Several tracks made their album debut here, but anyone looking for a lost classic will be disappointed, unless they think everything Jim spouted was poetry. After a lengthy harangue by an emcee who today sounds like a pissed-off Bill Murray, the band kicks into the Bo Diddley standard “Who Do You Love”, which Jim sticks to for the most part, drifting off into occasional “verse”. Then there’s a peculiar medley of “Alabama Song”, “Back Door Man” and “Five To One”, with an interlude called “Love Hides”, which Jim recites while the band vamps. “Build Me A Woman” isn’t much more than a blues, with racy lyrics that probably shouldn’t have made it to the master considering all the legal trouble Jim was already having.
As unreliable as Jim was supposed to be during this time, he seems to be able to get the job done, taking hold of “When The Music’s Over” and only telling the rowdy crowd to “shut up!” once, elaborating on the tense situation with a few in-jokes after they finish the tune. Unfortunately, Ray gets to sing “Close To You”, a Willie Dixon tune that sounds like a Morrison parody. It’s not a good setup for “Universal Mind”, an otherwise unreleased song that pairs some of Jim’s less inspired couplets with a bolero section that was probably sitting around since the first album. The “petition the Lord with prayer” segment of “The Soft Parade” leads not into that song, but “Dead Cats, Dead Rats”, a recitation over the vamp for “Break On Through”, which continues as planned, but has to endure Ray’s backup vocals. (Maybe that’s why it was subtitled “#2” on the vinyl?)
Arguably the real draw for this album is side four, which is mostly devoted to a performance of the notoriously unrealized “Celebration Of The Lizard” suite. Its limitations are apparent; unlike more successful epics like “The End” and “When The Music’s Over”, here the band tried to create music to match Jim’s words, but the sections don’t sync up. (“Not To Touch The Earth” was always annoying, but “Names Of The Kingdom” would be acceptable were it not too derived from “Scarborough Fair”). A long “Soul Kitchen” caps the set, but not without Ray adding his two cents.
While the band is tight and well-prepared to keep up with their singer’s whims, much of this album’s legacy rests on the fact that they hated the cover, which used an older picture of Jim while pushing the other guys into the background. The album stayed out of print in the digital era until Oliver Stone’s film increased interest in the band. One result was a new double-disc, In Concert, which put most of Absolutely Live on one disc, relegating “Close To You” to the second, along with the entirety of 1983’s Alive, She Cried (which mined the same era at half the length) and a few other live tracks that had snuck out over the previous decade. That set too went out of print, though Absolutely Live was re-reissued as a standalone CD with completely new cover artwork that still depicted just Jim. Meanwhile, the Doors organization began issuing complete concerts under the Bright Midnight Archives umbrella, so anybody that really has to have these shows can snap them up as fast as their credit cards can swipe.
The Doors Absolutely Live (1970)—3