song.

“Love Her Madly” features a lazier Morrison vocal with different lyrics and a totally different keyboard section in the middle.

“Been Down So Long” is probably the least different alternative, much the same as the album version apart from being a bit rougher and longer.

The slow, dirty, blues of “Cars Hiss by My Window” seems to feature somewhat more prominent guitar than the LP version and is 30 seconds longer.

“LA Woman” meanwhile features different lead guitar riffs and a weird bit of extra vocalising brings it to a sudden end at 8.45.

“The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” features different lyrics and is 1.20 longer than the album version but this comprises a cacophony of jazzy guitar and drums with no discernible tune. There’s an instrumental version thrown in too.

Clocking in at 2 minutes longer than the original, “Riders on the Storm” could have been the jewel in the crown here, were it not for the fact that the extra time is occupied by a throw away Morrison ditty, false start and chat occupying the first 2 minutes plus a somewhat flat Morrison vocal, especially evident at the start of the tune proper.

Finally, music-wise, you get the addition of an actual unreleased song, “She Smells so Nice”, which morphs into “Rock Me”, but both are pretty much of filler or single B side standard and it`s no wonder they were not used on the “LA Woman” album proper or indeed anywhere else.

As stated earlier this 2 LP 180 gram vinyl version features only the alternative versions spread over 3 sides. The lyrics of the original versions of the alternative songs are etched onto side 4. The gatefold sleeve features a largely white mock up of the “LA Woman” sleeve with recording details, credits and a replica of the striking image of a naked Morrison crucified on a telegraph pole that came as a poster and on the yellow inner sleeve of early copies the original vinyl LP (mine’s in the loft). Though the image is referred to as “Electric Woman” on a set packaging sticker, I always understood it to be Morrison and it does look like it could be him.

For the current price, 3 sides of music in a gatefold sleeve seems like pretty good value. Buy it this way if you still have a record deck and do not want another copy of “LA Woman” on CD.

I fail to understand why the other reviewer gave this 2* rating and inferred Rhino had screwed up again based on the sole comment of a lack of the promised etched image on side 4. Rhino’s Doors screw up was in the £100+ vinyl box issued a couple of years ago and not this. Just ignore the differing etchings and the 2* rating and enjoy the brilliant music.

May 27, 2013 Posted by | The Doors LA Woman: The Workshop Sessions | | Leave a comment

The Doors Live At The Matrix

414htYtoc0LFrom amazon.com

Review This is the first official live release of the Doors in their prime.

All the other cd’s are from 1970 and by that time Jim Morrison was going into half drunken poetic recitals during the songs and they had clearly passed their live prime (though there were some good songs from then). But in 1967 the Doors were in another realm live. Next to the Velvets, this is about the only group that had a darker element to the sound.

And you get to hear the full version of “the End” with the oedipal sequence and some bizzare lyrical improvisations intact. Apart from a few blues covers the Doors weren’t “just starting out”. This is the Doors at their best live. Sadly, because of the sound quality, as the other reviews detailed I can only rate this one star. Its lousy. I’ve heard the “concert issues” of them and they are far better. The surviving members of the Doors could and should have released the original masters.

Not only for the listener but to honour Jim Morrison. You can grasp what the Doors sounded like live during their prime era which influenced punk, proto-punk and goth. But the sound quality is abyssymal. They need to reissue the original master tapes to the public or at least as penance allow the next winner of “American Idol” to be the lead singer for the “Doors of the 21st Century”. Take your pick. Just not this release until they get it right. Jim Morrison would agree.

Review The Doors and Warner Music Group issued a press release to promote this CD, stating: “Restored and carefully mastered from first generation tapes acquired by Elektra Records and The Doors 40 years ago, these historic shows never sounded better.” However, at least 4 tracks here were sourced from 3rd generation or higher bootlegs. The remaining songs were mastered from an edited 2nd generation 1/4″ reel to reel copy of a cassette dub made from the master reels.

