Acoustic Sounds

The Doors

The Doors

Music

Sound

Label: Electric Recording Company

Produced By: Paul A. Rothchild

Engineered By: Bruce Botnick

Mixed By: Bruce Botnick

Lacquers Cut By: C.J. Potter & G.D. Davis

By: Michael Fremer

February 27th, 2023

Format:

Vinyl

ERC Cut "The Doors" Mono Using the Same Tape Elektra Used in 1967 So Why the "Controversy"?

the "LEDO" controversy explained

Recorded in 1966 and released in January of 1967 The Doors' debut album, powered by the edited single "Light My Fire" reached #2 on the Billboard charts, while the single was the "summer of love"'s #1 hit. If you were alive then you heard the single that summer wherever you went—blaring from jukeboxes and car radios. When you bought the album you heard a long extended "Light My Fire" that for many listeners was as uncomfortably close to jazz as they'd ever come. Relief only came when the organ hook returned.

The album was mixed to mono and stereo (not a "fold down") but the mono version was quickly withdrawn, though before it was, various mono iterations were released, pressed at Monarch, at Columbia's Pitman, New Jersey pressing plant and at Allentown pressing in Pennsylvania. That's the copy I own, bought at a garage sale for $1.00 in unplayed, mint. condition. The cover photo is from that original pressing, not The Electric Recording Company's meticulous album jacket reproduction!

When The Electric Recording Company announced its mono reissue of the first Doors album, cut from the tape marked "LEDO" the usual skeptics, clowns and carnival barkers began their disinformation campaign and now that it's released they continue. Consider LEDO as a SPARS code. There were claims that "LEDO" was an acronym for "leadered, equalized, Dolby" and that therefore ERC's claim that this was cut from "the master tape" was a fraud, especially since the master was not a Dolby tape.

A livid correspondent insisted to me that no master tapes leave America and that all ERCs were therefore cut from copies. He's wrong. Later he insisted I issue an apology because he read something on a forum confirming his error. From where does all of this hysteria eminate?

ERC was straightforward about its source: the original LEDO tape also used to master the original 1967 pressing, confirmed by Bruce Botnick. The recording was to a 4 track tape, with most takes recorded live and only a few tracks featuring overdubs of additional bass, vocal doubling and a few other parts. LEDO was a Jac Holzman coined term (Holzman founded Elektra Records) that stands for "Leadered, Edited, Duplicate of the Original". That requires further clarification: "Leadered Master" means the mastered mix takes leadered". "Edited" meant all of the master mixes sequenced and edited together as is required to cut a lacquer side. Now here's the tricky one: "Duplicate of the Original". "Duplicate" meant "A Mono or Stereo Mix Master from a multitrack, in this case a 4 track". "Original" meant "Multitrack or Mono or Stereo session master".

In other words, the "LEDO" tape is the original master mix down tape. Period, end of story (or at least that part). The original mono edition was withdrawn at least in part because it suffers from a variety of defects in certain places including gross distortion on "Break on Through". On the other hand, given that this was originally a 4 track recording for which the original "stereo mix" was also inherently defective because it's "stereo" in name only with much of the live band recording stuffed into one channel, there's not a version out there that's not defective in one way or another.

In fact, the original stereo mix has been lost and so the excellent all-analogue box from Analogue Productions is all from original master tapes except for the first album, which is from the best available source.

The ERC is from the master tape, flaws and all, and for those who want that, ERC gives it to those who ordered it. And the ERC is cut "true mono" using a monophonic cutter head and chain. Unlike the original mono, which clearly is bass-attenuated, the ERC is unequalized and there's plenty of decent bass on the tape and on the record.

Steve Hoffman is of the opinion that since many of these defects can be remedied in the digital domain, that's how this record should have been reissued. But that's for someone else to do, not ERC. ERC's mission is clear. its customers are clear about what they want since everything they press (in small numbers) sells out. They want all-analog documents and they want ERC's "hot lead" printing and attention to jacket detail.

