Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Doors - Celebration of the Lizard

The Doors – Celebration of the Lizard

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Five To One
2.  Love Street
3.  We Could Be So Good Together
4.  Yes, The River Knows
5.  My Wild Love
6.  The Unknown Soldier

Side B:
7.  Spanish Caravan
8.  Wintertime Love
9.  Celebration of the Lizard

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  This was a much-requested reconstruction that was surprisingly easy to do, so I thought I’d revisit and bastardize my favorite Doors album as present to my blog followers!  This is a reconstruction of the unreleased Doors album Celebration of the Lizard, which was restructured into 1968’s Waiting For The Sun.  The bulk of my reconstruction uses a superior needledrop vinyl rip of the album for the best possible fidelity, and the title track is reconstructed from three different sources to make a complete and dynamic performance piece as it would have sounded like in 1968, superior to the officially released “work in progress” track. 

Upon entering the recording studio in 1968 to make their third album, The Doors hit a creative wall for several reasons.  First and foremost, they had simply run out of material, having blown through their backlog of quality songs with their first two albums in the previous year.  Paraphrasing Robbie Krieger, the ‘Third Album Syndrome’ had affected The Doors, who were thrown into the position of needing a new album to promote with no songs immediately on hand, forced to compose new material in the studio.  A solution was to base their third album around a lengthy poetry piece of Jim Morrison’s, entitled “Celebration of the Lizard”.  Originally claimed to occupy an entire side of the LP, “Celebration of the Lizard” would have included seven sections, some of which were experiments in noise to accompany Morrison’s abstract poetics.  Unfortunately, the piece was too abstract for producer Paul Rothchild, who felt the band absolutely needed a hit single, and the band themselves allegedly could not properly record the song to their liking in the studio.

Rothchild presumably convinced the band to abandon “Celebration of the Lizard” midway through the recording sessions for the album, which signaled a change in Jim Morrison himself to a state of drunken ambivalence.  After his epic poetic masterpiece was killed in favor of a hit single, he simply stopped caring about the album and turned instead to alcohol and his own circle of followers who vied Morrison’s time away from the actual members of The Doors.  The only thing salvaged from the formerly-title track was its fifth section, “Not To Touch The Earth”, which became its own track on the album, which was retitled to Waiting For The Sun.   The legend has it that the void left by “Celebration of the Lizard” was filled with two songs chosen by the 10-year-old son of Elektra Records head Jac Holzman.  Unused filler from The Doors’ original 1965 demo, “Hello, I Love You” and “Summer’s Almost Gone” were rearranged specifically to be a hit single and it’s b-side.  It worked; the album Celebration of the Lizard transformed into Waiting For The Sun, the band’s highest charting album.  But it was not the album that Jim Morrison had originally wanted it to be.  Can it now?

The first step in recreating Celebration of the Lizard is to know what would or would not have been on the album.  Obviously, “Celebration of the Lizard” would have been the title track, allegedly taking up the entire second side.  Although a studio run-through of the track reached 17 minutes in length and media outlets at the time claiming some recordings incredulously amounted to 36 minutes, almost all of the performed live versions of the entire track ran between 13-15 minutes.  I propose that “Celebration of the Lizard” would have not exceeded 14 minutes in length, and would have been teamed with another song or two on side B, which is how it is presented here.  Also, we know that “The Unknown Soldier” and it’s b-side “We Could Be So Good Together” would have been on Celebration of the Lizard, since it was a single release from early in the sessions; while some speculate the b-side might not have been included on the album, that is not a precedent set by the previous two albums, where not a song was wasted!  Studio documentation also shows that “Spanish Caravan” and “Wintertime Love” were all recorded before “Celebration of the Lizard” was scrapped, and were probably good contenders for the album.  News articles at the time also place a cover of “Gloria” as a contender for the album, although we must exclude this because we simply don’t have a 1968 studio recording of “Gloria” to use on our reconstruction (not to mention the band simply stopped performing the song altogether the previous year).  There is also speculation that Morrison’s spoken poetry might have acted as segues between the actual musical tracks on the album; we must also set this notion aside, since we simply do not have any spoken word recordings from the CotL/WftS Sessions to use in this reconstruction (although this is certainly plausible for the following album, 1969's The Soft Parade; maybe the poetry rumors were assigned to the wrong album?).   Aside from these six songs, that’s all we know for sure.  In contrast, we are certain of what would not be on the album: “Hello, I Love You” and “Summer’s Almost Gone”, which were the title track’s replacement.

