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The Doors - Morrison Hotel CD (album) cover

MORRISON HOTEL

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

3.36 | 342 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars There's not much effort required in stalking a corpse

For those celebrities who die young, is guaranteed an iconic status unhindered by the stillborn decay that would impinge upon their immortal status. Frozen in time, these tragic figures are exploited to mollify our own fears of mortality and inevitable decline in return for large wads of payola. Wait up...ain't this Christianity via the Back-Door Man folks, fed to us by media missionaries whose indefatigable zeal converts the vulnerable in front of the altar of youth?. (Never confuse an iconoclast with a clumsy worshipper, No-one here gets out alive).

For the Celebration of the Lizard read: Rubbernecking at the dawn's highway pileup or in our case, cosmetic embalming of a 27 year old bloated corpse in a Parisian bathtub. Like many visitors to this site, I too waded through the entertaining but fawning Jimbo gospel penned by the quivering hands of disciples Hopkins and Sugarman, and cannot help but conclude that yes, the Doors were an innovative and important band, but no, Morrison was neither shaman, philosopher, poet, Dionysian mystic or particularly charismatic frontman. Perhaps his only extant contributions to the mythology of rock are bad poetry, taunting authority with nothing more than your own unflattering facial hair, name-dropping philosophers as inspiration, massive ingestion of controlled substances and leather pants.

After the uneven and perhaps unwittingly ironic Soft Parade the Doors seem to have adopted a 'back to basics' approach here, with a welcome injection of bluesy grunt to their creations. Things kick off in suitably primal fashion with 'Roadhouse Blues' propelled along by Krieger's infectious skipping guitar figure and some authentic 'pinetop' piano from Manzarak. For years I thought Jimbo shouts Do it Robbie, Do it ! just before the guitar solo but am advised it is sessionman Lonnie Mack who is 'doing' the aforementioned 'thang'. The delicious wailing harmonica was provided by John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful. This is a very robust and endearing romp through shuffle boogie, but given that we are reportedly in the presence of a celebrated poet, the lyrics are about as challenging as a de-frocked Kiss:

- You gotta roll, roll, roll you gotta thrill my soul all right -

Even by the standards of 1970, the foregoing is lazy, clichéd drivel that betrays Morrison's habitual ploy to re-heat some of the worst of rock's fast foods and serve same as paeans to lust, Dionysian excess and sensual abandon etc. His hero Nietzsche's Will to Power has been reduced to the psychedelic west coast's 'Pill to Wow Her'

Waiting for the Sun - I think this may have been attempted for inclusion on the album of the same name but was left off it's final release. A very strong melodic song that exploits the dynamic contrasts between the quiet verse sections and bombastic choruses very effectively. Might just be my old prog seeking ears playing up, but is there a synth thingy in there somewhere? Despite my habitual reservations about Morrison's lyrical prowess, I do think this line particularly inspired:

- This is the strangest life I've ever known -

(on the strict proviso that the author wasn't a believer in reincarnation, otherwise it sucks and I've always suspected this song was about a late 60's idealism for a better future thwarted by the forces of reaction Man)

You Make Me Real - Morrison always had aspirations of being a credible blues singer, as it seems the apocryphal tales of the nomadic and dissolute bluesmen struck a chord within his own rudderless psyche. He does rise to the occasion here on a song that manages the unlikely feat of fusing a time-worn 12 bar structure with acid rock. He is helped in no small measure by the inspired and imaginative contributions of Manzarak on clomping bar-room piano and Krieger, who always buttresses his blues playing with the sensibilities of a rocker.