There's a retailer out there who apparently claims (according to comments on Discogs I just read while researching all of the mono variants) that because the tape has defects, the ERC reissue is inherently "defective". On that basis, close to 100% of the records he sells are "defective" in one way or another—wow and/or flutter, scrape flutter, dynamic compression, bass attenuation, whatever. It's absurd, irresponsible rhetoric.

This was the same issue faced by SuperSense when it asked for a copy of the original A Love Supreme tape, rather than the copy Rudy Van Gelder originally sent to the U.K., retrieved and deemed to sound better. SuperSense's goal was to give lacquer buyers the original document, flaws and all and that's what it released to the great satisfaction of most who bought (probably all but I don't really know for sure).

The distortion on "Break on Through" is considerable, yet behind that is a far superior overall mono mix compared to the incoherent stereo one. Fans will surely enjoy this mono presentation despite the distortion. Fortunately much of the rest of the record does not suffer such obvious distortion and when true Doors fanatics hear for the first time "Twentieth Century Fox" and "Alabama Song" for instance in mono with bass on the tape delivered, they are more likely than not to consider the purchase money well spent. "The End" is especially remarkable on this edition. The mix's sense of depth is intense.

You will not more clearly hear Jim Morrison's vocals than on this mix. The true mono cut played back on a true mono cartridge will surely give serious Doors fans an emotional charge as they can really hear the band playing live and not mired in the muck of the "stereo" release's excess reverb and spatial artificiality.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: ERC 081 (preview copy 015)

Pressing Plant: Record Industry, The Netherlands

SPARS Code: AAA

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original LEDO master tape

Presentation: Single LP

Comments

  • 2023-02-27 05:26:15 PM

    David wrote:

    So looks like only mono option now is the 2010 Rhino LP. But is it any good?

    • 2023-02-27 06:03:24 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      there's also the VMP mono reissue from a newer, plangent-processed 384kHz/32bit transfer. the sound is decent considering the original source quality but the green/gold vinyl is noisy.

      • 2023-02-27 10:02:30 PM

        Jamie Howarth wrote:

        Not “The Doors” or “Strange Days”, Bruce had already done those two when we were introduced.

        • 2023-02-28 12:12:39 AM

          Malachi Lui wrote:

          i'm aware that the 50th anniversary editions of those didn't use your plangent process, though i was under the impression that VMP's 2021 mono reissue of the self-titled LP was from a plangent-processed transfer done later than the 50th anniversary box: https://www.vinylmeplease.com/blogs/magazine/bruce-botnick-the-doors-interview

  • 2023-02-27 05:30:50 PM

    VQR wrote:

    "Producer Paul A. Rothchild was the first producer to care about consistancy in pressings. He wanted all cuts of his productions to sound like HE wanted them to sound. To that end he created the LEDO, the leadered, EQ'd duplicate original. In other words, a dub tape that had his final say-so on it. That was used for all cuttings of his stuff. So when I say the master tape for the Doors' ST was never used, I mean just that. The LEDO IS the master tape (now pretty well beat up.) " -Steve Hoffman on his forum

    https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/the-doors-elektra-albums-first-pressings-matrix-pressing-plant-codes.88011/page-2#post-22737716

    • 2023-02-27 08:53:14 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      What I wrote actually. The wording can be tricky.

      • 2023-02-28 04:05:10 PM

        VQR wrote:

        I'm confused by the difference between edit and EQ'd here, then. EQ implies mastering, edit sounds like mixing. What's the source on the meaning of E in LEDO? Given the LEDO is not only the master but also a production tape, I would imagine the original would have most if not completely the same mastering, just different cutting.

        • 2023-02-28 04:36:27 PM

          Michael Fremer wrote:

          The "original" is the 4 track tape. ERC claims it's Holzman's definition of "E" in LEDO and another source told me Andrew Sandoval confirms it. Sandoval's credits include many great reissues.