Because of a) the limitations of source material and b) the unsurety of how the album would have sounded like aside from six songs, we are left with a great leeway to reconstruct our Celebration of the Lizard.  Here, I am essentially beginning with all of the Waiting For The Sun album, dropping the two 1965 demo-originated tracks and adding a rebuilt title track with “Not To Touch The Earth” reinstated.  That leaves us with a nine-song 37-minute album, enough to compete with the rest of The Doors’ works.  I am also going to exclude the actual song “Waiting For The Sun”, as no 1968 recording is available that lacks the 1970 Morrison Hotel-era overdubs.  It is of note that I am using the pbthal vinyl rip of the album, which is the best version of Waiting For The Sun I’ve heard by far. 

Side A of my Celebration of the Lizard reconstruction begins with the ruckus of “Five To One”, taking the place of The Door’s usual ruckus-opener tracks.  Morrison’s introductory lyrics to the track make the song the only real contender for album opener.  It is gently crossfaded into “Love Street”.  While we can’t be certain it would have actually appeared on Celebration of the Lizard, it is needed to release the tension from the previous track.  Following is “We Could Be So Good Together” and then the brilliantly-composed ballad “Yes, The River Knows”.  Again, while we are unsure if the later song had actually been a contender for the album, its inclusion here gives Celebration of the Lizard a pretty large dynamic and stylistic breath, a quality I appreciated the most about Waiting For The Sun.  The stylistic breath widens again with the tribal “My Wild Love” (which thematically certainly fits Celebration of the Lizard) and the side closes much like its officially-released counterpart, with “The Unknown Soldier”.  Side B similarly opens with the amazingly mysterious “Spanish Caravan”, followed by the baroque-rocker “Wintertime Love”.  The album concludes with the title track. 

Clearly, The Doors were not able to capture “Celebration of the Lizard” in the studio as they had intended it; this is demonstrated by the only known studio version, an extremely lazy and lackluster rehearsal, appropriately subtitled “An experiment/work in progress”.  This seems curious, as the entire piece was performed a number of times live to sheer perfection.  Why not use direct soundboard recordings of actual live performances if they could only perform it correctly live?  Contemporaries such as The Grateful Dead, Neil Young and Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention had mixed studio with live recordings on albums proper and would continue to do so throughout the 1970s.  This is the approach we will take on my reconstruction of the title song: we must find other, stronger performances of the seven individual sections of “Celebration of the Lizard”, while staying within the timeframe of the CotL/WftS sessions, and assemble them into the best track possible.  Although Rothchild has claimed the track had no cohesion, it seemed the obvious choice to push the envelope in that very direction and record each segment separately, piecing the song together.  Admittedly, that was probably not The Doors’ ethos, even though Rothchild allegedly forced them to perform hundreds of takes of “The Unknown Soldier” in search for the perfect take for a hit single.  Here, we have the luxury to undertake what Rothchild could not—or would not—do. 

My own edit of “Celebration of the Lizard” begins with ‘Lions in the Street’, taken from the studio rehearsal version.  It is edited into a live version of ‘Wake Up!’ taken from The Doors 1968 Hollywood Bowl performance.  Since The Doors refined “Celebration of the Lizard” over time, we wish to exclude any anachronistic later-era live recordings of the song.  Thus a performance from 1968—the same week as the release of Waiting For The Sun itself—is close enough to the album’s sessions to let us know how the refined pieces would have sounded like in 1968, as opposed to 1970.  This crossfades into more Hollywood Bowl recordings of ‘A Little Game’ and ‘Hill Dwellers’; the slight audience noise is excusable since the overall fidelity of the recordings are a great match to the studio recordings.   Following is the album version of ‘Not To Touch The Earth’, segueing into the studio rehearsal versions of ‘Names of The Kingdom’ and ‘The Palace of Exile’.  The result is an album hopefully more in-tune with Jim Morrison’s intentions before Rothchild’s desire for a hit single destroyed it.  And at the centerpiece, a strong, nearly-fourteen minute title track that is a sum of the more passionate performances of its seven pieces, constructed into a cohesive whole.  So are you ready?  The ceremony is about to begin…  

Sources used:
The Doors – Waiting For The Sun (2007 40th Anniversary CD remaster)
The Doors – Waiting For The Sun (1998 Steve Hoffman vinyl remaster, pbthal rip)
The Doors – Live at The Bowl ’68 (2012 remix/remaster, HD wav download)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Human Highway

