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July 19, 1995

An American Prayer

An American PrayerJim Morrison & The Doors, An American Prayer (Elektra 1995) -- Since releasing their first album nearly three decades ago, The Doors have remained one of the most influential forces in music history. To preserve this unique heritage, Elektra has re-released An American Prayer, digitally remastered by the late Paul Rothchild, and available for the first time on CD.

Originally pressed in 1979, this album of spoken word performances, poetry, and music is a captivating performance. Many of the vocals on this album were recorded by Morrison during a late night drinking session on his 27th (and last) birthday in December, 1970.

Several years after Morrison's death in 1971, the remaining Doors (Robbie Kreiger on guitar, John Densmore on drums, and Ray Manzarek on keyboards), returned to the studios to put down a musical background for these cuts.

Bootleg tapes of Morrison's poetry sessions have circulated for years; while purists complain that the speed and cadence of the vocals were altered for An American Prayer, the end more than justifies the means. I've heard some of the unaltered recordings; An American Prayer is a huge improvement over Morrison's drunken rants.

DoorsIt took a lot of hard work to get this album released, and the intervening 15 years have only heightened the drama. When the band went back to re-mix the masters, they discovered that some of their performances had been lost. As a result, new tracks were laid for part of this recording (which sounds better than ever).

In addition, the album features three bonus tracks, including "Babylon Fading" and "Bird of Prey." Both of these cuts have long been available on bootleg, but are featured here for the first time on a regular release.

An American Prayer has long been one of the most singular works in the rock canon. Morrison's incredible poetic images come to full force on this album, as the Lizard King delivers a riveting posthumous performance. This CD is a must own for all rock fans.

The long-awaited box set c.1999Doors Box Set -- And what's going on with the much-delayed Doors box set? It's long been rumored that The Doors six studio albums would be released in a black leather box set. However, the latest word is that Elektra plans to slice and dice the albums (ala the Beatles' Red and Blue albums), instead of presenting them in their original format.

That would be a sacrilege. Each album is a coherent musical statement; how can anyone mix The Soft Parade (an overlooked gem) with Strange Days? It simply can't be done.

The albums are short enough that they could fit conveniently on three CDs (two albums per disc). Let's hope Elektra brings this project to fruition so the entire Doors outre will be available in re-mastered form.

Charles River ValleyCharles River Valley Boys, Beatle Country (Rounder Records 1995) -- Speaking of Paul Rothchild, I recently discovered Beatle Country, a long out-of-print (and highly-valued) bluegrass gem from 1966 now available on Rounder Records.

Originally recorded for Elektra, this inspired album of Beatles' covers (including a great reading of "Norwegian Wood") was produced by Paul Rothchild before he found fame producing such acts as the The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Paul Butterfield.

Before his death in 1994, Rothchild recalled that he discovered the Charles River Valley Boys in 1961 while he was working as a salesman for Dumont Record Distributors. After producing an early album for the band, he had the opportunity to work again with them on Beatle Country.

The original cover Said Rothchild, "I thought it was really a sweet moment to be making what we hoped was going to be a really famous album with my old buddies the River Rats...I enjoyed being in the big time with those guys."

Rothchild comes across a decent sort. As the producer of some of the most influential albums of the 60s, his biography might make an interesting read. Any takers?

-- Randy Krbechek

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