Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Doors - "Live In New York"

The following review was posted on another blog two years ago. I'm a little under the weather today and need a day off, so I'm posting it here for the first time. The album was released in March 2010 and sparked some musical memories from my early teens. See you tomorrow!

My first run in with the music of The Doors came, unsurprisingly, through my transistor radio. It was alternately to be found either in my hand, held next to my ear, or in the spring and summer, strapped to the center of my bicycle handlebars.

One day, while delivering The New York Post, the transistor took on a life of its own. I had never heard a sound that imbedded itself so deeply and so quickly into my imagination. It was, I learned later, the insistent organ playing of Ray Manzerak backing the lead vocalist, Jim Morrison, on the new single “Light My Fire.” This recording would skyrocket up the charts to Number One, where it would remain for many weeks.

The record is a notable one in that it served as a ground breaker for future artists and releases to pass the 3 minutes and some odd seconds that comprised the world of Pop Music and AM radio formats at the time. The full version of “Light My Fire” ran over 11 minutes. It was originally pared down to 3 minutes or so before all the phone calls started pouring in to the radio stations. The listeners who had the album wanted to hear the full version. In various cities the song was trimmed according to the audience and the advertisers. Even in New York we only got about 7 minutes on AM. But this was the moment when the format was about to change.

Within a year of “Light My Fire” being released we had “MacArthur Park” written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Richard Harris. It was well over 7 minutes in length and remained at the top of the charts all summer. It is a signature song from a signature year. This influence did not go unnoticed by The Beatles who released “Hey Jude” in September of 1968. It was also over 7 minutes long.

The only Pop song I can think of that ran longer than 4 minutes prior to “Light My Fire” is “A Quick One” by The Who, which was the precursor to the rock opera “Tommy.”

The Doors went on to record a string of Pop hits, including “Wishful, Sinful”, “People Are Strange” and some longer tracks such as “When the Music’s Over.” The bands signature number “The End” later became the opening music for the film “Apocalypse Now.”

Originally blues based The Doors became caught up in the whirlwind of pop stardom. The constant pressure to have hit after hit and the rigors of life on the road put the group into a kind of rut. It’s hard to be creative when you’re racing from studio to plane to show after show. It’s even harder to retain sight of what you were originally trying to be.

And so it went with The Doors. They left us quite a bit of Pop hits and some classic stuff like “The End” but may have never left the Blues imprint that they desired to at the beginning.

The current release of “Live In New York” - a 6 CD boxed set recorded 18 months before Jim Morrison’s death in 1971 showcases the bands attempt to achieve this goal. In a series of shows at The Felt Forum the band performs blues standards by legendary bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. Interspersed with these luminary songs are some of The Doors greatest hits, “Whiskey Bar”, “When the Music’s Over” , “Roadhouse Blues” and of course “Light My Fire.” Also of interest is the banter between Mr. Morrison and the audience.

Great sound for what was probably only an 8 track live recording. And I don’t know whether this will be received by some as a compliment or not, but in the final analysis, “Little Red Rooster” and all the other blues numbers sound like The Doors playing the blues. You can take this 2 ways- either they weren’t that great at the blues or that their unique sound simply overshadowed whatever they were likely to perform. I prefer the latter.

An interesting album from one of the era’s most influential bands, it’s worth a listen.

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