Live At The Bowl ’68 (Blu-ray) by The Doors

December 1, 2012

Every once in a while, things work out just about perfectly for a rock group. So it was for The Doors when they performed July 5, 1968 at the Hollywood Bowl. That performance has now been remastered from the original camera negatives and audio tapes. I have seen this concert film in the past and the upgrade in quality is startling, which is a testament to modern technology. The image on this Blu-ray disc has an aspect ratio of 1:78:1. The high definition transfer comes with both a 2.0 stereo and DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. The original 16mm film also underwent a high definition scanning process. They even did an impressive job of reformatting the original 1:33:1 full frame to fill the widescreen frame.

The result is a very clear picture. There is a little flickering around the edges because of the reformatting, but it is not really noticeable or intrusive. The sound of each instrument is distinct and does not intrude on Morrison’s vocals. Every once in awhile there is an issue transitioning from one angle to another but again this does not handicap the overall visual experience. Maybe everything is a bit too perfect, which concerts are not, but for a glimpse of The Doors at the height of their powers, this is about as good as it gets.

The highlight of the release is the inclusion of three previously unreleased tracks, which had never been included due to technical difficulties with the original audio recordings. Now “Hello, I Love You,” “The WASP,” and “Spanish Caravan” have returned, making the original concert complete.

It was a different concert experience musically, as the The Doors were only three albums into their career. Many of their well-known songs had not yet been created, so the set list was limited to their early career period. Some of these songs would disappear from their set list as time passed and it is nice to see them performed with passion and power.

It is a rare concert when well-known songs such as “Light My Fire,” “Five to One,” and “Hello, I Love You” take a backseat to “Back Door Man,” “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” “Moonlight Drive,” and “Spanish Caravan.” The former have been overplayed and sometimes it feels as if The Doors are on cruise control while the latter contain surprises, plus they have more of a raw and spontaneous feel to them.

The concert ended with back-to-back performances of “The Unknown Soldier” and “The End.” Jim Morrison is at his best as he prowls the stage, bringing the concert to a satisfying climax.

While the focus was always on frontman Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore were integral not only to the sound but to the visual concert experience.

There are a number of bonuses, including a history of the Hollywood Bowl, and explanation of how the film was restored, and the band members talking about the experience. Two rare performances, “Wild Child” from a 1968 Smothers Brothers television episode and “Light My Fire” from the 1967 Jonathan Winters Show, are resurrected.

The Doors as a band and Jim Morrison himself are long gone, but Live At The Bowl ’68 is a fine testament to their legacy as one of rock history’s better live bands. It’s the next best thing to being there.

Article first published as Music Blu-ray Review: The Doors – Live At The Bowl ’68 on Blogcritics.

People Are Strange 45 by The Doors

June 14, 2012

The Doors has just introduced themselves to the music world with their self-titled debut album and their mega-hit “light My Fire.” Their follow-up single was “People Are Strange.” Released during the summer of 1967, it reached number 12 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It contained ominous lyrics and a vocal to match. It was not as catchy as their first hit but it looked ahead to much of their future material. It is a song that has grown on me down through the years as it represents the essence of The Doors.

Ships w/ Sails 45 by The Doors

May 12, 2011

The Doors were about at the end of their career. Jim Morrison was dead, an although the band had tried to carry on, their commercial success was at an end.

Two post Jim Morrison singles had managed to reach the lower part of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, but “Ship /w Sails” received no chart action at all.

The music was fine but Jim Morrison’s vocals were missed. He was one of the great rock vocalists and when he was removed from the equation, it just wasn’t the same for The Doors.

And so “Ships w/ Sails” helped usher The Doors into retirement.

Full Circle by The Doors

August 9, 2010

The Doors began working on Other Voices during the summer of 1971 with the expectation that Jim Morrison would return from Paris. He didn’t. The result was an album that contained music identifiable with the Doors but with the major piece missing. The music was both good and bad and the commercial reception average.

Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Desmore returned to the studio during the spring of 1972 with no expectation that the deceased Morrison would ever return. The resulting album, Full Circle, was poorly received and their least commercially successful studio album.

Either the ideas had worn out or they made the conscious decision to make a Doors album unlike any others. If it was intentional at least they tried to move in a new musical direction that would have put some distance between them and the Jim Morrison era. Unfortunately the results were for the most part poor and they would break-up during 1973.

The music moves in a boogie rock direction with some jazz thrown in for good measure.

They released two singles, neither of which was successful. “The Mosquito” was an odd song. The musical breaks and tempo changes have a sort of a jazz feel. While Manzarek’s keyboards are excellent, the nasal sounding vocals detracts from the songs appeal. It would spend four weeks on the American singles charts but only reach number 85. “Get Up and Dance” is a bouncy number and was released as the second single but would fail to chart. Its claim to fame was the B side which is the rarest studio track in The Doors catalogue. “Tree Trunk” was a non-album track which has rarely been released on any compilation album.

