Lizard Thing

From a big-name tribute to some big-beat remixes, the Doors' catalogue bulges with a soft parade of new releases

For collectors, though, initial copies of the Euro edition come limited and numbered and include a bonus disc. Against all rational thought appear four dance mixes of "Riders on the Storm." Say what? Check the house/trance version with Morrison's vox sped up to match the bpms, courtesy of the "Baez & Cornell Tunnel Club Mix"; or the pleasantly noodly "SpaceBats Remix" that pits looped-in hip-hop beats and head-scratching sound effects against the song's basic melody and vocals (including vocoder tricks on the voice -- Mr. Roboto meets Mr. Mojo Risin'). Pointless? Absolutely. But in a creepy-cool kind of way. The same can't be said about the tepid "multi-media track" also on the bonus disc: one very sparse photo gallery, one "E-card" that's nothing more than an advertisement for the compilation, and one unenlightening interview with Ray Manzarek, who waxes cosmically on the Doorsian universe.

Most welcome among the plethora of new titles is The Bright Midnight Sampler. The disc is exactly what its title suggests, a 13-song live sampler intended to kick off the Doors' Internet label Bright Midnight, which, if everything goes as scheduled (and taking a cue from both the Grateful Dead "Dick's Picks" series and the Jimi Hendrix Experience archive projects), will issue exclusive Doors artifacts on a regular basis, starting this month with the two-CD Live in Detroit. Based on the selections here, the sound quality promises to be better than most Doors bootlegs. These professional eight-track recordings additionally benefit from recent studio postproduction and remastering from longtime Doors engineer Bruce Botnick.

The two Detroit cuts (Cobo Arena, May 8, 1970) on Bright Midnight are superb; "Been Down So Long" has a brutish elegance, while a 16-minute "The End" features some fantastic Morrison improv. With the exception of "Touch Me" and "The Crystal Ship" from the July 21, 1969, Hollywood concert, all of these previews hail from 1970 gigs. This raises a question about how far back the archive series will delve; it's common knowledge that the Doors have a large vault of tapes, and their former producer Paul Rothchild even produced numerous concerts' set lists for author Greg Shaw when Shaw was researching his '97 travelogue book The Doors on the Road. But will they issue quality early shows?

The surviving Doors polish up the Lizard King's scales with a spate of new titles.
The surviving Doors polish up the Lizard King's scales with a spate of new titles.

To date, the band has been well documented by bootleggers; a series of stunning soundboard tapes recorded at San Francisco's Matrix in March 1967 was even the subject of an elaborate boxed-set bootleg. For the time being, however, Bright Midnight's embracing of Frank Zappa's "Beat the Boots" philosophy is commendable. Interested parties can consult www.thedoors.com. Break on through, baby.

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