Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Doors at their best!

I love the Doors and the Danbury 67 bootleg is one of my favourite live recordings of any band. This is why...
October 11th, 1967.  It was less than a month after Jim Morrison got the Doors banned from Ed Sullivan for singing the word “higher” during “Light My Fire” and less than 2 months before he becomes the first rock star arrested on stage in New Haven, the Doors played Danbury High School in Danbury, New York. They were arguably the biggest band in the country and riding their initial wave of success. On the same day as the Sullivan show, the band and Jim Morrison had took part in 2 photo shoots while in New York. Known as the “Young Lion” photo session, these pictures would go on to define the band and Morrison’s image. This quote from sums it up.
“The Doors are packing every place they play. The "young lion" photos are appearing everywhere and Jim's layout in Vogue comes out in the middle of the month (October). Both Time and Newsweek run articles on The Doors. The Doors are now mainstream news. Jim is becoming masterful on stage turning concerts into seances evoking cathartic experiences with his calculating moves and control of the audience. The Doors are playing at or near their best. Jim is treating each show as if it's his last giving all out performances.”
For the show at Danbury, legend has it that a member of the faculty recorded the show with a reel to reel set next one of the PA speakers, or possibly above the stage. However they did it, what they recorded that night is simply rock and roll legend.
They start with “Moonlight Drive” and Jim puts in a stellar version of "Horses Latitudes" in the middle. Then comes a very poignant moment. The Four Seasons were originally supposed to play the show, but didn’t. Some of their fans were in the crowd, disappointed at missing their favourite band and not fans of the Doors. Leading into the second song, Morrison does his usual, “let me tell ya about something I haven’t seen in a long time, something I need reeeeaaaal bad” then asks the crowd, “Do you know what it is?”, some guy responds, “A bath” and laughter ensues. Morrison dives into the song , ignoring the heckler and delivering a fierce version of “Money”.
A killer “Break On Through” follows with more poetic improv, then “Back Door Man” in full featuring “Got The Right”. I kinda prefer the full versions of this tune instead of when they chopped it into a medley. It’s followed by probably the best recorded version of the rarely performed, “People Are Strange”.  Another great moment comes next with a mesmerizing version of the “Crystal Ship”. Then just when everyone is hypnotized he screams, “WAKE UP!” The intro poem leads into “Light My Fire” and it’s an inspired version to say the least. Even down to Jim’s “Persian night babe……see that light…” poem, it’s perfectly timed.
Jim is very reserved physically, but hitting all the right notes musically. Plus Ray, John and Robby are in top shape this night, the solos on “Light my Fire” are some of their best. By the time they reach the beginning of “The End” the band is practically chomping at the bit to get into it. The version that follows is easily my favourite and considered by many to be their best. The band clicks with rare abandon and is firing on all cylinders. The part where Jim sings accapella, “He walked on down the hallway baby” and the band explodes back in is incredible. Robby’s guitar scream after the “father I’m going to kill you” part is bone chilling. Then Ray plays a couple of notes on the keys at about the 16 minute mark that have never appeared in another recorded version. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard and I wish it would’ve become a much bigger part of the song. But, it only exists for a few brief seconds which almost makes it sound that much better. Then…..for the final climax, Morrison jumps off the stage, screaming into the shocked crowd. He gets back up and proceeds the smash mic stand into the stage repeatedly. If you listen closely, you can actually a few of the hits. He then falls to knees in a heap before slowly getting up to mass applause and finishing the song.
It’s a listening experience unlike any other. There are only a handful of Doors live recordings from 1967 and Danbury is the only complete show and simply an incredible document of their first creative peak. The sound quality is a little distorted, but still quite superior for an amatuer recording. I did make some small improvements to the original mp3’s. The right side dropped out for a few portions of “Break On Through”, plus a couple of smaller spots in “People Are Strange” and “Light My Fire”. I’ve corrected those, but there are still some volume fluctuations, tape hiss and such that I didn’t mess with. And I fixed the skip at the beginning of “Light My Fire”.
The rarity of so many moments and Morrison delivering one of his most consistent performances ever recorded make Danbury one of a kind. But don’t take my word for it check it out for yourself by clicking here. 

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