Neither the Doors, nor their corporate record label Warner Music Group (aka the Rhino and Elektra imprints) own the original master recordings. The master tapes are owned by Peter Abram, who had the foresight to record the band at The Matrix (with the band’s permission)–more than two years before Elektra and Paul Rothchild got around to recording The Doors in a live setting at The Aquarius theater in 1969.

These legendary 1967 live tapes were well engineered by the young Abram and find the rock band at the peak of their prowess as an improvisatory unit. However, the tapes Warner Music Group has published on this 2 CD rip off are vastly inferior to the master tapes, brief samples of which are circulating on the Internet with Peter’s permission for comparison purposes.

Some fans may choose to believe that Abram is being greedy by asking for cash for his tapes. However, The Doors manager Jeff Jampool has publicly stated the Doors’ policy about acquiring live tapes is that they will only provide a small royalty based on sales. According to Abram, he wasn’t even approached to sell his tapes to the Doors for this release. And what about all those bootlegs on the market? According to Abram, all bootlegs derive from the missing first generation cassette copies in the Doors archive, which vanished in the 1970s.

The fans get a sonically subpar, incomplete product. The legality of this release is suspect since Peter owns the master tapes. Peter Abram receives zero money from this product, even though he owns the master sound recording. Meanwhile, your purchase of this material will make Warner Music Group and The Doors a little bit wealthier. And this is the same rock band that recently sued itself for $5million dollars over issues of “integrity.”

By the way, how much money was cover designer Stanley Mouse paid for his Matrix album cover art, while they guy that actually recorded the show–on his own nickel and made this cash cow possible for The Doors–doesn’t even receive a credit as recording engineer in the liner notes?

May 24, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Live At The Matrix | | Leave a comment

The Doors Live In Boston

51BnXJ-tRMLFrom amazon.com

I’m writing this review so those who are skeptical or hesitant about purchasing this release might better appreciate what to do instead of regretting it later. The shows recorded at Boston were part of a number of shows professionally recorded by the band for a future live release. Jim was an alcoholic and he did get drunk at some of the Doors live performances. If you don’t want to hear what a drunk Jim Morrison sounds like, then definitely purchase Live at Detroit and you will get a much better performance from Morrison and the band in general.

However, if you dare cross the line and dwell in the “loose palace of exile” you might find yourself surprisingly entertained by the Doors live at Boston. First off, the mix of this recording definitely fits the setting. The Doors played in an arena and what you get is “arena sound.” It makes for great listening if you turn it way up!!! John Densmore’s drums are mixed front and center and it sounds great! As for the shows:

The howl and moan by Jim at the start of the first set is quite a pleasure to listen to and it sets the stage for a ballsy Road House Blues which follows immediately after. Ship of Fools is well performed by the band and Jim is able to sing most of the lyrics, albeit in inebriated form. I won’t review each and every song but sufficit to say, as long as you don’t mind the grunts and slurs and yells by Jimbo, and you crank this recording loud, you will have a fun time!

No one in the audience could have cared less if Jimbo was drunk as a skunk! The Doors bravely carry on, juiced Jimbo and all. In the second set, Jim is even drunker but he’s capable of reciting poetry, (graveyard poem) and it’s a beautiful one at that! He also raps with the audience and you get the feel of being in the audience thanks to Bruce Botnick’s sound mix. I can imagine how the audience was having a fun time at this show and were rightly pissed off when the management cut the power because the Doors went “overtime” When you hear Jimbo say […] once the power is cut, you can hear how upset the audience was at seeing the Doors being prevented from playing further!

The Doors don’t perform every song well and do show some noticeable deficiencies and you can hear some flubs in many of the tunes performed. But hey, this is live and not every show is going to be performed to perfection. If you want a more “perfect live Doors experience” than go purchase “Absolutely Live.” This is Live in Boston and the suds flow during this show and Jimbo has a whale of a time performing live in front of his fans. This is a must release for hardcore Doors fans and an important release to fill in the picture of Jim Morrison, one of the more complicated, colorful and talented artists of the late 1960’s.

