In Session By Robbie Krieger

August 3, 2017

Robbie Krieger’s place in rock and roll history is secure. He was the guitarist for the legendary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band The Doors. He also co-wrote many of their most famous songs including “Light My Fire,” “Love Her Madly,” “Love Me Two Times,” and “Touch Me.”

He is known as one of the best guitarists of his generation. He maintained an off again-on again relationship with fellow Doors bandmate Ray Manzarek until the latters death. His solo career has traveled in a number of directions including rock, jazz-fusion, and experimental. He has now released the eighth studio album of his career titled In Session.

Krieger has just produced the most commercial album of his career. In Session is also a simple album.  It is a group of catchy songs on which he is joined by a number of guest artists including Jackson Browne, Nik Turner, Billy Sherwood, Tommy Shaw, Rod Argent, and even William Shatner, which was not as bad as it sounds.

“Where We Belong” with Tony Kaye, “Brain Damage” with Geoff Downes, and in one of the last performances of his life “All You Need Is Love” with John Wetton provide edgy partnerships for Krieger’s rock and roll approach. Jackson Browne with “Across The Universe” and Tommy Shaw of Styx with “Don’t Leave Me Know” provide a lighter side to his music.

The only two misses are an out of place performance of “The Little Drummer Boy” and a terribly recorded live version of “Back Door Man.”

Krieger’s previous solo efforts have always been serious affairs. In Session is just plain fun and enjoyable and that makes all the difference.

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.

An American Prayer by The Doors

July 25, 2010

An American Prayer by The Doors is definitely an acquired taste and for many it is a taste that is difficult to swallow. Whatever one’s feelings about the album, it does remain an interesting look into the mind and poetry of Jim Morrison.

I must admit it is an album I have not listened to for decades. If I want some Doors on my turntable, I usually turn to L.A. Woman, Morrison Hotel, or their debut. Whatever my feelings, though, American Prayer was a commercial success at the time of its release. It may have only reached number 54 on the American album charts but it did sell a million copies and receive a platinum sales award.

This was a posthumous album. Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore reunited seven years after Jim Morrison’s death and recorded backing music to set to some of his poetry. While recognized as an official Doors studio album, it is very different from all of the band’s other releases.

The poetry is typical of Morrison. He had a way with words and was able to create images that would mesmerize. These words and images were not always clear or understandable but they have a weird depth about them.

The music tends to fit the words well. While the band revisited some psychedelic sounds from their past, they were smart enough to fit the music to the individual poems. Rock, classical, and even some smooth-jazz tones provide a nice background and add a positive effect to Morrison’s spoken words.

The only oddity is a seven-minute live version of “Roadhouse Blues.” While it does not fit in with the rest of the material, it is so good that it makes you wish for more of the same. It may have been included because of the record company’s desire for a single from the album.

An American Prayer is probably just for committed fans of The Doors. The 1995 remastered release is divided into sections and is a good deal longer. In the final analysis it occupies an interesting if nonessential place in The Doors’ catalog.

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Absolutely Live by The Doors

July 25, 2010

Absolutely Live was released during July of 1970 when The Doors were at the height of their creative and commercial power. The album remained the definitive document of their concert style for years. It was not until the CD era opened the flood gates of unreleased material that this album was superseded by better releases.

My only real complaint with this album is the method in which the songs were assembled or, I should say, put together. I have always preferred to hear a concert in its entirety, the good with the bad, as it presents an accurate picture of the artist live. Such is not the case here. Not only do the performances come from many different shows, but the actual songs are pieced together. Separate parts of the same song were originally spliced together in the hope of creating the perfect track. Legend has it that hundreds of song bits were used to create this double album. It all adds up to The Doors live but without a true concert feel.

The band’s choice of material was consistently excellent and interesting; it was not just a regurgitation of their greatest hits at the time. A number of rarely performed tracks made the album, which made it unique in The Doors’ catalog at the time. They also included complete versions of two of their lengthy pieces.

Their version of the old blues tune “Who Do You Love” gets the album off to a strong start. The ominous lyrics fit Morrison well plus the band was able to demonstrate their improvisational skills. Other rarely presented gems included “Love Hurts,” “Build Me A Woman,” “Dead Cats, Dead Rats,” and “Universal Mind.”

Among their well known songs to be included were “Break On Through (To The Other Side) #2″ — featuring some creative guitar work by Robbie Krieger — as well as“Five To One,” which is always welcome no matter what the format. This early live version of the latter finds The Doors at their best. A seven minute “Soul Kitchen” then brings the album to a nice conclusion.

The two long tracks probably sum up the live Doors best. “When The Music’s Over,” at sixteen minutes, and “Celebration Of The Lizard,” at fourteen-plus minutes reveal Morrison, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore, and Ray Manzarek at their most powerful. Morrison’s charisma, stage performance, and lyrics move front and center while the group expands the material into unexplored territory.

Today there are a number of other live performances by The Doors that are equal too or superior too Absolutely Live. Still it remains a nice look at the career of one of rock’s classic bands circa 1970.

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