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If you are a Doors fan, you owe yourself this.

Estranged Reality

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I didn't shell out for the $100 Doors Box Set from 2001 (or whenever it came out), but I did buy a three-pack with Morrison Hotel, L.A. Woman and The Doors a couple years ago for about $35. And I'm aware of how many times the albums have been re-released. When I saw a new box set was being released, I was pretty wary; I was excited to hear them in 5.1 surround, but paying $150 seemed a bit much for five albums.

Well, I bought the set tonight and let me tell you, if you are a Doors fan you owe yourself the pleasure of purchasing this set. Yes, it's expensive, but the material is amazing. Each album comes completely remixed with two discs - a CD (pretty similar to the previous editions with improved clarity) and a brand spankin' new DVD, which is the real highlight of this set. On top of this, each album is presented in a digi-pack style "deluxe set" with an accompanying booklet with essays, pictures and other cool tidbits. As usual with these things, it's almost more interesting to read what people have to say about the "bad" albums like Waiting For the Sun and The Soft Parade, which got horrible reviews back in the '60s/'70s when they were first released. The anecdotes and retrospectives on this provides a lot of insight into what was going on at the time, and why the albums turned out the way they did. (Overblown, messy and - with time - quite endearing and enjoyable in their own right.)

The "classic" albums, however, are a real pleasure to hear on the DVD. And the extra content is overwhelming. Morrison Hotel fans will have lots to drool over here - on the DVD Bonus Tracks menu there are fifteen staggering versions of Roadhouse Blues, from the very first attempt at recording the song to the final edition. We get to hear it progress from a muddled blues tune to a stricter and more focused bar-brawl masterpiece. Listening to the evolution of this song is very special, as is Morrison's evolution of the actual vocals - starting with Howlin' Wolf-esque bluesy repetition and later transforming into something else. It's a delight.

The packaging itself is absolute class and this was very obviously a labor of love for the music and the fans on Rhino's behalf (as well as the remaining Doors). There may be a few box sets and re-releases out there already, but this is the best you're likely to find until they resurrect Morrison a hundred years from now with advanced science and start releasing new albums again.

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