May 24, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Live In Boston | | Leave a comment

The Doors Live In Vancouver 1970

5137qtuOmELFrom amazon.com

Albert King opened for The Doors in Vancouver June 6, 1970, The Doors asked him to jam with them for four blues standards, they were only months away from starting the recording of L.A. Woman in the fall of that year. And from the versions of the songs The Doors played “Live in Vancouver” it seems they already had the blues on their minds.

There was some experimenting going on in Vancouver. The Doors were seemed to be pushing the limits of rock or at least stretching those limits between rock and the blues. At first it sounds like the Vancouver show is more sedate (not sedated) than the Felt Forum shows a few months prior. Upon a closer listening you can see The Doors were going for more of a bluesy feeling than a hard rock sound, and explains why Morrison, in introducing Albert King gives a quick tutorial to the audience about the two main indigenous forms of American music blues and country coming together in rock `n’ roll, he`s tipping the audience off as to what they’re doing.

The instrumentals in most of the songs highlights the bluesy feeling such as in “5-1” and “Light My Fire.” While they didn’t change the song substantially, during the instrumental of “Light My Fire” Morrison comes in using “St. James Infirmary” as a starting point and slips in some bucolic, blues tinged imagery from “Porgy and Bess” to highlight the bluesier aspects of The Doors usual repertoire “the fish were jumping, and the cotton is high.” What band today of the same calibre as The Doors would or could risk such onstage experimentation?

That’s not to say The Doors didn’t delve into their psychedelic roots they played “When The Music’s Over” and an interesting rendition of The End. Early in their career The Doors were interested in dissonance for their experimental journeys, in Vancouver they show that assonance had taken over their experimental interest. The End in Vancouver is a mature rendering of that song, it isn’t as frantic as earlier versions, The Doors let it play out like a noir film, Morrison stacking the familiar images upon each other, until the dramatic crashing climax, creating a movie for the mind of the audience.

Albert King played four songs with the band onstage, “Little Red Rooster,” “Money,” “Rock Me,” and “Who Do You Love.” King’s solos on these songs, like the rest of the CD doesn’t display a lot of unnecessary pyrotechnics but is solid playing all the way through.

I’ve been to a lot of rock concerts and listened have listened to a lot of live albums but none of those seem to have the context or coherence that The Doors were able to imbue into their best shows, and this is one of their best.

These Bright Midnight releases are great for fans like me who didn’t have the connections to get bootlegs, or weren’t’ collectors but still longed to hear the shows they’ve long heard about. The Bright Midnight releases are like raiding The Doors archives without having to worry about the quality, the sound is crisp and clear. The liner notes give you some background right from The Doors’ own pens that’s more reliable than second generation legend. “The Doors Live in Vancouver” will make a nice addition to your collection.

May 24, 2013 Posted by | The Doors Live In Vancouver | | Leave a comment

Doors guitarist Robby Krieger recalls what it’s like ‘When You’re Strange’ (A Film about The Doors) by Preston Jones (April 2010)

when_youre_strange-posterFrom popmatters.com

Surprisingly, given the wealth of material about the Doors, the new documentary “When You’re Strange” is the first-ever full-length, non-fiction look at the legendary rock band.

Directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, the 90-minute film utilizes previously unseen footage from other projects, most notably the unreleased 1969 experimental film “HWY: An American Pastoral,” which stars Jim Morrison. It’s a startlingly intimate work that helps humanize this lionized foursome.

Guitarist Robby Krieger penned some of the Doors’ best-known songs, like “Light My Fire” and “Love Her Madly.” The 64-year-old musician has kept busy in the years since the group’s demise; he’s currently working on his autobiography and is readying a new solo work, “Singularity,” for release in June. He recently spoke about the new documentary.

