James Lee Stanley, Cliff Eberhardt put new spin on Doors classics
He would have been pleased just to obtain an autograph from Doors drummer John Densmore, but James Lee Stanley ended up with so much more.
First came positive remarks from Densmore about All Wood and Stones, Stanley’s album with John Batdorf that featured acoustic versions of 11 Rolling Stones songs.
Then came an even bigger surprise: Densmore’s offer to play with Stanley if he ever wanted to give Doors material the same treatment.
“I was stunned that he even knew who I was,” Stanley says, recalling a lunch in California with Densmore that also included a mutual friend. “And when he offered to play [with me], I thought, ‘This sure sounds like a gift from heaven.’ ”
James Lee Stanley
Densmore kept his promise; he appears on All Wood and Doors (Beachwood Recordings). Other notable guests on the album include Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, as well as longtime Stanley friend Peter Tork (The Monkees) and Timothy B. Schmit (The Eagles).
Featuring 12 Doors songs, All Wood and Doors — Stanley’s first collaboration with fellow singer/guitarist Cliff Eberhardt — is anything but a collection of straightforward, by-the-numbers interpretations. In addition to the material being presented in an acoustic format, the tempos have been changed, and the songs’ structures and arrangements have been reworked.
A perfect example of a tune getting a complete makeover is “Touch Me,” which at first was a very unlikely candidate for the album when Stanley and Eberhardt started recording in May 2010.
“I was a big Doors fan, but I didn’t like that song,” Stanley says. “And I remember when I called Cliff about doing this album, he [made it clear he didn’t want to do] ‘Touch Me,’ and I said I was OK with that.
“By the time he got [to California],” Stanley adds, “a friend of mine had said we should do ‘Touch Me’ because it has one of the most beautiful refrains in rock ‘n’ roll — ‘I’m gonna love you … ‘ So when Cliff came, we started playing it, and I said, ‘What do you think about starting with the chorus?’ And he said, ‘I think that’s a cool idea.’ ”
Hard-core Doors fans will have to rely on their ears to figure out which songs feature Densmore and Krieger. All Wood and Doors (due July 12) will not contain that information, and Stanley remains tightlipped about the details.
“I remember listening to Steely Dan when they first came out, and the albums didn’t say who was playing on what,” Stanley says. “At first I found it maddening — I wanted to know who did what — but then I thought it was kind of cool. You play this guessing game trying to figure out who played what on what, and I decided to do that on this album.
“A year or two from now, if anyone cares,” he adds with a laugh, “I’ll tell them.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Photo of James Lee Stanley by Andrea Cross
Photo of Cliff Eberhardt by Stephen Paley