  • 2023-02-27 05:31:49 PM

    VQR wrote:

    Do you hear any tape dropouts or phasing problems on your copy?

    • 2023-02-27 08:54:07 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      If there’s dropout I missed it…

  • 2023-02-28 04:56:00 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Agree! It is fun to listen to the ERC Doors (happy I got a copy). What I can hear foremost is: this one is analog, no doubt - Jims voice! I replay with a true mono EMT OFD 15 and EMT OFD 25 (wonder which tip radius is closer to the ERC cutter). Listening to other audiophile cuts (of the last three years) I often have the impression that the analog chain was disrupted somewhere (if not by a digital step at least by some solid state device). I buy ERC, because I believe them that they use a pure analog chain - even if they do not put AAA on the records. They describe their chain from tape to cutting and I can see, listen and believe. And I believe a few audiophile labels only (just those who are are sticking "AAA" on their covers and ERC) that they are analog. In sum, few labels remain throwing records on the market that go under repeated listening and relistening - many times these records in my collection are not the ones that sound best and impressive at first listening (often declaring on the cover, cut from the mastertape without telling what happend in between..).

  • 2023-02-28 08:18:06 AM

    JBL Frank wrote:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and informative review. It pretty much mirrors my experience with this release, and I happen to really like it. It gets old when people put out Trump rally style rants disguised as legitimate reviews.

  • 2023-02-28 11:00:01 AM

    Marshall Gooch wrote:

    So what is the provenance, then, of the mono RSD reissue?

    • 2023-02-28 01:26:19 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      if you're referring to this 2010 RSD mono reissue (https://www.discogs.com/release/2568315-The-Doors-The-Doors), it's from a hi-res digital file. the 2017 3CD/1LP 50th anniversary set uses the same 2009/2010 bernie grundman mono cut, while the 2021 VMP reissue is apparently from a fresher, even higher-resolution digital transfer that bruce botnick said was 'imperceptible to analog'.

  • 2023-02-28 02:38:55 PM

    Sloan Lamb wrote:

    It is interesting though that ERC would choose an imperfect original, knowing they would end up in some sort of controversy. There are thousands of worthy albums out there, many of which probably are in a shape to demonstrate the excellence of ERC's production chain.

    • 2023-02-28 04:38:56 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      And of course ERC has released many of those! ERC's "Love Forever Changes" was also from LEDO tapes. I think they did The Doors because other than an original pressing with seriously attenuated bass, there is no other all analog version.

      • 2023-03-10 04:10:39 PM

        Charlie Messing wrote:

        Thanks for this column! I just got a VMP copy (and wish I could ban glitter in vinyl) and you have confirmed my own observation that "Break On Through" is heavily distorted - the most on the album, and unfortunately the first cut! Welcome to the album, heh heh. BUT I did want this to compare with my originals (I have mono and stereo) and see what the fuss was about. If I had ten times the money and a whole lot of luck, I could compare the ERC, which sounds interesting - but I'll never hear one. So the Master Tape is really beat up? That would explain some things...and why they had to go through a digital step rather than put out a reissue with dropouts and such. It seems fine, except for the first track. It is noticeably lower in volume than most albums I have - interesting. But, as has been said, the vinyl is not as quiet as it should be. Anyway thanks so much for confirming that (basically) the one I have sounds like any VMP copy...and it's hilarious that the originals more or less covered up the distortion of the guitar, whereas these audiophile versions bring out any flaws. I saw the "Break on Through" video, and Robbie is playing a Skyline guitar - very pretty but not known for a pretty sound! Did he record with that? Distortion was so new in those days...and having seen the band, I know they played through giant Acoustic solid-state amps. Thanks again!

        • 2023-03-10 04:14:38 PM

          Charlie Messing wrote:

          Oops - that's Airline guitar.

