Just before The Doors became huge stars later in 1967 with their debut album, THE DOORS, as well as their first two singles, the moderately successful, "Break On Through" and the later mega-smash hit, "Light My Fire" for Elektra Records, The Doors were only a club circuit band. Rhino Records has recently released LIVE AT THE MATRIX which includes early rare club recordings of this band playing to a very small San Francisco audience that were previously only available on some poor quality bootleg albums. In addition, since most of the bootleg albums were only a single record album, the Rhino two Cd package of LIVE AT THE MATRIX allows for a lot more material that was previously unheard by most fans of The Doors.
And certainly, Rhino Records does a pretty good job with what they had to work with to make LIVE AT THE MATRIX into a reasonably good package. The only real complaint is that the producers of the project didn't want to pay the higher cost to purchase the first generation master tape of The Doors playing The Matrix, so instead used a second generation copy of the performances to compile into this two Cd set. Certainly, this unfortunate cost cutting resulted in a recording not quite as good as humanly possible to produce the best possible recording despite some nice digital cleanup work by the technicians from Rhino. There is some chatter out there that the some deal may be eventually reached to use the first generation tapes to release the album at some point. Thank goodness if that ever happens.
But for now, what Rhino offers is a pretty good document of the early Doors sound. The vocal performances by Jim Morrison are far more restrained and controlled than the more riotous, and often drunken, Jim Morrison on later live recordings such as ABSOLUTELY LIVE. And LIVE AT THE MATRIX features a few rarities which were never recorded by The Doors on any studio release album including "I'm A King Bee", "Money", and the R&B standard blues song, "Get Out Of My Life, Woman".
From small venues like The Matrix, The Doors filled major theatres once "Light My Fire" became a huge top forty hit for the group. So this album is a rare glimpse into a more intimate sounding Doors. And indeed, The Doors, while top flight musicians, only seemed to grow better with age as well. Ray Manzarek was always a master keyboard player. And Robbie Krieger's guitar work always seemed to have some interesting influences including a Latin sound as well as jazz and other esoteric influences. John Densmore, who later became estranged from the other two surviving Doors, was always a decent drummer.
But for now, LIVE AT THE MATRIX, is a must own recording for any good fans of this significant 60's counter culture act. The Doors were a rebellious and great act that could have only flourished in a time period such as the 60's by all means. And their keyboard heavy and creepy dark sound seemed to influence later punk acts such The Stranglers, who sound strangely a little like The Doors on their early recordings. Even some songs by The Stranglers like "Strange Little Girl", sure sound like a Doors song for sure in title, style and writing.
LIVE AT THE MATRIX is a darn great Doors item. It's the band in basic form before all the major glitz and all the alcohol and drugs destroyed Morrison. The Doors last album before Jim Morrison's death, L.A. Woman, was marred by Morrison's alcohol abuse causing the group's longtime sound producer and technician to quit out of anger, when the recording sessions drug on for days due to Morrison's drunken condition in the studio. Eventually, the album was finally finished. And the result was one of the best Doors album yet, with a unique sound. And The Doors finally got around to recording one of the old blues standards that they had been doing in clubs for years on the album, "Crawling King Snake". The album was more blues than most Doors albums. The Doors were always a blues influenced group, however that fact didn't always readily show up on their pop hit singles such as "Light My Fire", "People Are Strange" or "Hello, I Love You" which seemed to catch the teenage girl listeners. There was the pop Doors, with teen idol bad boy Jim Morrison, and the there was the darker blues and album oriented Doors that appealed to the 60's generation psychedelic music fans with dark creeped out poetry and incendiary revolutionary lyrics such as songs like "Five To One" or "Tell All The People". There was certainly once two distinct Doors identities for the group. One top forty, the other very dark.
LIVE AT THE MATRIX is an essential Doors item for any true fan of the group. It is a pretty good statement about the starting point of this great iconic 60's rock act.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!