The Doors Release Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters

3CD/5LP set chronicles the band right before take-off

The Doors Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters, Rhino 2023

The Doors were only two months into the nationwide release of their eponymous first album when they played a five-night stand at San Francisco’s The Matrix in March 1967.

The band — singer Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore — was still very much nascent on the national scene, and the Matrix gigs were only attended by a handful of people even though they had been causing a stir down the California coast in their native Los Angeles at clubs like the Whisky a Go Go and the London Fog. And by any other measure these five shows would have been long forgotten about after the van was packed up. However, Peter Abram — who co-owned The Matrix with Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane — had a penchant for recording every show at the pizza parlor-turned-nightclub. Pirated copies of his tapes have become the stuff of bootleg lore, and these Doors shows were no exception. 

Originally heard on the gray and black markets, the sound of these performances are raw and grainy from poor multi-generational copies floating around. But now for the first time, these concerts at The Matrix are available with a new sense of clarity and fidelity having been sourced from Abram’s original first generation master tapes.

The Doors Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters CD set (Image: Rhino)

Snatches of these concerts have appeared on official Rhino releases in the past, including a pair of cuts featured on 1997’s The Doors: Box Set as well as 15 songs that were packaged as Record Store Day exclusives (not to mention a 2008 2-CD set that quickly went out of print). However, Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters marks the first time they’ve appeared in such totality, capturing all five of the band’s sets over two nights, March 7 and 10, 1967. And none of the previous releases ever emerged from the original source material, making it truly the definitive Matrix collection to own. 

In a few months after these San Francisco shows, “Light My Fire” would propel The Doors to superstardom that saw them land an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show as well as the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The Matrix tapes capture the Voodoo viscera of this band on the cusp of mainstream success, where they’re heard digging into bluesy jams on Slim Harpo’s “I’m A King Bee” and  “Crawling King Snake” by Big Joe Williams, while getting lost in the complexities of such epic compositions as “When The Music’s Over” and “The End.” 

They also performed half the songs destined for the group’s soon-to-be-recorded second album, Strange Days, including early performances of “Moonlight Drive” and “People Are Strange.” They even delivered an instrumental take of “Summertime,” not to mention telling covers of Lee Dorsey’s Allen Toussaint-penned screed “Get Out of My Life, Woman” and a version of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from March 7th that’s included on a 7-inch inside the vinyl edition of this collection. 

The Doors Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters vinyl set (Image: Rhino)

“As they did as house band at the Whisky a Go Go a year before, The Doors fell comfortably into nightclub mode at the Matrix, trying out new songs and arrangements, improvising lyrics and instrumental parts, and extending songs with jams,” writes Joel Selvin in his expert liner notes. “The Doors were quite at home with three-set nights in front of drinking audiences.” 

“They were young, enthusiastic, out to have fun,” the band’s longtime studio engineer Bruce Botnick, who worked on this new Matrix set, told Selvin. “They experimented a lot, changed arrangements around and played things they never did before.” 

Rhino has yet to upload Live at the Matrix 1967: The Original Masters to Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music or any of those spots at press time, meaning the only way you’re gonna hear it is if you buy the CD or the vinyl (though be forewarned, the tracklist varies depending on the format). Either way, however, having these performances in such a definitive capacity as this great new box set, which comes out today, is well worth the investment if you’re a Doors fan. 


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Ron Hart

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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