Let me start by saying that this album is not for everyone. It showcases Morrison as a Poet, not just a front man. The rest of the group are seen as an exploritory, free-for-all, jam band, and if all that isn't enough, when this album was originally put together it was an art form all of it's own.
Producer and longtime collaborator Paul Rothchild edited Absolutely Live by splicing together the best parts of every show they recorded. But he didn't just do track by track. He had to edit every single song for the most part. So, if one song had been recorded in L.A., the mid section may have come from Atlanta. This wasn't done to be cute ethier. I've mentioned in many live album reviews before, recording technology sucked for live shows prior to the 1990's, and the further back you go the worse it gets. What that boiled down to for Paul as he put this album together is that most of the songs had parts where audio secetions would drop out on the tapes. In the past Rothchild has said that he put over 2,000 edits into the making of this album.
The idea behind this first ever live album for The Doors was to recreate as much of their actual live show as they could on vinyl. The version I'm reviewing is the 1996 compact disc re-release, that I'm pretty sure has been digitally remastered, although it doesn't officially say.
The album opens with House Announcer, which is exactly that. Way back in the day they use to have these guys that would come out and warm up the crowd or calm them down as the case may be in this track. I'm not sure why this track was included. I don't know if it was to show The Doors as being a responsible group, or it was to show "The Man" holding the people back. Either way, I find it a bit long and drawn out, for no real gain, except maybe to set some mood.
Also, before I go any further I want to make it clear that this album is not for everyone. This album is for fans of the band, and maybe a few others. I consider myself a decent fan of the band, but most of the time I over look this album myself.
The first track of music on this CD is a cover of Who Do You Love. I know this song best as covered by George Thoroughgood, and compared to that version this one doesn't have the same passion or life. This cover instead has more of a snake in the desert feel to it. It's smooth, flowing, and just kind of slithers back and forth. When it should sound punchy it comes off more like a snake's strike instead.
After that it's on to a bit of a medley, but it's not a real medley, more like a bunch of partial tracks cut together to form a medley of sorts, but you can hear the clear changes from one track to another. For starters the medley opens with Alabama Song, which is very clear and crisp sounding, like everything was balanced really high in the mix, but when it switches to Backdoor Man, it sounds like everything has been pulled back. However, that matches Love Hides, which comes up next. However, I don't like the way it slows down the pace. Then the medley finishes off Five To One and this is the only track that resembles the running length of the original song.
Also it should be mentioned that only one song in that medley is actually a Doors tune. Five To One is one of my favourite songs from the band. I love the simplicity of the music, but the complication of the arrangements. This is one of those crazy songs that would have been Prog Rock if it had come out when that term existed.
Now, if you had the original vinyl release of this album it was a double album and the entire first side, except for 4:35 in a medley was all cover material. Great if you have all the album tracks up to this point, and want to hear the band do something different. It sucks if you are trying to discover The Doors.
Side Two of the first record is only two songs. The first one is Build Me A Woman, which is not available on any studio album from The Doors, and I can see why. It's a bit stock, and pretty much comes off as Jim on one of his tirades.
Then it's on to a 16:16 version of When The Music's over. This is about 6 minutes longer than the original and they even make sure to let you know during the song, as they start droning on for way too long, and lose cohesiveness around the eight minute marker. Until that point happens the track is really solid and awesome. I love the journey the music takes. After that point it takes a bit before the song starts to pick up again. You'd think with all the edits Rothchild may have sped this up just a bit. I mean I'm all for playing to the crowd, and playing for yourself, but this is just being done in excess. However, if you can make it through the two minutes that seem as long as a floride treatment, the song does pick back up and get exciting again. Then there's a bunch of crap for the last minute of the song. It even sounds like the pandering was taken from a completely different live event, and was added to fill time.
After that it's on to Close To You which features Ray Manzarek on the lead vocals, instead of Jim, and it's a bit of a nice change. Sadly this is yet another cover. It's also a Dixion original, which is the same as Backdoor Man and Love Hides. Thankfully, it's the last cover, because as much as I love the Blues, The Doors don't always do it justice. This is also the first track on the second record.
Then it's on to Universal Mind, which is an original to this album as well. It's the type of Blues that The Doors do well. It's loose, flowing, and has that snake vibe that the band does so well.
That's followed by Petition The Lord With Prayer, which I'm not sure if it's a spoken word piece, or just Morrison ranting, but it's not really needed. I don't think it does anything for the album.
After that it's on to another medley this time it's Dead Cats, Dead Rats and Break On Through #2. Basically it's all Break On Through, with an extended intro and Jim performing a bit of Poetry as a lead in. The track works for me on the whole, but I don't like how the mix sounds on it. Everything sounds too pushed back.
Then it's on to side two of the the second album, which is made up of only two songs as well. But before I get into that I should explain that when all the medley's were put together on this CD each individual part of a medley was turned into it's own track, so you could pull some of this mix apart for mp3 player purposes if you wanted.
Celebration Of The Lizard is an epic performance piece of Jim Morrison's Poetry performed and mixed with music. The band tried recording this track as a single side to a studio album several times, but they could never get it to sound right. Instead Not To Touch The Earth was removed and recorded for Waiting For The Sun. This was originally the only way to get this track in it's entirety. This is one of those songs that requires close attention, and an open mind. If you don't have either of those, this just seems like artistic tripe.
The double live collection finishes with Soul Kitchen, which is also extended past the original album length. For production purposes it's designed to sound like the encore, and that's really cool. This is another one of those tracks that I really dig. Also most of the extra time comes in the intro. The band works it's way into the song, and from the jamming around in the middle. All in all it's actually my favourite track on this live collection.
As I said early on in this review, this collection is not for everyone. In fact part of me thinks you have to be pretty hard core to really get into this album. Celebration Of The Lizard, does make this album worth getting, but only because I'm into that kind of stuff. It's not for the casual listener.
Actually one of the best redeeming qualities to this album is the fact that there are so many tracks that never appeared on any of the studio albums. It makes this a pretty original album. But it was an album made for the fans, not for the normal listener.
7/10 - content
6/10 - production
6/10 - personal bias