Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Doors 10: An American Prayer

Jim Morrison always fancied himself a poet, as should be obvious from any of the spoken passages on any Doors album, or the gatefold of Waiting For The Sun. During a few lulls in the band’s schedule, he would record recitations of some of his scribblings sans musical accompaniment, with the idea that an album could be made from them.
So it was that seven years after he (supposedly) shuffled off his drunken coil, the other three members of the band got together to finish that album. Credited to Jim Morrison alone (with “music by The Doors”), An American Prayer is a seamless suite over two album sides of poetry readings, concert clips, old Doors music and newly recorded Doors music. There is a certain cinematic sweep to it—Jim also fancying himself a filmmaker—so the imagery is vivid.
However, as a Doors album it fails, mostly because the music is independent of the words. We’re not about to claim any literary authority to judge the poetry, but suffice it to say high school kids will love the four-letter words, the repeated use of a slang term most women would kill you for uttering, and the “lament” for a part of his own anatomy. Still, for the most part his delivery is calm and cool, only screaming during the handful of concert excerpts. Snippets from “Peace Frog”, “Blue Sunday”, and “The WASP” are used to counterpoint the appropriate recitations; a one-sided telephone conversation about killing a hitchhiker is underscored by “Riders On The Storm”. For some reason, a live version of “Roadhouse Blues” begins side two, marred by his extended scat in the middle and ending with some dialogue baiting a fan over astrology. The new music jars with the old, sounding too contemporary to 1978, and not enough like, well, the Doors. At least the package included a nice booklet of writings and drawings.
Oliver Stone’s version of the band’s history leaned heavily on Jim’s poetry, which undoubtedly led to the album being reissued on CD, with extra tracks. “Babylon Fading” is accompanied by the same Elektra sound effects record used at the end of “Revolution 9”, though “Bird Of Prey” is a brief a cappella couplet with some musical promise. An “extended version” of “Ghost Song” closes the set to focus on the band’s contribution, and underscore why some of us don’t miss disco. Now that “Roadhouse Blues” is available on any number of Doors compilations, this album is less necessary than ever.

Jim Morrison/The Doors An American Prayer (1978)—2
1995 CD reissue: same as 1978, plus 3 extra tracks

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