On The Record: The Doors Live in Sweden in 1968, plus Gene Clark; Richard, Cam & Bert; & the Flying Burrito Brothers

Doors fans can’t go wrong by picking up Live At Konserthuset, Stockholm; September 20, 1968, a mesmerizing new two-CD or three-LP set. It documents the final night of a celebrated European tour, which was recorded on four-track tapes for an FM radio broadcast.

Last year’s Live at the Matrix, 1967 captures the then-little-known group as it experimented with early versions of the material that would soon bring it fame. It’s a fascinating collection but the new album, recorded a year and a half later, is another story entirely. It presents a world-renowned band at the peak of its powers. In fact, the performances on the new record are so good that it’s hard to believe they remained officially unreleased for more than half a century.

Audio quality can’t be the reason: these tracks – newly mastered and mixed from the original tapes by longtime band associate Bruce Botnick – sound as pristine as anything in the Doors’ live catalog; they also sound notably better than the same tour’s Copenhagen, Denmark material that was included on 2018’s 50th-anniversary edition of Waiting for the Sun

The program – which includes the quartet’s complete early and late shows from Sept. 20, 1968 – draws material from its first four studio albums. From the group’s eponymous January 1967 debut LP come a 16-minute performance of the apocalyptic “The End,” two explosive, nearly 12-minute renditions of “Light My Fire,” a version of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man,” and a brief reading of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar).” From September 1967’s Strange Days, the program includes “You’re Lost Little Girl,” two 13-minute-plus renditions of the masterful “When the Music’s Over,” and the propulsive “Love Me Two Times,” which appropriately enough, also appears two times. From Waiting for the Sun, which appeared in July 1968, less than three months before this concert, the new album embraces the sweet “Love Street,” the fiery “The Unknown Soldier,” and two versions of the menacing “Five to One.” Another track, “Wild Child,” surfaced on The Soft Parade, which came out 10 months after the Stockholm shows, in July 1969.

Also in the setlist are “A Little Game,” “The Hill Dwellers,” and “Wake Up,” all of which show up in other versions on the Doors’ relatively disjointed In Concert album; “Money (That’s What I Want,” the Barrett Strong Motown track, which appears in a studio version on the 50th-anniversary edition of the Doors’ Morrison Hotel; and a cover of Brecht and Weill’s “Mack the Knife.”

Throughout most of the performances in this album, Jim Morrison’s captivating vocals seem like the work of someone getting ready to lead a revolution. His accompanists – keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger – are just as charged up. All three add indispensable ingredients to the sonic recipe.

The audience seems entranced. Just listen, for example, to “The Unknown Soldier,” which closes the early show. That song lasts less than four minutes, but the track clocks in at nearly seven because it ends with almost three solid minutes of cheering, whistling, and foot-stomping by the fans. After hearing this recording, you won’t have any trouble understanding why they’re so enthusiastic.


Also Noteworthy

Gene ClarkThe Lost Studio Sessions: 1964-1982. When talk turns to the Byrds, the spotlight mostly shines on Roger McGuinn and Gram Parsons, both of whom made huge contributions to that band and via solo work. But Byrds co-founder Gene Clark, who died in 1991 at age 46, was a massive singing and songwriting talent as well. There’s plenty of evidence of that in the group’s catalog and more in this terrific anthology, which first appeared in a very limited pressing in 2016. 

Original compositions dominate the career-spanning set, whose 36-page booklet includes copious liner notes. The album opens with five solo acoustic tracks from spring 1964 and a pair of 1967 recordings – among them the seemingly Bob Dylan–influenced “Back Street Mirror” – that feature Hugh Masekela on horns and arrangements by Leon Russell. Next come seven solo performances from 1970 and five early-1970s tracks with the Flying Burrito Brothers, including one that features Parsons and four that incorporate backup vocals by McGuinn. 

The album ends with five 1982 tracks from Nyteflyte, a group whose lineup reunited three original Byrds: Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Their stellar set embraces two tracks from their former group, Parsons’s “One Hundred Years from Now” and Clark’s “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” as well as Parsons’s “Still Feeling Blue,” Rodney Crowell’s “No Memories Hangin’ Round,” and a cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter.”

Richard, Cam & BertSomewhere in the Stars. “Sitting in the kitchen, around 3:00 a.m., picking and a-singing.” So begins the first verse on the lead-off track on this indispensable digital-and vinyl-only release of 1969 and 1970 acoustic folk performances by Richard Tucker, Campbell Bruce, and Bert Lee. Close your eyes, and you can imagine you’re in that kitchen with them, somewhere in New York’s Greenwich Village, as they weave their late-night magic.

Many artists who got their start at the same time and place as this trio went on to fame and fortune, but Richard, Cam & Bert never made it beyond coffeehouse gigs and street singing. Their sole LP, Limited Edition (see below), was just what the title suggests and was available mostly only where the group performed. 

Their failure to reach a wider audience is tragic and rather astonishing, given the acoustic guitar work, sublime harmonies, and indelible melodies on Somewhere in the Stars tracks such as Tucker’s title cut; “Sleeping in the Garden, which he wrote with his then-wife, folk singer Karen Dalton; and Lee’s elegant “Evelyn.” If you like such Richard, Cam & Bert contemporaries as Fred Neil (whose “Sweet Mama” the trio covers here), Dave Van Ronk, Patrick Sky, and early Simon & Garfunkel, you’re gonna love these performances, none of which have previously been released.

The Flying Burrito BrothersLive in Amsterdam 1972. Though briefly available in Europe in the early 1970s, this concert recording has been out of print for more than 50 years. The bad news is that by the time of this show, the Flying Burritos’ classic original lineup had all flown away. That said, this two-disc set features a capable seven-man group that includes such large talents as fiddler Byron Berline and banjo player Alan Munde. 

Moreover, the 29-song program embraces favorites from the Burritos’ catalog, among them Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman’s “Sin City” and “Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise),” Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home,” Earl Green and Carl Montgomery’s “Six Days on the Road,” and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’s “Wild Horses.” Other highlights include covers of Earl Scruggs’s “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” the traditional “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” and Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life.” Lead vocalist Rick Roberts is no Gram Parsons, but the spirited music here should please country-rock fans.

Jeff Burger’s website, byjeffburger.com, contains five decades’ worth of music reviews, interviews, and commentary. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and EncountersLennon on Lennon: Conversations with John LennonLeonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.