Welcome to another of those moments where we take a dip into the past. This time, we’re going back 45 years to the 9th of February 1970 and the release of The Doors fifth studio album, Morrison Hotel.
Seen at the time as a comeback following the lack of acclaim for its predecessor, the experimental The Soft Parade, Morrison Hotel saw the band getting back to their blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots.
It kicks off with the raw sounding ‘Roadhouse Blues’, a song that has Jim Morrison at his throaty best. With Ray Manzarek’s honky-tonk piano and Robby Krieger’s guitar work it’s up there with the best the band ever recorded. The floaty sound of ‘Waiting For The Sun’ sees an instant change of pace. Written originally for the album of the same name, it wasn’t completed in time, hence inclusion here. ‘You Make Me Real’ sees more of the bluesy elements of the album opener, led by Manzarek’s boogie-woogie keys, before the funky-sounding ‘Peace Frog’ keeps the earthy, raw feel going.
It segues into the ballad ‘Blue Sunday’. Wistful and dreamy, it’s the first – and really only – song that doesn’t seem to quite fit on the album. Even ‘Waiting For The Sun’ retained some of the rocky sound. ‘Ship of Fools’ sounds very much like something the band would have recorded three or four years earlier, with the trademark Manzarek organ sound dominating. The band continues the nautical feel with ‘Land Ho!’, a curious track which is more a rock ‘n’ roll sea shanty if you will.
With ‘The Spy’, the band manage what they couldn’t with ‘Blue Sunday’, and come up with a beautiful bluesy ballad. Morrison’s voice is transformed from the roughness of the opening track to something deep and sensual. ‘Queen Of The Highway’ and ‘Indian Summer’ sadly fall short of the standards set by the rest of the album. Both come across a little as “The Doors by numbers”, in particular the latter which has a guitar line that echoes ‘The End’ a little too much. The album closes with the excellent ‘Maggie McGill’ which echoes with its blues sound, much of what has gone before.
One thing this album lacks is a big Doors epic. There’s no ‘Riders on the Storm’ or ‘When The Music’s Over’, but it still stands up after 45 years. And maybe it’s not their finest collection of songs, but there are some absolute gems here and a fine way for the band to come out swinging after the criticism they received for their previous release. It saw The Doors enter the ’70s still as a force in American rock ‘n’ roll and saw them achieve their highest charting album in the UK as well as setting them up perfectly for their next album, L.A. Woman.
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