The veil of time is thin indeed, for despite 30 years since Jim Morrison's departure to the other side, his words, and the music upon which they flow remain as fresh and powerful as during Morrison's lifetime. Like the blind who were returned their sight by a prophet of an earlier age, The Doors awakened the third eye of enlightenment to scores of people--an eye that remains closed for those who shun the quest for inner freedom. To be an artist and a spiritual messenger whose words transcend the barriers of time serves as proof of the attainability of spiritual immortality. It is a curious irony that a great number of the most ardent Doors fans were born years after The Doors disbanded, yet they feel, and are moved by, the words and music with the same intensity as if they had been performed yesterday. As a musical force, The Doors featured an unearthly power that continues to grow and evolve. They planted a seed within the hearts of countless people. The seed has germinated and grown, and whether we partake of the fruit of knowledge or let our minds atrophy in a cloud of conformity is our own choice--the music of The Doors offers clarity so such choices can be made.
The Doors captured some of their finest creations on vinyl yet many of their contemporaries insist that the live venue was the most appropriate forum in which to experience The Doors at their best. Such was easy enough in 1970 but is a difficult task for the legions of fans born after Jim's sojourn across the river Styx.
The albums Absolutely Live, Alive She Cried, Live At The Hollywood Bowl and The Doors In Concert each offer various glimpses of the Doors' live experience but all present edited and sliced views of The Doors in concert.
For quite some time Doors fans have lamented that the 'good' unreleased live material would languish in obscurity forever. The epic 1970 Absolutely Live offered a decent impression of an 'average' night at a Doors concert but fans, with the knowledge that the album was pieced together from several different performances, yearned to hear these concerts in unedited form. Interestingly, Absolutely Live was planned to be representative of a typical night at a Doors concert yet the mood and convergence of spirits vary from performance to performance. The aftermath of the Miami incident was a parade of the grotesque with the ambrosia turning to brine, and such literally cancelled the Doors' Soft Parade tour overnight. But like a phoenix The Doors rose from the ashes and their message continued to shine like a beacon.
With the creation of the Doors' Bright Midnight label Doors fans may now rejoice at the planned release of previously unattainable concert performances and interviews on CD. The Bright Midnight live CD sampler offered a preview of some of the live performances soon to come, albeit some of the sampled songs have undergone very minor editing and pruning. Presumably, when the respective live CDs are released, these songs will appear in full, unedited form. With the 5/8/70 Detroit concert being the first uncut Doors performance in release, celebration is in order.
The Detroit performance was one of nearly a dozen recorded for Absolutely Live. The performance is powerful, energetic and bluesy including the pauses between songs and the chats with the audience. I liked the pauses, though I realize there are some who will not, preferring music to the sound of silence. The impression of being there is stronger than with any past live Doors release. This performance presents an 'as is' view of the Doors, in all its glory, with both the beauty and the grotesque, and glorious it is indeed! The Detroit set opens with some tuning and an instrumental vamp of Roadhouse Blues. Rather than break into the vocal of the song as one would expect, Jim Morrison brought the band to a halt and greeted the audience of this venue and of other cities on this Morrison Hotel tour. The first full number of the show was a stunning "Dead Cats Dead Rats"/"Break On Through," a performance which was included on the Absolutely Live album. A riveting rendition and a recreation of this performance of the song was in my view the highlight of the Oliver Stone film The Doors.
Next came the "Alabama Song"/"Backdoor Man"/"Five to One" medley which was a staple of nearly every live Doors performance. Even still, this rendition was fantastic with an intensity and focus not usually found in performances of the medley. Jim Morrison's vocal was spot on during "Backdoor Man" and during a superb "Five to One" Ray Manzarek joined Jim with the chorus, "Get together one more time!" Along with spectacular guitar work by Robby Krieger and fine Densmore drumming this may be one of, if not the best live take of "Five to One" caught on tape.
Roadhouse Blues was next--a number that best exemplified the Doors' leanings toward blues. Robbie Krieger's guitar work dominated this version though Morrison's vocal was a tad weak. Oddly enough, this was a song that, performed live, never quite matched the fine studio version. Even still, the performance was superb and thus, timeless. A very rare live "You Make Me Real" followed Roadhouse Blues-a song that had all the elements of a hit, yet never quite caught on, even amongst Doors fans. Even still, it was a fine number, with a hard driving intro, and it certainly came across well in the live venue.
