ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 11, 1997
By Steve Newton
This four-disc package of Doors material, spanning the years 1965 to ’71, favours previously unreleased live tracks and demo recordings over studio-polished hits, and documents the band in all its eccentric, unrefined, and—with tunes that pass the 18-minute mark—excessive glory. Its mix of sea chanteys (“Whiskey, Mystics and Men”), spontaneous live improvisations (“Mental Floss”), and drunken jams (the 16-minute “Rock Is Dead”) makes Box Set more attractive to Doors completists than to those who only know the band through “Light My Fire”.
Highlights from the concert arena include the opener, “Five to One”, which is poorly produced but worthwhile just to hear Morrison holler “You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots!” at the infamous 1969 Miami gig that led to his arrest for indecent exposure. Much better sound characterizes Disc 2, nine tracks recorded in 1970 at Madison Square Garden, including a rollicking rendition of “Roadhouse Blues” and a saucy, X-rated version of Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. I don’t normally recommend drug abuse, but a sizeable spliff may be helpful in deciphering Morrison’s cosmic utterings on the 17-minute tirade “The Celebration of the Lizard”.
Disc 3 includes selections from the Isle of Wight Festival in England, a live concert for PBS in New York, and, of local interest, two blues tracks recorded at the Pacific Coliseum in 1970, with guitar legend Albert King sitting in. The final disc is comprised of band favourites chosen by Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore, and this is where the biggies like “Riders on the Storm” and “Love Me Two Times” are stationed.
Box Set comes with a 50-page booklet that includes many archival photographs and insightful commentary on each track by the surviving members. Critical essays by former Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild—whom the package is dedicated to—and Another Roadside Attraction author Tom Robbins are included for the benefit of literary types who aren’t content with Morrison’s stark, shamanistic poetry alone.