It makes sense to cover a Doors release in Ink Nineteen, since Jimbo is, after all, a hometown boy. Born in Melbourne, Florida, Jim Morrison eventually gravitated to California, UCLA, and alas, the rest is history (or an Oliver Stone film).
And a sizable portion of that history is represented in the new Doors Box Set, which includes four discs and a 55-page booklet, easily the most significant “official” release since An American Prayer. This is (almost) nothing but good news for Doors fans, who have waited years for the Doors to release a box set.
Among the many highlights are the live cuts on disk two from a 1970 performance at Madison Square Garden. By 1970, the Doors were (when they felt like it — which usually depended on Jim) a well-honed performing unit. They had collectively transcended their own boredom with material they had played year in and year out, in show after show, in town after town, and begun to breathe new life into compositions which, in some cases, had been with them from the beginning. “The End” is especially good here, as is a newer addition to their concert song list, “Peace Frog/Blue Sunday,” originally released on the studio album Morrison Hotel. How these tracks managed to languish in the Elektra vaults for this long is hard to fathom.
Discs one and three include — among other things — songs from the original demo the Doors used to shop the band’s eventual record deal. While these tunes, along with some of the other highlights on these two discs, have been available in the past through bootleg sources, the advantage to acquiring them here is in the superior sound quality this sanctioned release delivers — clearly head and shoulders over the best bootleg out there.
Also included, a Morrison tone poem from 1970, entitled “Orange County Suite,” enables surviving bandmates to renew their subscriptions to the resurrection, one more time. “OCS” is a poignant, typically bittersweet Morrison lyric in which he reflects on the tragic nature of his relationship with Pamela Courson, the woman he sometimes referred to as his ‘soul mate.’ Finishing this off for Jim must have been routine for the Doors after all the practice they had gotten while recording 1978’s An American Prayer. Still, the outcome of these recording studio ‘Frankentraks’ always sound a bit bizarre, even a little unnerving. “OCS” has an eerie quality, like the aural antecedent of a hologram, it floats in a magnetic void between the past and the present, never quite settling into either place.
While the DBS is truly a feast for friends of the Doors, the meal could have been shortened by a course or two. One example is the impromptu jam session entitled “Rock Is Dead.” Associating the ‘death of rock’ with his own death, Morrison, throughout this semi-drunken rap, distills his increasing disillusionment with the possibility that the youth culture can make any tangible impact on the world. Ironically, as if to underscore the very social limitations that Morrison’s rap implies, the band continues churning merrily along, almost obliviously. Not unknown to many Doors fans over the years, its inclusion here adds little to the body of their available recorded work, beyond the fact that it presents Morrison’s improvised narrative. Otherwise, this 16-minute meandering will surely leave some listeners wondering why it was not included in a more abridged form.
Also, for disc four, each of the surviving band members picked his five favorite Doors tracks. Thus, the 15 tracks on the final disk represent nothing new, and only serve to tack another 15 dollars on to the price tag. This redundancy could have been avoided by including the information as part of the accompanying booklet — just say ’em guys, no need to play ’em! So if you don’t own other recordings by the Doors (though most who’ll shell out for a box do) then you’re ahead on the deal. But in light of the material available on the other three discs, one could consider the fourth disc a bonus, and leave it at that.
Overall, the Doors Box Set is a must for both novices and seasoned Doors fans, alike. The set provides probably the truest glimpse of who the Doors were, from their humble beginning in Venice, California, to a hot night in Miami — and beyond… So let it roll! Recommended.