The Bright Midnight Sampler: 14 Songs/8 Concerts

The Doors

Bright Midnight Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I've said this before, and I'll say it again: The Doors are either a band you love or hate. I've known this for some time, and it has been re-affirmed as some people have discovered some of the older reviews here on "The Daily Vault". (And I thought Yes fans were passionate...)

So it might worry some Doors fans to find out I'll be the one spewing opinion about The Bright Midnight Sampler: 14 Songs / 8 Concerts, the first in a series of live discs being released by the band online. (Don't look for this disc in the stores; it's only available through the Internet.) They may expect me to be dumping criticism on Jim Morrison and company faster than Mother Nature can dump snow on Chicago.

Sorry... save your flames for another day. I actually do like this disc, and it does its purpose by making me want to hear more of these nuggets found in the vaults when the band was doing research for the 1997 box set. (Memo to Cary B.: yes, that's a subtle hint... if the band's willing to have 'em reviewed, I'll do it.)

A wide variety of shows are presented here for the Doors fan in your household, which were recorded between 1969 and 1970. If all you know of The Doors are the songs they occasionally play on the radio, expect this sampler to make you think about the versions you know so well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Take, for example, the 11-minute dive into "Light My Fire" - which shows the flexibility of all the musicans (though I could have lived without hearing guitarist Robby Krieger vamp on two bars of "My Favorite Things" in his solo). While Morrison's vocals aren't as wild as one might expect, he's still passionate about what he's singing.

That passion gets carried away only one time - namely, on the disc's closer "The End" (taken from a show in Detroit). I'm the first to admit that I don't like Morrison the poet, and it sounds to my ear that he's given free reign to go full-loose gonzo with the free-verse and the orgasmic screaming on this one. (It's interesting to note that the band seems to know when his performances will rise and fall, and they're able to throw fills in at the appropriate times.) Admittedly, this is the kind of illustration I refer to when I say you either like or hate the Doors, and devotees of the band are invited to ignore my comments on this track. (Chances are, once you've finished your hate e-mail, you will indeed ignore them... and possibly the rest of the review.)

By 1970, The Doors had become a tight musical act, which is demonstrated in the three-song set of "Back Door Man," "Love Hides" and "Five To One" (all drawn from the same Pittsburgh concert). Why these weren't lumped into one track, I don't know, since they all blend together without any segues anyway... but it is kind of fascinating to hear the band shift musical gears like they do in these tracks. Morrison also proves himself to be a passionate blues belter, as heard on "Been Down So Long" (taken from the same Detroit concert as "The End").

Even a track like "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)," which I went on the record saying I didn't like on The Doors, turns out to be more than passable on The Bright Midnight Sampler. So there.

Not all the versions heard on this disc are sonically perfect; only one, the medley of "Love Me Two Times/Baby Please Don't Go/St. James Infirmary," is of less than stellar quality. (This is culled from a concert in Bakersfield, and is listed as a "stage recording"... is this the same as a bootleg, or does it just mean it wasn't taken from the soundboard?) Even so, it's not a terrible job, and it's interesting to hear Morrison take a spin behind material he didn't pen.

The discovery of nearly 30 hours of mostly-unreleased material should be enough to get any Doors fan's mouth watering more than Old Faithful at the moment of eruption. The Bright Midnight Sampler is a disc which should temporarily whet their appetite... at least until the discs all come out. (Two other releases, including the entire Detroit show, are presently available.) Even for someone like me, who has merely dabbled in the Doors, this is an enjoyable way to pass an hour or so.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Bright Midnight Records, and is used for informational purposes only.