Monday, December 12, 2011

#MusicMonday ::: Doors Love Elektra Blues Project

Two bands that have stood the test of time: The Doors (headed by the very influential Jim Morrison) and Love (headed by Arthur Lee). Both light years ahead of their time - o r- is it that the groups were so unique that it made us believe they were far advanced? The Doors created music that just could not be performed by anyone else (save for Feliciano's "Light My Fire" and the 80s band "The Cult" which made eerie-Doorslike tunes). Then there was Love - NObody could emulate Love!

After losing the Lovin' Spoonful, who became fabulously successful, Elektra's Jac Holzman was on the lookout for a breakthrough pop band. Most of the groups based in New York City had been picked over by the record companies with lots of pop experience, so in 1965 Holzman went to L.A. --- On the Sunset strip he discovered the band Love, headed by Arthur Lee. In his autobiography, Holzman said of Love, "Five guys of all colors, black, white and psychedelic-that was a real first. My heart skipped a beat. I had found my band!" Elektra began a new catalogue numbering system with the first Love album [EKS-74001] and for the first time in Elektra history they put a single onto the charts with "My Little Red Book."
In 1967, Love followed their first album with "Forever Changes" [EKL-74013] which is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece of a record - vastly underrated - that ranks near the top as one of the best recordings ever made.

I was introduced to the album by my high school chum Mike Laiacona. (Pictured at left with guitar legend Les Paul)

In May, 1966, Jac flew to Los Angeles to meet with Love, who were playing at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Their opening act was a group which Arthur Lee had a high opinion of, and Lee suggested that Jac sign them to Elektra. Jac initially was unimpressed with the group but went back several times to see them perform. On his fourth visit, Jac realized that this was no run-of-the-mill rock band and decided to sign them. The group was the Doors.

Jac wanted Paul Rothchild to produce them, but when Rothchild flew to L.A. to hear them, he told Holzman he was nuts for signing the group and that he (Rothchild) did not want to produce them. Finally, Jac told him, "Paul, I never thought I'd say this to you, but you owe me. You've got to do this band. You are the only person for the job." Rothchild reluctantly agreed. The group was taken to Tutti Camarata's Disney studios to record their first album, which took about a week.

Elektra issued "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" as the first single from the album, and it received modest airplay stalling at number 106. They immediately issued the second single from the album, "Light My Fire". The version on the album is seven minutes long, and Jac insisted it be cut for AM play. The Doors said it couldn't be cut, but Rothchild edited the song to about three minutes and then played it for them. They all agreed to issue it. In June, 1967, "Light My Fire" reached the Number One position in the pop charts, becoming Elektra's first #1 single. The album was just as successful, and in the last 30 years the Doors have sold over 45 million records. [Source+]

Other artists in the Elektra stable included The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Tim Buckley, Judy Collins and The Incredible String Band.

The Blues Project was on Verve, another "folk label" - and around the same time Love and the Doors were on the radio, college stations were playing the BP cover of Donovan's "Catch The Wind" which was recorded during a live performance.

The Blues Project had a connection to Elektra: during 1964, the label released a compilation album of various artists entitled, The Blues Project. One of the featured artists on the LP was a young Danny Kalb, who was paid $75 for his two songs. Not long after the album's release, however, Kalb traded his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The Beatles' arrival in the United States earlier in the year signified the end of the folk music/Hootenanny movement that had taken North America by storm during the early 1960s.

Kalb's first rock and roll band was formed in the spring of 1965, playing under various names at first, until finally settling on the Blues Project moniker as an allusion to Kalb's first foray on record. By September 1965 the band was a top draw in Greenwich Village. Members at the time included Danny Kalb on guitar, Steve Katz also on guitar, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums and Tommy Flanders on vocals.

The band's first big break just weeks later when they failed a Columbia records audition. The audition introduced the band to session organist Al Kooper, who started out as a session guitarist, but that summer, he began playing organ when he played on the "Like a Rolling Stone" recording session for Bob Dylan's album, Highway 61 Revisited. Kooper-the-organist joined the Blues Project and began gigging with them, and within a very short time, the Blues Project was signed by Verve Records, and recorded their first album live at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village over the course of a week in November 1965!

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  1. great review / both informative and well written

  2. you can hear the folk-rock influence in "Catch the Wind" - Peter Paul & Mary could've sung that song!


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