Toronto Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival (No Label 2022)
Varsity Stadium, Toronto Rock And Roll Revival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – September 13, 1969
(55:59) When The Music’s Over, Break On Through, Back Door Man, The Crystal Ship, Wake Up, Light My Fire, The End
I must be slipping, not sure how I missed buying this title last year but here it is in all its glory. Any Doors title instantly piques my interest even though it’s from a recording I’ve had in my collection for years thanks to a Doors flood on a well know tracker when a first gen transfer showed up via Porsche, a massive upgrade to what I had previously. There are only a scant few Doors recordings from 1969, the Miami incident found promoters not wanting to book the Doors, existing dates prior had all been cancelled. The recording of The Doors performance at this festival is one of only a handful of audience recordings from 1969, and certainly the best of them sound and performance wise. The taper was close to the stage and was thus able to capture a very good to excellent recording of virtually the complete concert. All vocals and instruments are clean and well balanced, there is a very small amount of tape hiss present as one would expect from a recording from this era. The concert has been released on vinyl as The Beautiful Die Young (MIW Records -019) and its CD counterpart (Living Legend Records LLRCD 037) and Toronto Pop Festival 1969 Plus Other Rarities (Too Drunk To Fuck TDTF 002), all of which are very old releases and difficult to find. Eat A Peach gave us Another Flashing Glimpse (Eat A Peach EAP 40) in 2015, utilizing a low generation copy to present the most complete and definitive version to date. A quick comparison shows this title by the No Label folks sounds almost identical to the Eat A Peach, if anything the bass frequencies are just a hair better. As you will read this review is a cut and paste job from my review of the Peach title.
1969 would be a year of turmoil and rebirth for The Doors, the Miami incident would greatly reduce their live output, Morrison was slammed with a multitude of charges stemming from the March performance and their live shows were canceled for months to come. They took the forced time off to complete The Soft Parade record as well as their film, A Feast Of Friends, filmed during the previous years summer tour, and recorded an in studio performance for PBS Critique show. It would be mid June before they had their chance to return to the stage, early dates would be recorded for the eventual live record, Absolutely Live and the group would also play a few select festival dates. The second of those festival dates would be the Toronto Rock And Roll Revival, a concert celebrating classic artists of the 50’s as well as the premier of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.
The recording begins with the announcer introducing “The Doors” while Ray Manzerek begins the opening notes of When The Music’s Over, the bass distorts slightly as the band kick into the song and Morrison gives his opening wail, Jim is in excellent voice tonight. Morrison’s poetry interludes are spot on and the band weave around him like smoke to fire, Robby’s guitar and Ray’s organ are hypnotic. The band waste little time and launch into Break On Through, it is a rousing version of the song, Ray and Jim sing the chorus together providing a rich sound to the vocals, Ray’s vocals have a similar tone to Jim and together bring a rousing close to the song. The band go right into the Willie Dixon classic Back Door Man, the song was a concert staple for the group, this version one of the most interesting due to Morrison’s lyrical improvisation. Jim begins with telling the band “softer…slow it down” before singing lyrics from the as of yet released Maggie M’Gill “Old blues man” before singing the “Hands on the wheel” lines from Roadhouse Blues, both of which would appear on the band’s next record, Morrison Hotel, that they would begin recording by months end.
Someone yells from the crowd “Rock On Morrison” just before the band starts a beautifully gentle version of The Crystal Ship, Jim’s lyric of lost love is one of my favorites and the song gets a huge ovation from the crowd, who are rowdy by the song’s end. Someone in the audience tries to start the F…U…C…K chant like at Woodstock but it gets laughter instead of the usual response. Wake Up is intense, Morrison accentuates the lines in an aggressive form that is reminiscent of Horse Latitudes. Light My Fire seems airy, Krieger goes out of tune and seems to be struggling to tune it quietly during the beginning of the song, Manzerek hears this and just takes over, while Robbie gets it together. John Densmore’s drumming is driving the band and the band lock in for some improvisational jamming that includes snippets of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things as all three were heavily influenced by Jazz.
There is a brief cut in the tape between Fire and The End, any live version of the latter song is pure magic for me, this is one of my favorites. Jim gives a nod to the festival, “I can remember when rock ‘n’ roll first came on the scene, and for me, it was a very liberating experience because it burst open whole new strange catacombs of wisdom that I didn’t know about and I couldn’t see any equivalent for in my surroundings. And that’s why for me, this evening, it’s been really a great honor to perform on the same stage with so many illustrious musical geniuses”, he then proceeds to give a truly excellent take of the song, his vocals are just perfect and a far cry of the drunkenness of Miami, no slurred words here! While the poetry is kept to the usual fare, although you can here a pin drop as the band go into the “killer awoke before dawn” and its Oedipus section, the whole thing is brought to a stirring conclusion amid Jim’s death screams that garner a nice ovation from the appreciative audience.
The packaging takes the edge over the old Peach title. The No Label folks use pictures from the actual concert as well as handbills to tie the whole thing together, I love this kind of stuff. The picture on the interior with the band onstage is quite rare, the other shots from the day are of Morrison backstage with his hair short cropped and clean shaven. Great release of an excellent concert, for those with the Peach title, probably no need for this title but for those of you who do not have it, this is an excellent title.