As with the previously-released archive titles of the Doors, Feast of Friends elevates the standard for such vault projects to another level by including pertinent content from the time period in which the band's self-financed and produced film was made. current group manager Jeffrey Jampol and sound engineer Bruce Botnick, as well as essayist Len Sousa and the filmmaker himself Paul Ferrara, place the piece in the context of the times and illuminate a perspective on the band often lost in its cyclical popularity over the years.
In fact, might well be experienced most vividly as a full-scale theatrical presentation with its bonus features as prelude to the main feature. Transcending the fully-lit studio stage, The Doors' riveting performance of "The End" on a Canadian television series in May of 1967-before "Light My Fire" made them famousfinds the whole band, including vocalist Jim Morrison, completely engaged for the duration as their audience looks alternately perplexed, curious and off-put.
Likewise the Roundhouse London concert footage from the British documentary "The Doors Are Open." Interspersion of non-musical footage occasionally interrupts the drama of the performances, but the quartet are again intensely immersed in this show for its duration. And that's including Morrison who, rather than be reviled by his audience as in later years, interacts with them during the improvisation segment of their initial hit. And the Doors' signature song has its musical dynamics dramatized by the frontman's spoken word intro, highlighting the unique instrumental lineup of the band (keyboards,m guitar and drums but no bassist) as well as their cogent approach to jamming.
The performance art element of the final number, "The Unknown Soldier," adds to the chaotic nature of the Doors concerts of the period footage early on in Feast of Friends proper where security actually impedes the group's performance as police look more bewildered than poised ;particularly during some of Morrison's cavorting on stage. Precisely because he's part of the group's inner circle, Ferrara's presence as he films does nothing to interrupt the spontaneity of the Doors' actions as they're filmed traveling, during free time and in particular during backstage intervals where a more lighthearted demeanor surfaces in a most startling contrast with their dour/stoic public personae.
While the shot dissolves and superimpositions in the Ferrara-shot film aren't quite so smooth as those in the "live at the Hollywood Bowl" performance, the transitions add to the impromptu atmosphere,as does Morrison's complete lack of a conventional frontman's stage moves: clumsy at times as he moves around the stage(s), therein still lies an edgy and ominous unpredictability, arguably no greater now with the advantage of hindsight than at the time of the original cinematography.
The abrupt ending of the project, due to increasing tumult afflicting all the band's activities at the time, ultimately mirrors the trajectory of the Doors' career in the wake of Morrison's death. Thus the content of the band in the recording studio with producer Paul Rothchild, during the latter part of "Feast of Friends: Encore," well as additional scenes portraying the group merely killing time playing cards or capturing Morrison backstage, begs the question of how 'finished' was the version of the film as the vocalist/poet took a master with him when he moved to Paris in 1971 following completion of LA Woman (Elektra, 1971): its almost equal length aside, this bonus feature has as much or more continuity as the film itself.
Emanating over the disc menu, "Strange Days" is the ideal theme song for Feast of Friends as the title song to the second Doors albums resonates deeply enough to conjure a sensations of both dislocation and focus on what's depicted here of the Doors in turn becoming it's own eerie reflection of the long-term influence of this iconic group.
Production Notes: 144 minutes run time approximate. Bonsu Feature: Feast of Friends: Encore; "The Doors Are Open" documentary; "The End" performance clip.
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