Title: All Wood and Doors

Artists: James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt

Label: Beachwood Recordings

Release Date: 2011

By Russ Paris

All_Wood_and_DoorsAll Wood and Doors by James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt is one of those CDs that sounds both new and familiar at the same time, and for good reason.

The origins for the new All Wood and Doors collection go back a couple of years to when a mutual friend introduced James Lee to John Densmore of the Doors. John commented that he enjoyed the All Wood And Stones collection that was released back in 2004 by James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf. Densmore offered to participate in the project if James Lee ever did the same type of folk treatment to the Doors songs.

(All Wood and Stones is a collection of Rolling Stones songs that James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf lovingly created in an acoustic, guitar and harmony driven style. Imagine an early 1970s Crosby, Stills & Nash tackling the Rolling Stones catalog. The CD was well received and got great reviews.)

Not surprisingly, James Lee Stanley took John Densmore up on his offer. The mix of folk and acoustic rock elements works exceptionally well under some great stewardship.

James Lee Stanley has been a staple of the Los Angeles area singer- songwriter scene for more than 40 years, releasing 25 albums since his self-titled debut album in 1973. His 1998 album Freelance Human Being was listed by Fi Magazine as one of the top 200 recordings of all time. For this release project, he enlisted the participation of Cliff Eberhardt, a driving force of the Greenwich Village New Folk movement who is well known and respected among his peers.

Cliff and James Lee compiled a list of a dozen Doors songs that they felt were songs they could work with and then completely deconstructed them, boiling them down to the bare essence of the original songs, and then rebuilding them using their own new arrangements and guitars.

What's most immediately noticeable about the CD is the wonderful clarity and the beauty of production. The guitar work is the cornerstone of the album. Both James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt are true guitar virtuosos and the play between their two guitars lays down the foundation for each track.

Generally, the track selection consists of some well known Doors songs such as Love Me Two Times, Light My Fire and Riders On The Storm. Just don't expect to hear the songs you grew up with. The arrangements here are all wonderful and unique, but certainly don't sound much like the originals. (This was equally true on the All Wood and Stones CD.) This allows you to hear these classic and otherwise familiar songs in a whole new light. The Doors featured Ray Manzarek's keyboards quite prominently, so the lack of keyboards and the focus on acoustic guitars by themselves are quite a change in approach to these songs.

James_Lee_Stanley_2The album starts off with Break On Through highlighted by James Lee Stanley's lead vocals. The lead-in chords almost sound like something from a Poco album when the song jumps in to a funky pop rhythm that would be right at home on one of Stanley's recent solo albums.

Love Me Two Times truly shines with Cliff Eberhardt's gravely vocals bringing a depth of feeling that the late Jim Morrison would have surely have appreciated.

Take It As It Comes again has James Lee on lead vocals with some great harmonies on the chorus and some uncanny chord changes that bring a chill to the spine. It's smooth and eerie at the same time.

Strange Days features Cliff on lead vocals. The subtleties in the guitar work are great on each track and really stand out on this stripped down acoustic version of this song.

Light My Fire is one of those songs that many artists might be reluctant to tackle. It's a true classic as recorded by both The Doors on their debut album in 1967 and also as covered by José Feliciano the following year. But the version here -- like most of the tracks on this collection -- doesn't try to compete with the original. Instead, it complements the underlying song with a shining new arrangement that allows the song to come to the front and shine as if being newly uncovered. James Lee's vocal touch is light and respectful, like the work of a restoration expert working with a Rembrandt.

Cliff_EberhardtCliff Eberhardt's treatment of Touch Me turns the raunchiness of the original into a truly beautiful love song. It could certainly be viewed as a sequel to the original. You can hear the longing in his voice, as in the original, but with a more mature perspective taking the lust of the original into the realm of an appreciation of longtime love.

Crystal Ship may be the highlight of the album. With James Lee and Cliff trading vocals and bringing everything together with some great harmonies and delightfully whimsical guitar solos.

Soul Kitchen is one of five tracks that comes from The Doors classic debut album. Again you hear James Lee Stanley on lead vocals, great harmonies on the very soulful chorus, and lots of exceptional guitar work.

People Are Strange is one of the few tracks on the CD where the rolling swing of the original melody is immediately identifiable. Cliff Eberhardt's vocals suit the song perfectly.

Moonlight Drive was originally released by the Doors as the B-side to Love Me Two Times and here James Lee and Cliff have kept the somewhat off-beat rhythm and combined their vocals to create a playful track that would be at home in a movie soundtrack as the repentant lover drives down PCH back to the Malibu flat where his bride is waiting expectantly on the balcony.

Riders On The Storm is a melancholy romp with Cliff's lead vocals accompanied by a driving bass line.

The final track on the CD is appropriately The End. Unlike the original Doors version which is an extended epic track, the version here is a short sampling of the chorus, focusing on the upbeat and positive aspects of the song. When Cliff and James sing "this is the end of everything that stands, the end" you can easily see them winding down the recording sessions. As recorded, it sounds like a joyful "thank you for coming, we hope you enjoyed the CD".

It should also be noted that there are some truly stellar guest musicians on this recording including: Peter Tork (Monkees), Timothy B. Schmit (Eagles), Laurence Juber (Paul McCartney & Wings), Paul Barrere (Little Feat), Scott Breadman (Rippingtons, Lindsay Buckingham), and Chad Watson (David Arkenstone, Janis Ian). Not to mention appearances by both John Densmore and Robby Krieger of The Doors.

You don't have to be a fan of The Doors music to enjoy this CD. This is a collection that will grow on you with each listening as the subtle nuances and stellar guitar playing shine through.

The CD is available on Beachwood Recordings. Order at www.allwoodanddoors.com

Russ runs a number of music related websites including the Jackson Browne Fans Page. He and his wife Julie have hosted Russ & Julie's House Concerts in Oak Park, California for more than fourteen years.

One of the more established house concert series in southern California, Russ & Julie enjoy sharing their love of music with the community around them.