Q. So why make this documentary now?

A. We’ve had various videos out over the years but we never had a feature-length video. We never thought we had enough stuff, you know? When we got our new management about five years ago … they started pulling all the bits and pieces together to see how much we had and then we got Dick Wolf Productions involved. It seems like once people hear you’ve started a project like this, stuff starts coming out of the woodwork and we were able to find a lot of outtakes.

Q. And how was DiCillo chosen?

A. I think he had a good record with film festivals. He just seemed like a good pick. I didn’t know much about film guys, but (producer) Dick Wolf and those guys know a lot about ‘em. We needed someone to make sense of all this stuff; we didn’t want to do it ourselves because we didn’t want to be patting ourselves on the back: ‘Oh, we were so great.’ They would show us what they were doing (but) most of the ideas came from Tom and their editors were really great.

Q. Was anything uncovered that surprised you?

A. Not really, I knew we had all this stuff — I just didn’t know where it was. I actually hadn’t seen a lot of these outtakes from (1970 concert film) “Feast of Friends” and from Jim’s movie “HWY,” which was really surprising to find that stuff. It was kind of cool. It’s too bad Jim never got a chance to finish that movie, it would’ve been great, but we got permission to use what was there from his estate and I think they made good use of it.

Q. I have to confess: For a moment, I thought the scenes from “HWY” were staged footage.

A. A lot of people thought that — you weren’t alone. In fact, when we played it at Sundance, there was this one guy, a big-time buyer, and after he saw that stuff with Jim in the car, he just stormed out, all pissed off and our manager ran after him: ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘You guys had an actor to play Jim Morrison — this is (crap)!’

Q. Does it get easier over the years, looking back at footage from that period?

A. It is kind of weird to see stuff of yourself, but it’s not as though I hadn’t seen it in 40 years or something. It’s not as big of a shock as you might think. It is nostalgic and it’s really fun to go back and think about those times. I think the movie really had a good handle on the ‘60s. It was being in the right place at the right time; I think that has to be part of the luck that’s involved in being a successful rock n’ roll band.

Q. Despite all the frustrations, particularly towards the end, was it worth it?

A. Oh yeah, for sure, I wouldn’t have changed anything. Except it would’ve been nice if Jim had stuck around a while longer. But that’s how he was and you had to take him at face value. We knew what we were in for, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. No question about it, wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Q. Why do you think the Doors has endured?

A. Besides the fact that the music is great, I think if you look at those albums and you check each one out there’s really no bad songs in there. Every album has a lot of good stuff on it. A lot of bands you hear about are one-hit wonders or whatever, they might have one good song on an album, but we had high standards. We wouldn’t put something out unless we really believed in it. It’s amazing how many albums we put out in such a short time. Today, you might get one album out every two years. We sort of knew that Jim might not be around too long, so we had the feeling, ‘Hey, let’s keep recording. Let’s get as much as we can down before something happens.’ And it was true.

Q. How do you think this film sits alongside the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic?

A. I think it’s a perfect companion; it shows the other side, the reality side of the Doors. I’ll bet you five years from now, they’ll play ‘em one after the other on TV.

Q. What are you hoping people get out of “When You’re Strange”?

A. I hope people that have watched the Oliver Stone movie, I hope they do see this so they can see what was reality and what wasn’t. I thought the music was great and Val Kilmer was great (in Stone’s movie), but the way they portrayed the band and Jim, it just wasn’t right. When you try to put words in somebody’s mouth — let’s face it, that script was pretty bad. In this case, with our movie, you really see exactly how Jim spoke and what kind of guy he was. You get a much better sense of that.

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Doors guitarist Robby Krieger recalls what it's like 'When You're Strange' | | Leave a comment

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

418455334305_400From amazon.com

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)

Riders-On-The-StormFrom amazon.com

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)

51sD7gW40dLFrom amazon.com

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)

inconc10From amazon.com

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