Release Date: Dec 16, 2016
Record label: Rhino
Genre(s): Contemporary Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Hard Rock, Rock & Roll, Psychedelic/Garage, Proto-Punk, AM Pop
Many of the countless Doors live albums are far from essential, but this one feels genuinely important. The recently discovered 1966 audience recording from a gig at the Los Angeles club London Fog captures the band in their lesser-known embryonic period. Their sound is already in place and Jim Morrison is on the verge of becoming the Lizard King, using the near-empty Sunset Strip venue to develop the necessary stagecraft to get his mojo rising.
Until now, Live At The Matrix 1967 offered the only official experience of The Doors’ early, reputation-building live shows in Los Angeles. If their residency at The Whisky A Go Go has become the stuff of near-mythical legend, then their even earlier brief stint as house band at London Fog has been long thought lost to the mists of time. So it’s remarkable that their debut performance – which somewhat doubled as a live audition for club owner Jesse James – has emerged, 50 years after it was recorded onto reels borrowed from the University Of California, Los Angeles’ Film School department.
One can only imagine the veritable treasure trove of unreleased live recordings floating around out in the ether. From those soundboard recordings made professionally and then filed away only to be later forgotten, to those illegal, crude fan recordings gathering dust in a basement somewhere, each year seems to afford music fans a chance to experience these historic moments captured on tape for posterity and obscurity. Some often prove revelatory—see the Coltrane/Monk recordings discovered a decade or so ago—while others are merely curios meant for the die-hard fans that range from terrible to unlistenable.
Well, I woke up this mornin’ and I got myself a beer… and sat down to compose this review. (In my head at least; in truth, it’s 3 in the afternoon, and I’m sipping a caramel frappuccino.) Allow me to introduce the latest in a long-running parade of posthumous Doors live releases, London Fog May, 1966. It summons from the mists of time a proverbial “recently discovered” live recording of the band, expertly cleaned up for the modern digital ear, in order to give acolytes a sense of what Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore actually sounded like, onstage, around the time they were recording their debut album for Elektra Records but had yet to burst upon the national scene.