DOORS – Absolutely Live (Elektra EKS 9002): Jim Morrison (lead vo); Ray Manzarek (or, b, backup vo, lead vo on Close To You); Robby Krieger (g); John Densmore (d). Who Do You Love; Medley; Alabama Song, Backdoor Man, Love Hides, Five To One; Build Me A Woman; When The Music’s Over; Close To You; Universal Mind; Break On Thru, #2; The Celebration Of The Lizard; Soul Kitchen.
Despite the fact that some of the tracks here performed were in the can for as much as a year after they were recorded, and despite the fact that Absolutely Live is the absolutely worst album title since and including Absolutely Free, and despite the fact that Ray Manzarek adds insult to injury by including) in addition to his lead vocal on Close To You) a direct cop off the Stones’ Play With Fire on the ride section of Break On Thru, #2, and despite the fact that Jim Morrison’s audience patter is a lot snottier than, say, John B. Sebastian’s despite all this, and maybe even because of all this, Absolutely Live is one of the absolutely finest live rock and roll albums ever made, and no mistake.
People are going to say, first off, that The Doors Are Back, meaning those old first-album Doors, and to a certain extent they will be right. (Have you noticed that it is invariably just this sort of record—this one, or Volunteers, or Surrealistic Pillow, or Workingman’s Dead, or the first Doors—that is clutched to the collective rock and roll bosom, gaining showers of acceptance and glee and instantaneous nostalgia, but never the artistically demanding Soft Parades or the Aoxomoxoas or the After Bathing At Baxter’ses? Not that there’s anything WRONG with Volunteers, etc., it’s just that that sort of record is more immediately and easily accessible than the other sort, and so automatically will elicit a wider reaction. Damn.)
But Absolutely Live is good. The sound quality is surpassing excellent, quite probably the best ever on a recorded-in-concert LP; crowd noise is at a gratifyingly high level throughout, and enough new songs are fitted in to make the double-record set less of a Doors anthology than an actual, carefully programmed concert caught on record, complete with rock-ya-sock-ya curtain-raiser (Who Do You Love), medley (three standbys and Love Hides—one of the most beautiful lyrics the Soors ever had), theatrics (When The Music’s Over), production number (The Celebration Of The Lizard), and encore (Soul Kitchen).
Fine as everybody is—Morrison is in great voice and high spirit, Manzarek is unceasingly amazing on keyboard bass as well as on the more obvious organ, and Densmore comes across both solid and flash—it is undisputedly Robbie Krieger who is the real star of this album. Krieger, lurking insidiously in the far dark corners of the stage. Krieger, who has generally managed to be pretty badly under-recorded on previous Doors efforts. Krieger, who if he ever left the group could probably be the best studio guitarist in the world. Krieger, who is the group ever let him do anything could probably be the best stage guitarist in the world. To paraphrase Robert Plant, “Ladies and gentlemen, Robbie Krieger!” Oh, well.
Yes, and in addition to Robbie Krieger, this album does contain upon its last side The Celebration Of The Lizard, that somewhat legendary leviathan of a Doors “theatre piece.” Now this is what I call poetry; its total effect is a truly vertiginous dazzle, and though it may not be the greatest work of poetic art in the history of Western civilization, it is possibly the most powerful piece of music and words ever recorded by any rock group, anywhere, and it alone is worth the price of the entire album.
Absolutely Live merely proves once again that the Doors are worth sixteen of Creedence any day of the week.