The Doors: Break on Thru — A Celebration of Ray Manzarek

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I’ll admit I’m a bit biased when I review this documentar/concert hybrid film. The Doors are my favorite band, so the idea of seeing a tribute to founding member — keyboardist Ray Manzarek — is right in my wheelhouse. This is a must-see for Doors fans, as well as music fans in general.

It helped me get the bad taste out of my mouth that’s been there since the Val Kilmer movie 30 years ago.

As a tribute to Manzarek, this will be shown on what would have been his 81st birthday — February 12th (locally you can catch it at Cinepolis in Del Mar).

The occasion brought drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Kreiger together on stage for the first time in 15 years. There had been a bit of bad blood after Densmore’s second book on The Doors (Unhinged) talked badly about the other guys trying to sell-out the songs, and it resulted in a lawsuit. So it’s great to see them play together, and to hear Densmore talk about the book, and a conversation he had with Manzarek right before he died (no “spoiler alert” needed; go see the movie).

The musicians assembled include Foo Fighters’ Rami Jaffee and Taylor Hawkins (who sounded so good singing Morrison’s stuff, it makes me wonder why he doesn’t take more lead vocals from Grohl). There was also Stone Temple Pilots former San Diegan bassist Robert DeLeo, and Gov’t Mule and Allman Bro Warren Haynes.

Hardcore Doors fans will be happy to see a Rick and the Ravens bandmember — Jim Manzarek on harp.

Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction was there, as well as musicians we’ve seen play with The Doors of the 21st Century and Kreiger (Phil Chen, Waylon Krieger). I was most thrilled to see that, after John Doe of X (who among his many acting roles, once acted in the L.A. Woman music video) not only sang Roadhouse Blues, but his bandmate Exene joined him for three songs. Of course, they played a cover of Soul Kitchen (a song that has the rare distinction of being on two debut albums). Manzarek produced their debut, along with three other records. It was nice to hear not only Doors songs, but the X tune Nausea

It was interesting to see Manzarek’s son Pablo start things off with a message, and we’re also treated to many clips of The Doors with Morrison. Some of those we’ve seen on other videos, some you probably haven’t. 

Rolling Stone writer Ben Fong-Torres shows us a lot of Manzarek clips from an interview he did, and he plays a cassette he has of an interview with Morrison when he happened to show up at an apartment he was hanging out at. It was stuff I had never heard before, which is refreshing. Doors fans have heard the story of Ray and Jim meeting at UCLA film school, running into each other at the beach and hearing Moonlight Drive. In this, we hear talented musicians play Moonlight Drive (and my favorite Doors song, Whiskey Bar). You’ll hear a lot of the tunes you know and love. I enjoyed hearing Yes The River Knows at Jim’s grave, with Ray, Robby, and John drinking wine with fans. 

My only complaint is that if this is a celebration of Ray Manzarek, why not play one of the songs he sang on the two Doors albums that came out after Jim died — Tightrope Ride, Wandering Musician, Ships w/ Sails, Hardwood Floor, or The Peking King. We did hear a story about the guys going on stage when Morrison was passed out from all the drugs he took while hanging out with the Jefferson Airplane before a double billing, but…let’s see the album covers and photos of the band the year after Jimbo.

This is one night only in the theatres, so a few days before Valentine’s Day — take your Doors lover — for an evening out they’ll enjoy. For ticket info, go to: TheDoorsFilm.com.

4 stars out of 5.

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