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Human Highway
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Carry Me
2.  See The Changes
3.  Through My Sails
4.  Prison Song
5.  Homeward Through The Haze
6.  Black Coral

Side B:
7.  First Things First
8.  Human Highway
9.  And So It Goes
10.  Taken At All
11.  Long May You Run
12.  As I Come Of Age

This was requested a while back, and I erroneously thought it couldn’t be done; turns out this was totally doable and a fun Thanksgiving project!  This is a reconstruction of the three-times aborted third album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Human Highway was initially begun in 1973 and scrapped; then a second attempt was made in 1974 after their triumphant tour, but scrapped again; a final attempt to turn the 1976 Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run into a full-blown reunion of the quartet was again unsuccessful.  This reconstruction attempts to piece the most complete recordings from these three sessions into a cohesive and finished album that would have been the follow-up to Déjà Vu.  All the best source material was used, volume adjustments made and crossfading used to make two continuous sides of an LP. 

1970 spelled the end of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Succumbing to the egos of four prominent singer-songwriters in their own right, the quartet disbanded to allow all four members time with their own (ultimately successful) projects; namely the illusive-anyways Neil Young, how had success with his solo albums and with Crazy Horse.  But the legacy and the amazing four-part harmonies of CSNY begged for a reunion, and that is exactly what was intended in 1973.  Regrouping at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow Studios in Hawaii, the quartet worked on new material and about half of an album was rumored to be recorded.  The album was allegedly titled Human Highway, and Graham Nash even organized a band photo-op as a possible album cover.  But the same old egos and preoccupations prevented the album from being finished and the material was left on the wayside.  Nash's contributions from the 1973 Human Highway sessions (“Prison Song”, “And So It Goes” and “Another Sleep Song”) were rerecorded and released on his solo album Wild Tales at the end of the year.

The following year, the music industry's cries for a reunion must have drifted into their ears, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunited for a summer and fall 1974 tour that showed the band in a harmonious and energetic shape.  Touring to promote the newly-released greatest hits compilation So Far, the three-to-four hour concerts allowed the quartet to showcase a number of new songs that would theoretically constitute the Human Highway album, ready for another studio attempt.  At the conclusion of the tour, the group again assembled into the studio record Human Highway.  But clashing personalities again got in the way of the music, particularly Graham Nash’s refusal to sing a minor note inside a major chord.  Neil Young  infamously walked away from the project unannounced after only less than half of an album was recorded.  All of the Human Highway originals were later rerecorded for the various members’ solo albums: Nash’s “Wind On The Water” and David Crosby’s “Carry Me” and “Homeward Through The Haze” were rerecorded and used on the duo’s 1975 album Wind On The Water; Stephen Stills’ “My Angel’, “First Things First”, “As I Come Of Age” and “Myth of Sisyphus” were rerecorded for his album Stills; the band’s version of Neil Young’s “Though My Sails”, dating back to the 1973 Human Highway sessions, was released on his album Zuma. 

By 1976 Human Highway was closed with no plans for construction, not surviving two recording attempts.  By this time, CSNY had coalesced into two halves: David Crosby and Graham Nash continued their eternal musical and personal friendship by recording their album Whistling Down The Wire, while Stephen Stills and Neil Young continued their partnership stemming back from Buffalo Springfield by recording the album Long May You Run.  Legend has it that it was Neil Young who invited Crosby and Nash to fly to Miami and add their vocals to the album that Stills and Young essentially had in the can at that point, effectively transforming it into an official CSNY reunion and attempt at a third album.  It is noteworthy that both halves were working on originals that had originally been written for the Human Highway project, such as Crosby’s “Time After Time” and Young’s “Long May You Run”.  Crosby & Nash added their backing vocals to a handful of Stills & Young tracks, and the quartet recorded new versions of “Human Highway” and “Taken At All”.  To this day it is unclear why, but those two tracks were left on the cutting-room floor and all of Crosby & Nash’s vocals were wiped from the mastertapes.  Long May You Run was released as simply The Stills-Young Band, destroying any chance at a CSNY 1976 reunion album and the Human Highway was demolished forever.    

My attempt to repave Human Highway is actually quite a difficult one that unfortunately involves very fuzzy logic: what songs to include?  Graham Nash has been quoted that there would have only been ten songs on the actual album, but in adding up all contenders for the album, we have anywhere between 20-30 songs!  Also one must examine the continuity of the three session: as each recording session was abandoned, those possible tracks were shifted elsewhere and thus Human Highway received a complete facelift each time CSNY attempted to record it; by 1976, it probably wouldn’t have even been called Human Highway!  For this reconstruction to be successful, we must ignore this continuity and hobble together tracks from the 1973, 1974 and 1976 sessions as contenders for one excellent Human Highway album, rather than making two—or even three—separate average to ‘pretty good’ Human Highway albums. 

