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The Doors: Live At The Bowl '68

Doug Collette By

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The Doors' Live at The Bowl '68 is a remarkable piece of work, as much for the technical wizardry of the recording it comprises as for the pointed restraint on the part of the iconic band as it performs.

Arguably at the height of its popularity at the time of this July 5, 1968 performance at the famed Los Angeles venue, The Doors was about to peak in commercial terms, at which point its music suffered as much as the attitude of lead vocalist Jim Morrison. On this recording, however, the dumbed-down single from its then current album, Waiting for the Sun (Elektra, 1968) is the only vestige of the lack of imagination that would afflict its work in the years to come. By contrast, The Doors seamlessly interweave music and poetry in such a way that it pays proper homage to its roots (Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man") as does its ambitions as cultural visionary ("The Unknown Soldier").

Not quite so far-reaching as instrumental improvisers, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore nevertheless had a unique chemistry that not only allowed them to sustain the mood of extended compositions that booked this Hollywood Bowl concert ("When the Music's Over," "The End"), but jam in the traditional style of jazz tradeoffs during their signature song "Light My Fire." The foursome maintains a fine balance of such intervals in proportion to the spoken-word intervals Morrison enacts on "Horse Latitudes' and "The Hill Dwellers." There are, consequently, no dull passages throughout the entirety of the show.

That's all the more remarkable in light of the performance here being presented in its entirety for the first time on audio or video. Technical glitches sabotaged the singing at certain junctures during the original live recordings, but engineer Bruce Botnick—in a genuine labor of love on behalf of the band with whom he worked so long—found the means to insert snippets of takes from other stops on The Doors' summer 1968 tour and thus fill in the gaps. His expertise is such that the transitions that occur in "The WASP (Texas Radio and The Big Beat)," for instance, are virtually impossible to discern.

Thus restored for the sake of release also on DVD, Blu-Ray and vinyl, the CD packaging is stylishly designed. Including a booklet with written content from Botnick and the surviving band members, there is also a plentiful array of photos, similar to those on the inside and outside covers, that represent The Doors in its heyday as vividly as the music enclosed in this colorful, double-fold digipak.

Track Listing: Show Start/Intro; When the Music's Over; Alabama Song (Whisky Bar); Back Door Man; Five To One; Back Door Man (Reprise); The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat); Hello, I Love You; Moonlight Drive; Horse Latitudes; A Little Game; The Hill Dwellers; Spanish Caravan; Hey, What Would You Guys Like To Hear?; Wake Up!; Light My Fire; Light My Fire >The Unknown Soldier>The End.

Personnel: Jim Morrison: vocals, percussion; Ray Manzarek: keybords, vocals; Robby Kirieger: guitar; John Densmore: drums.

Title: Live At The Bowl '68 | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Rhino Records

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