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Thursday, November 24, 2005

DOWN SO LONG

Posted on Thu, Nov 24, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Live in Philadelphia
Label: Bright Midnight Archives/Rhino Handmade
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Live in Philadelphia

The Doors recorded six studio albums with Jim Morrison. Two more followed after his death on July 3, 1971, but like Squeeze by the Velvet Underground and In Space by Big Star, no one considers them part of the legacy. The Doors have also released more than six hits compilations and are now in the industry of uncovering an endless stream of live recordings. As the Bible clearly states: That which is found under the car seat shall be reissued.

Live in Philadelphia, recorded May 1, 1970, at the Spectrum, was one of several shows the Doors recorded for what became Absolutely Live. That album was an acceptable snapshot of the band, providing several previously unheard tracks, including the much-rumored (to that point) "Celebration of the Lizard," "Universal Mind," "Build Me a Woman" and "Close to You," a generic three-chord rock tune sung by the band's keyboardist Ray Manzarek that really makes you wonder who didn't request their money back on those nights when Morrison was too fucked up to take the mike.

By 1970, Morrison was nearly beyond his psychedelic pretensions. His Lizard King persona only rears up for the brief excerpt of "Celebration" as "Wake Up," a prelude to "Light My Fire," which got the Philly audience to applaud. "Break on Through," "When the Music's Over" and "Soul Kitchen" are the only residuals of the leather-clad Lothario. Mostly, he was a husky bluesman, getting seriously behind "Roadhouse Blues" and clearly jazzed to be bellowing Chuck Berry's "Carol," which is significantly worse than the Rolling Stones' version and slightly better than any Berry cover recorded by the Grateful Dead. An early airing of "Been Down So Long" smacks of newfound conviction, but a 10-plus-minute version of "Mystery Train" is as dreadful as the reams of rock criticism heaped on the poor song. The second track on the first disc is, as its title states, "Tuning," a nonevent in anyone's hands besides, say, Sonic Youth.

That said, I'd still be up for several more rounds of Doors live recordings. They were a mess, really. But in an age of Pro Tools pitch correction and endless MIDI configurations resulting in sterile, poll-tested "rock," it's a chaos that's all too welcome.

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