Title: “Absolutely Live”
Artist: The Doors
Release date: 1970
Favorite track: “Soul Kitchen”
Many listeners have shared a good chuckle about the title of this compilation album. The Doors’ “Absolutely Live” is a tad amusing because the album wasn’t made from one live performance. Instead, it was recorded from many live performances in U.S. cities between August 1969 and June 1970.
Despite the title, it’s a fan favorite.
The Doors formed in 1965 with frontman Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. The band is the perfect example of a (psychedelic) rock band that has withstood the test of time.
I have a friend with a tattoo of vocalist Jim Morrison’s head plastered across his bicep. My boyfriend adores the band — it’s always his go-to pick of my CDs when we travel home for the holidays. I hear their songs play through the speakers at the gym regularly during my workouts.
The 1960s band was not only commercially successful, but also a hit with critics. The Doors have a slot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Like many other experimental and influential rock bands, The Doors have experienced several resurgences — nearly one in every decade, usually ushered in with a new (old) release, movie or book. What makes this double-LP special is, of course, that it’s live, but also that it was recorded during performances the two years before Morrison’s death in 1971. Plus, the songs don’t suck.
The opening track, “Who Do You Love,” is The Doors’ bluesy rendition of Bo Diddley’s 1956 song. While it has the same generic beat as the original, The Doors’ version features the band’s signature gruff vocals and trippy musical accents. The six-minute track is a solid song, but I prefer the originals.
“Alabama Song (Whisky Bar),” “Close to You” and “Back Door Man” slide into the same category as the opener. The Doors inevitably make every song a touch cooler and significantly spacier, but their covers are only a chaser. Originals are a much fuller drink. I like “Back Door Man” most out of the covers because the keyboard is firmly planted in blues, and Morrison’s vocals get truly wild.
“Love Hides” is a nearly two-minute transition song with playful keys and repetitious, concise lyrics that remind me of a haiku. Morrison coos, “Love hides in the strangest places,” at the beginning and, “Love is the answer,” at the end. The album holds a few theatrical transition tracks that feature the signature poetic drama of a Doors’ live performance.
The song leads into “Build Me a Woman,” in which Morrison demands a 10-foot-tall woman.
“When the Music’s Over” is a 16-minute trek that flaunts every instrumental and vocal facet of the band. The music simmers at the eight-minute mark until Morrison shouts, “Shut up,” at the cheering crowd, shushes them and then says, “Now, is that any way to behave at a rock concert?” He shouts, “Now,” exactly at the 10-minute mark, and the music kicks it into high gear again. It’s a cool moment, and definitely one of those you can get only from a live album.
“Universal Mind” contains not-so-unexpectedly the most seemingly drug-induced lyrics. Morrison’s craziness and vulgarity are what made him and the band so controversial, yet appealing.
The album concludes with “Soul Kitchen,” one of my favorites. It’s a bouncy song that sounds so ‘60s.
Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen
Warm my mind near your gentle stove
Normally, when I feature albums released in the 1970s, the cover is outdated. The graphic design seems laughable or bland.
This compilation album art featuring The Doors is like its music, surprisingly fresh and modern. It features a light-to-dark contrast and, of course, the band’s trademark typography.