Peace Frog - Gotta be one of the worst titles ever, but given that it started life as 'Abortion Stories', we should be thankful for small mercies. Driven along by Robbie's choppy funk guitar, Mack's bubbling bass and some gaudy fairground organ motifs from Manzarak, this is a real belter with sufficient muscle to survive even the portentous Jimbo narrative that appears in the quiet section;

- Indians scattered on dawns highway bleeding, Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind -

On this evidence, toddlers certainly don't have a monopoly on juvenile mental fragility. The track segues seamlessly into the oriental inflected scooby snack 'Blue Summer' and this appropriation of eastern tonalities has always been handled with great aplomb by the Doors (see the End)

Ship of Fools - Based on call and response phrasing this is another neat exploitation of some traditional blues devices but garbed in jazzier and acid hued fabrics. To his credit Jimbo does vocalise what many poor suffocating natives of LA must have thought when Neil Armstrong planted his ruinously expensive left boot on the moon.

- People walking on the Moon, smog gonna get you pretty soon -

Erm...a pithy summation of where the US should have prioritised its budget and Apollo was the mythological antithesis of Dionysius? (tenuous)

Land Ho - There's a cheerful and 'devil may care' dumbness about this that I just can't resist. Like a sea shanty covered by the Stooges the sheer bravura and unhampered kitsch of this track makes it a joy. There is however some beguiling and subtle harmonic dissonances during the haunting slower section that continue to thrill me even now but I have never been able to work out if this is the melodic surface contradicting the organ chords or vice versa?

- I've got three ships and 60 men, a course for ports unread -

If the late Alex Harvey had been raised in Haight Ashbury, he might very well have hatched something like this.

The Spy - A straight reading of a straight blues song but far superior to other examples that appeared on the subsequent LA Woman where such material betrayed it's design as that of filler or simple lack of material. Lovely '3 am in a smoky bar' piano from Ray reinforced by understated snaky blues licks from the unerring and always tasteful Krieger.

Queen of the Highway - Probably the weakest offering so far which does have some strong musical ideas but labours under the impossible strain of some truly execrable and plain vanilla obnoxious lyrics:

- She was a princess queen of the highway, he was a monster, black dressed in leather -

The former being 'Mrs Mojo Risin' Pamela Courson and the latter the author himself. The verbal pooh doesn't end there though re:

- Now they are wedded she is a good girl, American girl, American boy, the most beautiful people in the world -

Just for the record Jim, blow it out your ass from beyond the grave mate or else you may have to forgive me for thinking you a talentless charlatan drunk. Similar war crimes against blank paper exist on the awful An American Prayer where delusional and puerile adolescent racism is given even freer reign. BTW the latter album's merit consists solely on the very fine music that the surviving Doors composed to accompany Morrison's flaccid prose. (aka Ode to My Cock) Moving swiftly on...

Indian Summer - Another slice of oriental exotica that the Doors handle so well and they are distinct from many of their contemporaries by their mastery in wedding oriental accents to what, in less astute hands, would be an otherwise monotonous drone based dirge (see Tool). I think this number was culled from an earlier recording made circa 1966 as it certainly displays many of the stylistic avenues the band explored so adroitly on the first two albums.

Maggie McGill - Borderline filler but saved by Densmore's bouncing groove and teasing utilisation of the double time device implied by restricting his snare to the third beat in the bar of the verses. Once again alas, the lyrics are redolent of prose scribbled on a cigarette packet by their author while sobering up in the vocal booth. Despite all that, a very enjoyable and taught boogie that concludes what is perhaps one of the most even Doors albums.

It has always intrigued me that parallels between the Doors and Joy Division have not been made more often. Both had frontmen who died in their twenties, both had a predilection for exploring the darker side of the human psyche and both singers have now taken on mythical status. In retrospect, and without undermining the clear influence that both Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison had on rock music, it troubles me that their surviving collaborators are never perhaps given the credit they deserve for making such reverence possible in the first place. The late Joe Strummer put it this way - Death Is the Star

This is a very good 'common garden' rock album, and although I confess to discerning nary a bud of progressive growth therein, would certainly have no hesitation in recommending Morrison Hotel' as worthy of inclusion in anyone's music collection.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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