The Doors - Live in Detroit 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Wednesday, 30 June 2004


artist:
The Doors

album:
Live In Detroit
format: CD
label: Bright Midnight Records
release year: 2001
performance: 9
sound 8
reviewed by: Bryan Dailey

You may be looking at this record review and wondering why Live In Detroit is not released on Elektra Records, the Doors’ longtime label. Elektra put out six Doors studio albums, remastered versions, a handful of live recordings, a double greatest hits album and a boxed set. In a separate project, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, along with Doors manager Danny Sugarman, have created an Internet-based record label called Bright Midnight records www.thedoors.com to provide unreleased Doors recordings to fans around the world. In a recent statement, the three remaining Doors members said, "Our goal is to give serious Doors fans the material they want, including professional eight-track recordings of concerts, some previously available only as overpriced and inferior-sounding recordings." One of Bright Midnight’s first releases, The Doors: Live In Detroit, recorded at Detroit’s Cobo Arena on May 8, 1970, is a true musical treat for Doors fans. Tickets prices for the show ranged from $2.50 up to a whopping $5.50. 31 years later, you can hear the entire show for $29.98 plus shipping, available only from the Bright Midnight Records website.


While the Doors were recording their legendary album LA Woman, the band would occasionally take long weekends and fly out to various cities to play live. At the time, their current record Morrison Hotel was on the charts, so much of the material from that album found its way into their set list. Always known for their electric live performances, the Doors impressively cranked up their performance at this particular show. Reportedly, this was the longest Doors set ever performed, with the band playing more than hour longer than their usual set. Something special was in the air that night and the sound engineers were ready, rolling the eight-track recorder and presumably grinning from ear to ear.

The Doors tune up and makes sure they’ve got their sound dialed in, playing a little part of "Roadhouse Blues" that they call "Roadhouse Vamp." Even though they performed in Detroit, Jim Morrison kicks off the evening by saying hello to most metropolitan U.S. cities, almost as if he knew that this evening was going to be something out of the ordinary and people across the county and around the world would be hearing it someday. The band then segues into the obscure "Dead Cats, Dead Rats," which is musically the same as "Break On Through (To The Other Side)." They jam on this for a bit and naturally transform it into "Break on Through." Morrison toys with the song’s lyrics more than on any other live recording of the Doors that I can remember, further letting the audience know that this not going to be your regular run-of-the-mill Doors show.

The bulk of the songs on Live in Detroit are the Doors’ bluesier tunes, straying away from the experimentalism of such numbers as "Not to Touch the Earth" and "The Soft Parade." Those are the kinds of Doors tunes that I prefer, but it’s also great to hear the Doors go back to their roots with gritty blues songs such as "Roadhouse Blues," "Five to One" and "Been Down So Long."

The experimental pop side comes out on songs such as the band’s seven-minute version of "Ship of Fools." Manzarek’s keyboard, always in the left channel throughout the album, trades off licks with Robbie Krieger’s fingerpicked guitar (historical note: Kreiger never used a guitar pick). This song starts off light-hearted and poppy, but does some musical twists and turns, using dissonant cords and notes to create a frantic feeling during the bridge. It then goes back to its pop feeling on the outro. This is what the Doors do best. They take you to one place, spin you around, and send you back home the same way you came, but you’re never quite the same as before.

After the show’s intermission, ex-Lovin’ Spoonfull member, John Sebastian, who played harp on "Roadhouse" on the album Morrison Hotel, joins the band on stage playing harmonica and guitar on Disc Two. The Doors have always covered a great deal of sonic ground with the four members and an occasional session bass player. When Sebastian hits the stage with the Doors, they take things up yet another notch, setting up the album's finale, a 17-minute-35-second version of "The End." It may seem like an obvious song to end a Doors show with, but the truth is, they rarely ever played the song live. It is believed that only three or four recorded live versions of the song even exist. Morrison improvises new lyrics all over the song in a way that only he could do.

The sound of "Live In Detroit" is outstanding for a 1970 live recording. There is incredible separation between the instruments, while Morrison’s voice is preset and clear. You can hear his deep baritone shift to high-pitched howls and grunts as the music washes over him. There is very little crowd noise, leading me to believe that all of the instruments we are hearing were taken straight from the mixing console to the eight-track machine. The liner notes from album producer Bruce Botnick support my hunch. Having the original master multi-track tape gave him the ability to mix the show and master it in 48kHz/24-bit resolution. Some of the original parts of the master eight-track tape were spliced out and subsequently lost. These few holes were filled in with a two-track analog archive. Bringing the entire show to the people was more important than the sound quality, but in the end, even the two-track segments sound quite good, just different than the eight-track ones.

This album is an absolute must have for hardcore Doors fans, but even casual fans who only know the band’s radio hits will enjoy this recording, because the hits appear on Live in Detroit. It makes a great introduction for uneducated Doors fans to songs they would probably never hear on their local classic rock stations.







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