Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Doors 5: Morrison Hotel

After the relative mess that was The Soft Parade, The Doors remembered what it was like to rock, and the next album came together comparatively quickly. Their mixed feelings about focusing on the most charismatic yet least reliable member of the band is confused further by the title Morrison Hotel used for both side two as well as the whole package. Side one is called “Hard Rock CafĂ©”, but such notations seem arbitrary.
Still, “Roadhouse Blues” is a far cry from the pop horns of the last album, and has inspired generations of kids to wake up in the morning and get themselves beer. “Waiting For The Sun” is the delayed title song of that album, and worth the wait. “You Make Me Real” has power, but it’s not very convincing, and it doesn’t help that we hear Jim singing “roll baby roll” over one of the solos. It’s out of the way quickly enough for “Peace Frog”, a rare case where one of Jim’s poems is adapted to a song successfully. This one’s always popular on New Haven classic rock stations, which usually let the song go right into “Blue Sunday”, something of a tender ode. “Ship Of Fools” revives some of the jamming that defined the first album, and the boys can be credited for kicking off this particular song title trend.
The nautical theme continues, somewhat more literally, on “Land Ho!” We’re not the only ones to call this song jaunty, and Jim almost sounds happy on this track. “The Spy”, while a little slow, is also worthy of the first album, musically anyway, and much bluesier. “Queen Of The Highway” provides a bit of a departure, being unconventionally constructed, while “Indian Summer” is apparently a bona fide outtake from that first album, and fits right in. However, “Maggie M’Gill” isn’t much more than a rewrite of “Back Door Man”, and just kinda peters out.
Those classic rock stations haven’t made it any easier, but Morrison Hotel is easily the band’s best work since that debut. Maybe they just had to find the best place to put the so-called recycled material, and a good thing too, because while the 40th Anniversary Edition of the album serves up a lot of extra music, over a half hour of that is devoted to working on “Roadhouse Blues”. (Much more interesting are the lounge jazz takes on “The Spy” and “Queen Of The Highway”; another hour of discarded album takes were included on the bonus disc of the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. Rhino also felt compelled to add the vinyl to that package and jack up the price.) Clearly, there wasn’t a lot in the tank, but they got pretty far on it.

The Doors Morrison Hotel (1970)—
2007 40th Anniversary Edition: same as 1970, plus 10 extra tracks
2020 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: same as 1970, plus 19 extra tracks

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