The Doors

London Fog 1966

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Doors super fan Nettie Pena recorded her favorite band during their stint as the house band at the L.A. nightclub London Fog, capturing seven songs from a performance held sometime in May 1966. These recordings sat undiscovered for years but surfaced at the tail-end of 2016, just as the Doors were scheduled to celebrate their 50th anniversary. London Fog 1966 features those seven songs, supplemented by two tracks of tunings that could've easily been excised, on CD and vinyl, accompanied with a bunch of memorabilia designed to entice collectors. Although the quality of the production is high -- the oversized box is handsome and the photo inserts and posters luxurious -- the attraction is the live music, the earliest known recording of the Doors. Over these seven songs, the Doors pledge allegiance to the blues, covering B.B. King's "Rock Me" and Muddy Waters' "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," ending their set by stumbling through a version of "Lucille" that suggests Jim Morrison was a little reserved in comparison to Little Richard. Often, that politeness is the appeal of London Fog 1966: the Doors aren't a great blues band, emphasizing texture over rhythm, and that awkwardness is endearing on this club set. Also, this tendency reaches an unexpected fruition on "Strange Days," an original that pops up fully formed toward the end of the set. Unlike "You Make Me Real," an obvious attempt at replicating electric blues that would later resurface on Morrison Hotel, "Strange Days" is a clear progression, a statement of purpose that seems to appear out of nowhere toward the end of the set. The connection between "Strange Days" and the rest of the London Fog set is tenuous, but that's also why this collection is charming. Most of the time, the Doors are stumbling through blues and rock & roll covers, exuding a sense of confidence that exceeds their competence, then the focus suddenly sharpens and the Doors sounds like who they were at the outset: majestic and mysterious, a group with no discernible roots. Aside from these moments, London Fog showcases a band who doesn't know its own attributes, and that's why it's worthwhile: it's the sound of a band discovering its own strengths.

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