  • 2023-03-01 03:39:50 PM

    Garrard701 wrote:

    Thank you for clarifying all this, MF! I think the ERC v VMP comparison is the best one, since the ERC is now unavailable and the VMP is easy to find. It also adds to the debate I’ve seen surrounding reissues since the 1980s: should they 1) reflect the highest possible fidelity, or 2) reflect what the very first pressing sounded like, or 3) what the artist INTENDED things to sound like? Even if the VMP isn’t all-analog, I think it’s a better deal (for a tenth of the price) since it sounds better. The debate ends there for me, but… is the VMP what the Doors wanted it to sound like (had technology allowed) in 1967? If Botnick is endorsing it, I think that’s good enough. And clearly they — or Elektra —weren’t happy with the mono back in ‘67. But ERC’s selling point is originality, and that’s fine for some listeners, too. BTW if someone from either company is reading this… when will we get nice reissues of MC5 and Paul Butterfield?! If all this seems confusing, consider the very first UK pressings of Rubber Soul (“loud cut”) and Revolver (with the wrong mix of “Tomorrow Never Knows”). By all accounts, neither is what the Beatles wanted, nor is RS the highest possible fidelity. And that’s why they weren’t recreated or used as reference for the 2014 mono box. Yet there are plenty of people who seek them out and would pay handsomely for an ERC-like recreation.

  • 2023-03-01 05:41:54 PM

    elmore244 wrote:

    Excellent post Michael. There is no 'controversy' to those who take the time to think for themselves rather than follow some retailer's self-proclaimed 'expertise'. So many minions have spread this 'gospel' into the world without even hearing the ERC copy itself. Unfortunately, this is one of the many pitfalls of the internet age. Individuals who should stick to selling records have now become reviewers and would-be journalists.

  • 2023-03-02 06:25:16 AM

    Martin Straub wrote:

    Really nice review and explanation Michael. Pieces like this are always so much appreciated, because they put some clarity in. There is so much written on the Doors self titled, the good, the bad, the ugly and the rubbish. I love this record, with all it's flaws, which, quite frankly, I don't hear when playing it, it is authentic. It is real. I'm passing on the ERC, no point. Have original 1st press mono and 2nd run stereo copies, both Monarch pressed, plus the Analogue Productions 45 rpm. Just a great record.

  • 2023-03-02 11:51:23 AM

    Ventoux wrote:

    Well explained Michael. ERC is giving us exactly what they advertised. No. 227 here & happy.

    • 2023-03-07 09:34:19 PM

      Ventoux wrote:

      Anyone besides me have issues not receiving the newsletter?

      • 2023-03-08 12:46:05 AM

        David L wrote:

        Ventoux--we have only sent two mailings so far, one when the site launched in September '22, and another earlier this year. If you haven't received them, you may want to check your spam folder. If you would like me to confirm that your email address is in our database, send me an email at: david@groovycollectibles.com, let me know the address you used to sign up, and I will let you know.

  • 2024-05-24 01:31:54 AM

    SamD42 wrote:

    Tonight using an old version of Audacity, I tried to synchronize the mono version of Back Door Man with the stereo of the 50th anniversary album downloaded on iTunes. They seem to be cut differently, but I am not familiar enough to know if they are pieced or in whole, different versions - different mixing/mastering processes for sure - during the 1:18 - 1:19 marks where Jim sings "Cause I'm a" the mono seems more natural and the stereo seems compressed. I tried several times from different points of the song to sync it using 'change speed' only because they are supposed to be from analog tapes. Even if various issues from different machines are made/remade, unless the tape is stretched in many different places, the two should at least come close to synching. The mono and stereo mixes offered in this collection are both interesting for different reasons. I like stuff from both. The reason I try to synch recordings is because sometimes I like to put the mono on one side and collapse the stereo on the other, to give a third 'mix' of the music, even if it is inferior to the mono or stereo available. It is a different experience. Has anybody managed to do this successfully for this song or others on the album?