The Doors – The Original Matrix Tapes (Godfather Records GR 366/367)

The Original Matrix Tapes (Godfather Records G.R.366/367)

The Matrix Club, San Francisco, CA, March 7, 1967

CD1 (67:29): Back Door Man; My Eyes Have Seen You; Soul Kitchen; Get Out Of My Life Women; When The Music Over; Close To You; Crawling King Snake; I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind; People Are Strange; Alabama Song; The Crystal Ship; Twentieth Century Fox; Moonlight Drive

CD2 (70:07): Summers Almost Gone; Unhappy Girl; Women Is The Devil;/Sittin’ Round Thinkin’/Rock Me; Break On Through; Light My Fire; The End

Bonus Tracks: Moonlight Drive; Back Door Man; Who Do You Love (Avalon Ballroom SF, CA March 4, 1967); Light My Fire (The Family Dog, Denver CO., September 30, 1967)

One of the holy grails for Doors collectors the The Matrix Tapes are also one of the most controversial. Originally recorded by the Matrix Clubs co owner Peter Abrams, a review cassette copy of the master reel to reel tapes of the complete 3 set shows from March 7 and 10 were allegedly sent to, then Elektra founder,  Jac Holzman in the late 60’s early 70’s in hopes enticing him to purchase them to use for a possible live album. It is reported that Abrams intentionally made the cassette dubs “lo fi” so Elektra couldn’t release them commercially without purchasing his high quality masters. It has been claimed that Holzman didn’t want a live album so early in the Doors career and relegated the cassettes to the vaults where they were forgotten for nearly 40 years.

The surviving Doors finally decided to release a 2cd compilation of the tapes, through the Rhino/ Bright Midnight label, in November of 2008.  According to the Rhino press release they claim to have used “first generation tapes acquired by Elektra Records and the Doors 40 years ago” to create the compilation. This claim created a furor in the Doors collecting community as there are snippets of songs alleged to be from the master tapes circulating  on the internet which are clearly superior in quality to the official release so the suspicion is that the original “lo fi” tapes sent to Elektra are a more likely source of the official release.

Along with the September 20, 1968  Stockholm shows these tapes are one of  the most bootlegged of all Doors shows in circulation. Probably the most desirable boot of these two shows is the long out of print 1994 KTS 4cd box set ‘THE COMPLETE MATRIX CLUB TAPES’ which had the complete 3 set show from the 7 but only 2 of the sets from the show on the 10. Most of the other silver disc releases I was able to confirm seem to be incomplete shows missing one of the sets or compilation discs containing several  songs from either date with many purported to be sourced from 70’s vinyl releases like the  TAKRL-bootleg-LP “Moonlight Drive-The Scream Of The Butterfly”

The tape used for the Godfather release contains all three sets of the complete March 7th show and is a near excellent quality semi professional audience recording. In an online posting back in November 2008 Abram’s revealed his equipment on that night “I used an Akai tape recorder (tubes), 4 Calrad mics on the stage and a Calrad mic mixer on the instrumental channel. On the vocal channel: a Knight mixer with 3 Electrovoice 676 and Shure mics. The Calrad mics that I used on the instrumental track were model DM-21” said Abram. The original master 1/4 track stereo tapes were recorded at 7.5 ips on Abram’s Akai reel-to-reel vacuum tube tape recorder.

The resultant recording is very clear almost early soundboard quality with the vocals very dominant in the mix. The rest of the instruments are well back in the mix and have a very slight dullness and hollowness to them that you can get with an audience recording, which is an interesting contrast to the crystal clear vocals. The tape is a little light in the bass frequencies and the high frequencies are muted very slightly but there is a mid range warmth to the recording which makes it a very enjoyable listen. There is also a slight background hiss which is only evident during the between song quiet passages.

As for the performance I found it to be excellent but a little subdued for the most part which may have been a result of the tiny venue which had a capacity of about a 100 people. Based on the recollections of some of the Doors, and the almost total lack of audience noise, there apparently was only about of a dozen people in the audience that night.  The only time you even knew anyone was there was a smattering of applause after each song. One of the things which surprised me was the total lack of between song banter from Jim and the band. The only time any of the band members talked to the audience was when Jim was telling the small crowd “We’ll be right back” after each set. Jim was also very focused that night and his vocals are razor sharp. It is a real contrast to the later performances, after the band got famous, where Jim was sloppy with the lyrics and became the focus of the performances with his unpredictable behavior.

There is not a bad song in the set list this night which is a mix of songs from the first album, only released two months earlier, and old blues standards. Jim really seemed to kick into high gear for the last three songs of the final set, and while everyone will have their favorites, the highlights for me included “Break on Through”, “Alabama Song” and a great version of “The End” my favorite Doors song.

As a bonus on disc 2 Godfather also included three excellent SB quality tracks from the earlier March 4 Avalon Ballroom show in SF and an equally excellent quality version of “Light My Fire” from the Denver Family Dog show on September 30th.

Rumour has it the Doors management is still trying to negotiate the purchase of the master tapes from Peter Abrams for a possible box set release but until then Godfather has done a great job rereleasing this show in excellent quality and I would highly recommend it for every fan collection.

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  1. I’d still be curious to know how the sound quality of the Godfather version compares directly to the Kiss The Stone “The Complete Matrix Club Tapes” version from way back when… any insights anyone?

  2. Thanks to those who contributed to this particular page & Godfather themselves, I got this release on Wed. of last week – just only my 2nd ever non-Pink Floyd boot (the first one being a Cream import CD that I’m not even sure is a true boot). I’m considerably pleased with “Orig. Matrix Tapes”, with no significant regrets, and I tend to agree that it’s better than the officially-released version – especially the track selection & the addition of the bonus tracks. Highly recommended – esp. if you don’t already have the official release.

  3. True as hell, man! Definitely the best version of the Matrix show.

  4. I have both the official release and this release and find this to be far more satisfying. The sound on the official release goes from really good to crap and is very uneven. The song order bounces around is a hard listen as every song fades in and out ruining the flow. After reading comments on various web sites I bought it to be my own judge and beleive in what the Doors are doing and want to support it. I own the other Bright Midnight releases and have enjoyed them all and its not worth slamming them on one bad release. That being said this release is a nice addition to my collection of Doors concerts on silver, there is not many these days and Godfather have done a fine job on both sound and packaging. Until the master source is released this is as good as its going to get. Two huge thumbs up.

  5. Hello DLee, Sorry but I don’t have the official release to compare too but this is an excellent sounding release.

  6. Thanks for the excellent review. Would you possibly be able to say how much the sound quality is better in comparison to the official release? Thanks again if you could let us know.


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