REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/16/2007
Absolutely Live, released in 1970, was an attempt to provide the fans with the perfect album while killing time until the next studio disc. It's not a true live disc, since songs from different concerts are spliced together; a beginning here, a middle there and the end from still another performance.
Despite this attention to detail and The Doors coming down off the height of their recording and performing powers, Absolutely Live comes off as spotty in quality and ultimately average.
Jim Morrison was one of the most charismatic performers in rock history, yet that barely comes through on the disc because the listener cannot see him. In addition, the sound is thin, since Ray Manzarek has to play the bass parts on his keyboard because the band had no touring bassist.
Absolutely Live begins with one of the better songs on the album. The old Bo Diddley tune “Who Do You Love” features a strong Morrison vocal and some excellent guitar work by Robby Kreiger. The other excellent song is the extended version of “Soul Kitchen” that closes the album. The concert setting allows the group to extend itself beyond the confines of the studio version. Manzarek’s improvisation on his keyboards provides a nice counterpoint to Morrison’s vocal work.
The long medley of "Alabama Song/Back Door Man/Live Hides/Five To One" has both highs and lows. “Back Door Man” is a good vehicle for Morrison to provide one of his best live vocal performances and Kreiger’s guitar work also is above his norm. “Alabama Song” was an average performance of an at-best average song, dragging down the release, and “Five To One” is just terrible. The structure of the original song, which was its strength, is missing.
“The Celebration Of The Lizard” is an extended indulgence on the part of Morrison. Thirty years after its release, it has become part of Jim Morrison’s mythology ... but can anyone listen to his rambling poetry more than once? This version is reality meeting myth, and reality not faring well at all.
The rest of Absolutely Live is average. The Willie Dixon song “Close To You” features a rare lead vocal by Manzarek. “Universal Mind” is a mellow performance and, while not great, is a good vehicle for Morrison’s voice. “Build Me A Woman” was a new song and below average from what the Doors were producing in the studio, while "Break On Through #2" is just the same song with some different lyrics. And so it goes.
Absolutely Live is not a terrible album, but it does pale against The Doors' studio material of the time. In some ways, they tried too hard production wise. They would probably been better served to just let the tape run and record one concert, flaws and all. This would have presented The Doors as they actually were at that point in time, instead of how Elektra wanted them to be.
Absolutely Live was re-released on CD in 1996 in an extended version, which adds some better songs that probably should have been on the original. Overall, though, it remains a flawed disc from one of rock’s legendary groups.
|"Break on Through" when performed live had attributes not acknowledged here--extended middle section where interesting solo work revolved around the motifs of the song and some fierce, great concluding guitar work by Krieger. "Not to Touch the Earth" is the only really good part of "Celebration," but at least this record represents a place to hear the whole drama. |
"Alabama/Backdoor/Five" was a medley that was played too regularly at their concerts, to the neglect of some good studio cuts that were no longer played after the beginning of their career, like "20th Century Fox."