“The Piano Bird” is really a jazz number rather than a rock song. They took “Good Rockin’” by the old rhythm & blues artist Roy Brown and move it in a rock direction. “It Slipped My Mind,” and “The Peking King and The New York Queen” are average rock songs and quite forgettable.

Full Circleremains a historical curiosity. It was a valiant, if failed, attempt to keep The Doors alive. While Manzarek, Krieger, and Desmore would reunite several times down through the years, the classic Doors died with Jim Morrison.

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Other Voices by The Doors

August 9, 2010

While Jim Morrison was vacationing in France, Ray Manzarek, John Desmore, and Robbie Krieger began laying down tracks for The Doors next album. Little did they realize at the time that he was not coming back. He was found dead in his apartment bathtub on July 3, 1971. His gravesite in Pere Lachaise Cemetery is one of the leading tourist attractions in Paris.

The remaining members of the group would forge ahead and release Other Voices during the fall of 1972. It would be critically panned at the time but did become a moderate commercial success reaching number 68 on The American album charts.

The album is not all bad, just half bad. It can be divided into two parts. The first four songs range from competent to good while the last four are increasingly poor. The beauty of the original vinyl release is you could listen to side one without ever turning the record over.

“In The Eye Of The Sun” is close to a classic Doors song. It contains excellent lyrics, some creative guitar work by Krieger, and some surprisingly good vocals from Manzarek. “Variety Is The Spice Of Life” has a different beat than the usual Doors material. While Robbie Krieger’s vocals are inoffensive, they make you yearn for Morrison. “Ships With Sails” would have been a good fit for L.A. Woman and is one of the few times the band sings harmony. “Tightrope Ride” is the album’s best track and is one of the better productions of Krieger’s career.

Now for the bad news because there is a flip side to the release. “Down On The Farm” is basically a poorly constructed song. “I’m Horny, I’m Stoned” was a humorous song that ended up laughable. The vocal by Krieger is listless at best. “Wandering Musician” may be an old Doors style song but the quality is not there. “Hang On To Your Life” concludes the album on a dismal note.

The remaining Doors had the unenviable and impossible task of producing an album without the vocal point of the group. Jim Morrison was the key piece of The Doors puzzle, and without him everything just did not come together. There is some acceptable music here but the album pales when compared to any of their six classic studio releases.

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Singularity by Robbie Krieger

August 4, 2010

A singularity is a profound event such as the “big bang” which initiated the creation of the universe. It is also the name of the Robby Krieger painting which adorns his new album cover.

Robby Krieger was the lead guitarist of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame rock band, The Doors. While the members of the group shared writing credits for the most part, he wrote such well known songs as “Love Her Madly,” “Touch Me,” “Love Me Two Times,” and “Light My Fire.”Rolling Stone Magazine named him one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time.

While there are still elements of The Doors music in his current release, this instrumental album shows that he has evolved and moved in different directions.

His love of Flamenco music forms the foundation of Singularity.The album begins with “Russian Caravan Intro” which is a solo Krieger playing Flamenco guitar. Drawing on the old Doors song, “Spanish Caravan,” he channels the Spanish guitar master Segovia in tone and phrasing. This leads to the ten minute “Russian Caravan.” It begins similar to the music of a bull fight complete with a horn section. drums, keyboards, and bass supporting Krieger’s flamenco excursions.

“Event Horizon (intro)” and the longer “Event Horizon” continue this style but elements of jazz can be found in the mix.

“Southern Cross” with some excellent slide guitar and “Let It Ride” are the most traditional tracks. They are stripped to basics with only bass, drums, and keyboards supporting Krieger. The tracks are more melodic and reminiscent of some of his classic work with The Doors.

Singularity finds him taking some chances plus showing an ability to change and stay fresh which is always nice to see in an artist over forty years into his career. It may not appeal to everyone but if you are a fan of the guitar and particularly of Robbie Krieger it is a nice and interesting way to spend an hour.

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Light My Fire 45 by The Doors

July 26, 2010

The Doors released their first single, “Break On Through,” and it only reached number 101 on the American singles charts. If you don’t succeed, try try again. “Light My Fire” was the second single and it would top the American charts for three weeks during September of 1967. It is now recognized as one of the classic songs of its era.

The single was a shortened version of the album track. Jim Morrison’s vocal, and Ray Manzarek’s organ would propel the song and their debut album to massive sales and become the group’s first step toward The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993.

While most songs by the Doors would have writing credits attributed to the group, it would be Robbie Krieger who was mainly responsible for this song. If it had been the only song he ever wrote, his career still would have been memorable.

Today “Light My Fire” remains a radio staple and one of the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll.