OK package but a bit of a missed opportunity sound-wise
Posted by Play.com Reviewer, 28/11/2008 00:39:10
This 2CD set is the first official release for The Doors live performances at The Matrix on 7 and 10 March 1967. It's existed in various boot releases on vinyl and CD formats over the years, most but not all of them in rather poor, weedy sound quality.
Bruce Botnick's warning in the sleeve notes of variable sound quality here does not bode well, especially bearing in mind the very decent quality of "The Matrix Tapes" 2CD boot in 1990 on The Swinging Pig Records, which comprised exactly the same 24 tracks as this official issue (albeit in a different running order). Then again there is still hope as Bruce Botnick's sleeve notes were wrong in saying that it's amazing that Jim's "high" of the "she gets high" line fame in "Break on Through" was absent, mirroring the single release of a few months earlier. On the contrary, it's there in all its glory at 2.23 so old Brucie must be going a bit corn beef or simply hasn't listened to the song properly. Oh and by the way Bruce, you couldn't here it on the original LP version either.
The sets are in typical contemporary basic stereo (all vocals tending towards one channel and instruments towards the other). I have no problem with that and must admit to liking it as I grew up with it. Unfortunately Bruce is right about the sound quality, which is quite harsh with distorted vocals in the louder parts and a lot of hiss evident in the quieter passages. The 1990 CD sound quality is to be honest better with less hiss, no distorted vocals and more volume and punch. One wonders about the source of that release when Bruce says that for this official one the tapes used were original first-generation copies acquired 40 years ago and claims all sorts of digital trickery including "No Noise" was used to restore the sound.
Whilst the 3-way fold-out card case and 10-page booklet of this release beats the 1990 double box and no-notes 4-page booklet hands down, unlike the 1990 release, it doesn't say on which dates the individual tracks were recorded ("Get off my Life", "Close to You", "Crawling King Snake", "The Crystal Ship", "20th Century Fox", "Unhappy Girl" and "Rock me Baby" are specified as 7 March on the 1990 issue). Indeed the only mention of the dates being 7 and 10/3/67 on the new release is on a sticker on the cellophane shrink-wrap, which presumably few people will bother to keep.
The photos used in this release show the band at the Avalon but no explanation for this is given. Surely a few decent photos of the band at The Matrix could have been sourced for this release? If not, then say so!
On the positive side this is the first time I've seen the small audience and their lukewarm reaction plus Jim's regular grovelling "Thank you" at the end of tracks acknowledged. It was the total opposite of how the Matrix concerts were portrayed in "The Doors" film. Ah artistic licence!
Finally, the card sleeve is not very substantial. My copy was already creased around the CDs and slightly pock-marked on the front on postal delivery, despite being fairly well packed.
Whilst this is certainly an historic document of a band performing live in its early days, with considerable differences to some of the 1st LP songs recorded in 1966, I would certainly have expected the sound quality to be better than that on the 1990 boot, when presumably little if any of the digital technology used now to "improve" it would have been available. Perhaps there lies the problem - all the digital tweaking, re-mastering and mixing has had an adverse effect. It's a bit of a lost opportunity overall, somewhat like The Doors vinyl box but nowhere near as bad as that.
Note: This Review was made by Play.com customer: OldEnglandsEyes69 on Rakuten’s Play.com on the date shown.