Over the course of 72 minutes, R-Evolution presents a visual history of The Doors (John Densmore, Robbie Kreiger, Ray Manzarek, and Jim Morrison) through music films, better known today as “music videos,” and television appearances. To paraphrase “The Movie” from An American Prayer, the program for this evening will be not new to longtime fans, but that doesn’t make the collection any less entertaining.
It opens with two versions of “Break On Through.” First, the classic music film created in January 1967 of the band playing in a darkened room under colored lights. Than two months later, they play to a recording on the television show, Shebang, hosted by Casey Kasem. Their “performance” is a bit stiff. They are all dressed in brown and Morrision hardly opens his eyes. Next up, American Bandstand from July 22, 1967 where the young men in the audience have to wear coats and ties, which I didn’t expect during the Summer of Love. The Doors play “Crystal Ship” and “Light My Fire” and already look more comfortable. In between the songs, host Dick Clark interviews them.
With “Light My Fire” being a huge hit, it’s no surprise that it appears twice in this set. The second appearance finds the Doors on Malibu U hosted by Ricky Nelson. It’s obvious the band was still letting the squares have a say in 1967. The clip is book-ended by a house burning, and they “play” on top of a fire engine at the beach with three blondes girls hanging around. It’s funny to see the long shot of the band because it’s obvious Morrison is not there. Instead, some guy with short hair, revealed in the extras to be Krieger’s brother, stands with his back to the camera and then Morrison is seen in single shots. During “Murray the K in New York,” it sounds like Morrison is singing “People Are Strange” over a recording the band, who, in a very odd choice, are standing around an office plaza doing nothing.
On The Jonathan Winters Show, they apparently didn’t have the greatest sound editors as a tiny bit of “Horse Latitudes” can be heard before the band begins “Moonlight Drive.” To set the mood for those at home in the right frame of mind, dry ice billows about the stage and the director superimposes galaxies and swirling, out-of-focus reflective material onto the band. The applause is more canned than the music.
Although chronologically correct, the solemn music film for their protest song “Unknown Soldier,” where Morrison is shot and killed at the beach, followed by the ridiculousness of their appearance on the German show Musik Fur Junge Leute where they perform “Hello, I Love You” before a crowd of disinterested bystanders and a blond dancing pixie is quite a funny juxtaposition. During “Touch Me,” their second song of the night on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Morrison sounds like he is singing over the a recorded track. Krieger’s black eye from car accident is apparent.
The music film for “Wild Child” finds the band working in the studio. Morrison is isolated in a booth and Densmore seems frustrated. During “Roadhouse Blues,” the music film presents the purported madness of a Doors concert, on and off the stage. They are back in a small studio playing John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake” for GTK (Get to Know!). Morrison is bearded and bloated. “The Changeling” music film presents the band on the road over the years.
Morrison’s died on July 3, 1971, but his legend and that of the band lived on so films continued to be made to promote their music. In 1983, Alive She Cried, a live album with tracks from different concerts, was released and the music film offers previously seen and unseen concert footage. Some time in the ’80s, a new video was created for “People Are Strange,” incorporating new material edited with the Murray the K footage and new backing vocals. The juggler, contortionist, and little person from the Strange Days album cover come to life and are chased through the city in a very odd film from 1984. Manzarek directed the “L.A. Woman” music film, shwoing many aspects and areas of the city. An American Prayer, their last collaboration as music was created to be paired with recordings of Morrison reciting his poetry, was released in 1978. In 1995, it was remastered and debuted on CD, for which the “Ghost Song” music film was created.
The video has been given a 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC encode displayed at 1.33:1. The quality of the image is limite by the original film and video sources. There are two audio options, LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The latter provides a fuller sound, and some effects, like the fire engine sound from Malibu U creep into the surrounds. The tracks not taken from TV broadcasts deliver music and vocals with great clarity and dynamics.
A Picture-in-Picture commentary featuring Densmore, Kriger, and Manzarek in separate sessions can run through the entire video. Manzarek didn’t appear until the second half, making me concerned he hadn’t taken part due to his death in May of 2013. Engineer/producer Bruce Botnick and Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman also appear and offer good insight and history as well. These interview sessions have been edited together into “Breaking Through the Lens” (47 min). “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” (5 min) is footage of the band playing at the Isle of Wight concert August 1970. “Outakes: Malibu U 1967” (1 min) is so short and offers so little I don’t understand why it was included. Possibly the strangest Doors-related material I have ever laid eyes on, “Love Thy Customer (Music by The Doors)” (25 min) is a 1966 Ford training film featuring the band at a time they obviously needed a gig. Talk about “strange days”.
R-Evolution takes viewers through nearly 30 years of the Doors’ evolution with 19 videos of great hits and deep cuts that should please fans, new and old. The Blu-ray delivers adequate video, very good audio, and extras that are both informative and entertaining. It’s a great addition to any music collection.