Friday, January 02, 2009

The Doors - Absolutely Live!

While there are a number of new live recordings coming to light these days from the Doors, this initial live offering is still my favorite. I guess I’m partial to my first impressions! While none of their “hits” are included, this shows both their bluesy side as well as their improvisational skills.

Opening with one of their blues covers, “Who Do You Love”, the group utilizes dynamics, slide guitar and Manzerek’s keyboards to make this old tune one of their own. Purists might have been pissed, but their unique stamp is groovy and rockin’. Funnily though, the traditional Bo Diddley beat is almost eradicated here.

One of their oddest choices of other people’s songs was the cabaret tune, “Alabama Song”, regardless of the lyrical hedonism, and this is one of my least favorite Doors’ songs. But, this begins a medley that leads into one of my favorites, Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man”, a superbly intense reading that flows into Morrison’s psychedelic “Love Hides” for a couple of minutes before concluding with their fuzz monster, “Five to One”.

They pack this record with bluesy tunes, including the original “Build Me a Woman”, one that I dug enough to cover in my first band! Of course, as a horny teen, how could I resist lines like “build me someone I can ball – all night long”?

More familiar territory is explored in “When the Music’s Over”, their journey into Jim’s id and the band’s musical explorations. Morrison’s shriek merges with Robbie Krieger’s heavy fuzz at the beginning to signal the start of something dark and wild, though overall the backing is reasonably subdued. Really nice lead work from Krieger, too. Morrison is funny as he tries to quiet the crowd during a dramatic moment in the tune, asking them to “give the singer some”! Of course, this only riles them further and he gives up and shouts out the “we want the world and we want it now” line.

From here they lighten up a bit with Jim kidding around with the audience as he introduces Manzerek as the lead vocalist for another blues number, Dixon’s “Close to You”. The “special treat” intro is probably as well known as Ray’s take on this classic.

An original that was never recorded in the studio (as far as I know) is “Universal Mind”, a nice, psych-pop number in a minor key which is most likely one of my faves from this collection, if for no other reason than its uniqueness. Jim bellows his “petition the lord with prayer” from Soft Parade and then there is a strange introduction (‘dead cats, dead rats”) before they blast into the one semi-hit, “Break on Through”, a fairly faithful and powerful reading.

The centerpiece of the record is their musical rendition of a poem that was included in the gatefold of Waiting for the Sun, “Celebration of the Lizard”. The CD breaks up all of the separate sections as individual tracks, instead of one long one on the album, presumably to make the CD look like it is packed with songs! There are very distinct musical themes throughout and they are really just held together by Morrison’s poetic story. I love his way with words so this expedition has always enthralled me. A number of the pieces will be familiar to fans as they took themes and portions of previous songs for this tour de force and it keeps your interest musically and lyrically throughout.

They close the set cleverly with “Soul Kitchen”, which is highlighted by the phrase “the clock on the wall says it’s time to go, now” and “I really wanna stay here all night”. This is a rockin’ and rollickin’ end to a great set.

A number of live collections have been released since this one and more seem to be on their way, but this is definitely a strong outing and definitely one for the fans!