Whatever one thinks of Jim Morrison's status as "Poet" (the sole epitaph on his Père Lachaise Cemetery tombstone), The Doors' effectiveness as a live unit is undeniable. Rarely have three rock musicians pumped out music with the degree of dynamic intensity achieved here, while Morrison's charismatic, brooding good humour remains one of rock'n'roll's classic frontman strategies.
Covering four concerts from January 1970, the performances spread across the six CDs of Live In New York would be Morrison's last American shows with The Doors. They presented fans with a slightly different singer than the outrageous legend who was even then awaiting trial for alleged onstage exposure – podgier and less lizardly than in his previous sex-god image. His mood is surprisingly light, genially bantering with the audience over things like the meagreness of a proferred reefer ("You can pick your teeth with a New York joint") and stage invaders ("Well, that's New York for you – the only people that rush the stage are guys!"). By this time, Morrison was more enamoured of being "an old bluesman", and his boozing had tempered his poetic excesses. Instead, the material drawn from the forthcoming Morrison Hotel album featured more direct, earthy lyrics, even including bouts of absurd scatting on the infectious "Roadhouse Blues"s.
Fulfilling his blues longings, alongside the new songs and old favourites such as "Break On Through" and "Light My Fire" could be heard covers of things like Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man" and Jimmy Reed's "Going To New York Blues", balanced in the final show by the 16-minute poetic indulgence "Celebration Of The Lizard", one of the performances culled from the shows for the Absolutely Live double-album. Sadly, the thousands of edits required to compile that earlier live album left the original tapes in scattered tatters, so this definitive account of the shows has been pieced together from various sources, with consequent occasional slight dips in sound quality. Guest John Sebastian's blues harmonica parts on three of the final encores, meanwhile, were PA system, and thus absent from the tapes – so he has been brought in four decades later to re-create his original parts.
The result is a formidable confirmation of the band's power, studded with individual highlights – Robby Krieger's taut guitar solo on the second show's "Ship Of Fools", Ray Manzarek's interpolation of quotes from "Play With Fire" into "Break On Through" – but ultimately demonstrating that the best bands are not necessarily comprised of the most technically gifted players, but those most flexible and instinctively attuned to each others' requirements.
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