To build my Human Highway, we will have two guideposts: the first being that the bulk of the album is to consist of the songs debuted during the 1974, which were: “As I Come Of Age”, “Human Highway”, “And So It Goes”, “Prison Song”, “Another Sleep Song”, “Carry Me”, “Long May You Run”, “My Angel”, “Pushed It Over The End”, “Traces”, “First Things First”, “Love Art Blues”, “Myth of Sisyphus”, “Time After Time” and “Hawaiian Sunrise” (note we are including Nash’s Wind Tales tracks since they were originally destined to be a part of Human Highway in 1973, even though by the time of the1974 tour they had been released as a solo project).   The second guidepost is that we must exclude the songs that only featured one member of CSNY and focus on the tracks that had a studio recording which featured at least three of the four members of CSNY.  That whittles our list down to only “Long May You Run”, “Human Highway” and “Pushed It Over The End” featuring all four members of CSNY and “As I Come Of Age”, “First Things First” and “And So It Goes” featuring three of the four members.  I have also dropped “Pushed It Over The End” from the running order, since it was essentially an average-quality Neil Young live recording with CSN’s vocals overdubbed, and didn’t seem to fit onto my reconstruction. 

We only have five Human Highway songs thus far that feature three or four members of CSNY.  Next we look at the songs recorded at the three Human Highway sessions that were not played during the 1974 Tour: from the 1973 sessions, we can use the original CSNY recording of “Through My Sails”, found on Zuma; the full CSNY version of “See The Changes” from a 1974 rehearsal session; “Homeward Through The Haze” is allegedly the only completed full CSNY recording from the 1974 sessions; and we can also use the full CSNY version of “Taken At All” from the aborted 1976 CSNY sessions, as well as an early mix of the Stills-Young Band track featuring Crosby & Nash’s vocals, “Black Coral”.  That leaves us with our required ten songs, but I included two additional tracks that featured two of the band members—Carry Me” and “Prison Song”—to round off the album to two approximately 20-minute sides. 

The album opens with “Carry Me” from C&N’s Wind On The Water.  Although this track lacks Young and Stills, I felt that without the song, Human Highway has no real strong album-opener.  Next is Crosby’s “See The Changes” a full CSNY version found on the CSN box set.  After Young’s “Through My Sails” from Zuma, we have the Wild Tales version of “Prison Song”, again only featuring C&N.  While there exists a CSNY rehearsal recording from 1974, the tape is too degraded to be used here.  I chose the Wild Tales version because, honestly, “Prison Song” is the highlight of the album and an absolute necessity.  “Homeward Through The Haze” from the CSN box set follows, with the side concluding with the early mix of “Black Coral “ featuring all four members, found on the Carry On box set.  Although the sonic characteristics of “Black Coral” seem more “70s” than the rest of the album, it creates a solid ending to Side A and can be excused because of the anachronistic nature of this project in the first place. 

Side B opens with “First Things First” from Stills, a solo recording that luckily for us, also featured C&N.  My own personal remix of the unreleased CSNY-version of “Human Highway” follows, with “And So It Goes” from Wild Tales continuing, which also features C&Y.  The prerequisite CSNY song suite is created here with the CSNY recording of “Taken At All” from the CSN box set is crossfaded into the early mix of “Long May You Run” from the first pressing of the Decades box set.  Concluding the album is the “As I Come of Age”, a second track from Stills to feature C&N.  This Human Highway becomes a very solid and spectacular album, more idiosyncratic and adventurous than either CS&N or Déjà Vu.  Although it is a CSNY album that has 100% Crosby, 100% Nash, 83% Stills and 66% Young, Human Highway is a road that now can be taken at all. 

Sources Used:
Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN (1991 CD box set)
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Rarities Volume 2: 1970-1974 (bootleg, The Chief's Tapes)
David Crosby & Graham Nash – Wind On The Water (2000 CD remaster)
Graham Nash – Wild Tales (original 1990 CD master)
Neil Young – Zuma (1993 CD remaster)
Neil Young – Decade (original CD pressing)
Stephen Stills – Carry On (2013 CD box set)
Stephen Stills – Stills (2007 CD remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included