"Ship of Fools" was performed regularly during the Morrison Hotel tour. It struck me as a surprisingly unremarkable song whose saving grace was an excellent instrumental solo.
A lengthy "When The Music's Over" followed. Vocally, it stayed very close to the spirit of the studio version. Instrumentally, the other three Doors commanded this performance proving the power of their combined efforts can still grip the imagination.
Next came a spectacular, albeit erratic work in progress, the "People Get Ready"/"Mystery Train"/"Away In India" medley although the train-theme didn't particularly follow any linear story or message. Instead it presented the message of the blues. The true magician within this lengthy medley was Ray Manzarek. His formal training becomes very apparent with classical sounds that have the effect of the blues on one's soul.
The second cd opens with a good spirited Jim Morrison relating the tale of a "little girl backstage" who presented him with an unusual song request. This number would prove to be the Chuck Berry standard "Carol." Opened with Krieger's searing guitar riffs, "Carol" was pure rock 'n' roll. The song was performed a number of times onstage in 1970 and The Doors covered it well.
Next came the number many had been waiting for, the classic "Light My Fire." The wait was well worthwhile as this extended version shone with some fine bluesy vocals by Jim and tight instrumentation by the other Doors. An interesting riff Robby Krieger often incorporated into performances of "Light My Fire" was John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" which was, in itself, a jazzy interpretation of a number from the musical The Sound of Music. At one point, Jim speaks to the audience revealing his good nature and sense of humor. When he informs the audience, "I've been told, we gotta close it," Jim is greeted with a chorus of lamentation from the audience. Rather than break every heart he insisted the band play on and the audience erupted with cheers. Despite the fallout of the Miami incident from the previous year The Doors revealed that they could still reach their listeners and that they still had 'it.'
The Doors were joined by ex-Lovin' Spoonful member John Sebastian. Sebastian had provided harmonica on the studio version of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues." During this concert he joined the band for a raw, bluesy live version of "Been Down So Long." The song was not recorded on vinyl until the LA Woman sessions the following year. This spontaneous live version that literally dripped with blues and sexuality was, in my view, infinitely superior to the somewhat stale studio version. This live take of "Been Down So Long" can also be heard on the Doors' Bright Midnight Sampler and is the only live version of this song ever to surface.
Still in its infancy was a fascinating improvisation of "Love Hides." Normally the song was performed within the framework of "Backdoor Man" but in this instance it served as a sorrowful and blusey introduction to a medley of blues covers. Jim passed the reigns of vocalist over to mad monk keyboardist Ray Manzarek who presented the audience with his own unique vocal style. Ray was in command with a blending of the bluesy covers "Mean Mustard Blues"/"Close To You" plus "I'm a King Bee." The Doors gave a true sexual twist to this song emphasizing the act of "stinging going on." With John Sebastian joining on guitar, Jim accompanied Ray as a back up vocalist. One thing this concert will certainly convey: The Doors loved to play the blues.
Next came the equally bluesy "Rock Me," a number The Doors had covered many times. Ray broke into this up-tempo version with a raw screaming vocal then it was over to Jim who requested the opposite, thus he sang: "…softer baby, you gotta slow it down." No doubt every girl in the audience thought Jim was singing to her, but he was, in a sense, giving tempo instructions to the band--a clever way to communicate with the other Doors while still performing. Jim's Elvis influences shone when he incorporated lyrics of "Heartbreak Hotel" into the framework of "Rock Me." Jim must have been an influence on Elvis as well since Elvis had adopted the full leather look for his '68 comeback special, a look which, at that time, was very much a Jim Morrison trademark.
The performances concluded with a simply spectacular version of "The End." "The End" was the Doors' ultimate canvas piece with each Door using his own respective instrument as a brush and the essence of his soul as the paint. The arrangement of lyrics was seemingly erratic--Jim opened the song with the closing lyrics. But there was a method in the madness with the incorporation of some fine poetry. The "Wake Up!" component of "Celebration Of The Lizard" made this version outstanding. During the climax of the song, Ray's haunting keyboard emitted sounds both mournful and joyous and spoke of both pain and delight.
Overall, this performance was spectacular. It offered rock and blues and demonstrated how the Doors' sound continued to improve and grow tighter with each passing year. Within this first-rate rock and roll perhaps the listener can find the keys to long-lost visions. Just put on these 2 CDs, close your eyes, and travel through time--let The Doors be the chariot to carry you free.
My rating is A++++
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