It’s great having the option of watching the clips, which range from hilariously dated appearances on TV shows like Shebang and Malibu U to a number of music videos edited in the ‘80s, with or without commentary. Admittedly, some of the clips aren’t all that interesting, especially when it gets to the later stuff that was assembled after the band had long ceased to exist. Most of the early stuff is lip-synced performances anyway, leaving the overall kitsch factor as the most interesting element. The picture-in-picture commentary features comments by Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger, drummer John Densmore, and Manzarek. It’s a pleasure hearing them reminisce, bringing some much-needed context to the various short films and performance clips.
It’s a trip seeing a promotional clip for “People Are Strange” in which Jim Morrison lip syncs while the other three band members hang out behind him without their instruments, doing essentially nothing. Another early clip shows the band miming “Light My Fire” on a very windy beach with Robbie Krieger’s brother standing in for Morrison in the wide shots (we learn in the commentary that Jim decided to blow off the appearance, shooting some close-up inserts at a later time). A 1967 American Bandstand appearance includes Dick Clark’s brief Q&A with the band. Some of the ‘80s videos are well produced (“Strange Days,” which brings the characters from the Strange Days album cover to life, is especially striking), but again the real value is hearing the band mates recall their experiences with Jim Morrison.
“Mixed bag” barely begins to describe the visual appearance of R-Evolution. Naturally the early TV appearances, shot on archaic analog videotape, are not handsome. But some of the shot-on-film stuff, like the classic 1968 promo for “Unknown Soldier” and the later ‘80s films, looks excellent (the former is, however, flecked with debris). The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is awesome, for the most part. Some of the audio comes directly from the original TV broadcasts (Botnick points out you can actually hear some techie singing along to “Break On Through” during the Shebang clip!) and is naturally a bit rough. The videos are backed by the original studio recordings, and they sound great in lossless surround sound. There’s also a LPCM 2.0 stereo mix which, while still good, pales in comparison to the DTS-HD.
In addition to the commentary, R-Evolution includes a healthy supplements package. A 47-minute documentary, “Breaking Through the Lens,” walks us through the performances and videos with additional comments from the Doors as well as other participants, including their engineer Bruce Botnick. Some of the bits are identical to what’s in the commentary, but there’s enough good information to justify the existence of both. Other extras include a knockout performance of “Break On Through” from the 1970 Isle of Wight concert and a minute of outtakes from Malibu U.
By far the strangest extra (and quite a conversation piece) is a 1966 Ford Motors training film, Love Thy Customer featuring an improvised instrumental score by The Doors. I wish there was a little more context given to this apparently very early professional gig the band landed. The ultra-cheesy training film itself is entertaining in and of itself, but knowing that the instrumental noodling in the background is actually The Doors is quite a hoot. The film runs 25 minutes.
The illustrated booklet (with an essay by Phil Alexander) is a nice inclusion, especially for a budget release. There’s also a pricier deluxe edition available that includes fancier packaging. While perhaps not essential for the most casual Doors fans, R-Evolution a great title for anyone who loves the band.