Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Great Awakening "Amazing Grace" (1969)

This one goes under the better-late-than-never file. A decade ago, I reviewed the 2-CD set titled Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970, the soundtrack album to the 1996 documentary film about the event, on my website. The CD set contained an instrumental recording of "Amazing Grace" by a band called the Great Awakening, because that recording was played over the PA system at the 1970 festival. But the CD liner notes provided no information about who the Great Awakening were. At the time, I could not find information anywhere about the band, finding only an article in Relix magazine saying that they were "rumored to consist of a well-known but mysterious guitarist". I went so far as to speculate (incorrectly) here on this blog that David Gilmour from Pink Floyd may have been the rumored mysterious guitarist.



Fortunately, the information superhighway has accumulated more information over the last ten years. After I was recently reminded of the subject, I searched again for information about the recording. Bingo. The All Music Guide website now explains it:

This little-known band made a brief impression in 1969 with an outstanding instrumental version of ‘Amazing Grace’, long before Judy Collins popularized the song. The mantra-like fuzz guitar added a spiritual quality that was missing from later versions. So little was known of the group that they were often referred to as Amazing Grace, and the song as ‘The Great Awakening’! For years it was thought that the man responsible was guitarist David Cohen from Country Joe And The Fish; others suggested it was by members of the Band. Later it was discovered that it was a different David Cohen, helped out by Joe Osborn (bass) and Jimmy Gordon (drums). The latter Cohen has worked as session guitarist for Bobby Darin, Tim Hardin and Frank Sinatra.


Sorry I couldn't provide this information earlier. But, like I said, it's better late than never.

The "Amazing Grace" single was the only release from the Great Awakening. The American version (Amos AJB 113) had "Amazing Grace" on both sides. The U.K. version (London HLU 10284) had a B-side called "Silver Waterfall", a serene instrumental composed by Cohen.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Doors documentary "Feast Of Friends" coming to DVD and Blu-Ray

This week, it was announced that the long-lost 1968 Doors documentary titled Feast of Friends will be officially released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 10th by Eagle Rock Entertainment. This will be the first time the much-bootlegged film will be properly issued. According to an Entertainment Weekly article, the set will also be loaded with extra features:

The DVD/Blu-Ray edition includes not only a complete cut of the film but a companion compilation of outtakes called Feast of Friends: Encore, plus a 1968 Doors doc produced for British television called The Doors Are Open, as well as a 1967 performance of filmed for a Canadian TV pop-music variety show where they drop a full 10-minute version of “The End” on a group of stunned Torontonians.

Here is an official trailer:




As it’s been presented in bootleg form, Feast Of Friends runs approximately 38 minutes, consisting of concert footage and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the band members. The first third of the short cinéma vérité film contains offstage and onstage slices of life that were destined to be dramatically exaggerated by Oliver Stone. Just before the halfway point, the film begins to get interesting: we see three of the band members practicing in a small room, leading up to Morrison doing clownish improvisation at a piano, banging on the ivories and spouting bizarre poetry. Even when he was messing around, the Lizard King could be riveting. (During that same sequence, we hear Ray Manzarek play for a bit on the same piano, and we glimpse Robby Krieger casually singing and strumming an unplugged guitar). Next, we see a performance of “The End” which further demonstrates how Morrison could be charismatic and fascinating even while being incoherent and self-indulgent. Morrison goes off on numerous poetic tangents while the band members provide hypnotic psychedelic background instrumentation. Feast Of Friends succeeds at glorifying the Doors, but does not quite make them seem as larger-than-life as they are usually presented – which is what gives this film much of its value.

Featured songs in Feast Of Friends:

1. Strange Days
2. Wild Child
3. Moonlight Drive
4. Five To One
5. Not To Touch The Earth
6. The End


The British documentary The Doors Are Open, also filmed in 1968, was once released on DVD in the U.S. in 2002 (Geneon/Pioneer 10074). This documentary views the band as American political agitators – though it’s now almost laughable how the filmmakers were unable to convincingly portray them as such. Running approximately 55 minutes and filmed entirely in black-and-white, The Doors Are Open contains footage from a ’68 concert at the Roundhouse in London, interspersed with (mostly unrelated) images of political and social unrest from the period. In the opening narration, we are told that Jim Morrison “speaks for a generation” – much the same way Kurt Cobain was widely portrayed a quarter-century later – and that the Doors “show more clearly what they are against than what they are for”. But the film never expounds this statement. When it shows the band members being interviewed, they come across entirely as musicians, not political activists. It’s quite amusing to hear Robby Krieger say that he thought the documentary might end up not even being about the band! Regardless of the politics, the extensive concert footage is something to see. Morrison’s performance is intense throughout, but the rest of the band is equally impressive, and the camera gives plenty of face time to them as well, especially during a performance of “Hello I Love You” with Manzarek on vocals.

Featured songs in The Doors Are Open:

1. When The Music’s Over
2. Five To One
3. Spanish Caravan
4. Hello I Love You
5. Back Door Man
6. Wake Up
7. Light My Fire
8. The Unknown Soldier


As for the “1967 performance of filmed for a Canadian TV pop-music variety show where they drop a full 10-minute version of 'The End' on a group of stunned Torontonians” referred to in the EW article above, that performance of the song was filmed at the CBS Television Studio in Toronto for a program called The Rock Scene: Like It Is. This performance is available as part of the 2002 DVD called The Doors: Soundstage Performances. Besides being interesting as an early performance by this legendary band, it builds up to a memorably intense climax around the 8:00 mark. Check out the video below.





After doing the math, I've determined that the running times for Encore and the bonus interviews on the discs will total approximately 40 minutes.