First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7
Written by John Metzger
Fri July 27, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
It’s strangely fitting that Morrison Hotel contained what was supposed to be the title track to Waiting for the Sun. After all, both collections were piecemeal projects that were transitional in nature. The former set was filled with grand ambitions that went unrealized simply because its birth came just as The Doors was beginning to slide into a period of chaos and uncertainty. By contrast, the back-to-basics approach that the group applied to the latter effort was necessitated by its need to fight and claw its way out of the hole that it had dug for itself. Neither outing was a gem, of course, but between them were the components from which a masterpiece possibly could have been forged. Nevertheless, without the distraction that the creation of an epic tune like The Celebration of the Lizard had caused, Morrison Hotel was, despite its imperfections, the better of the two endeavors.
Following the now familiar pattern for concocting career-revitalizing endeavors, The Doors managed to use Morrison Hotel to circumnavigate the entirety of its canon. In the process, the band rediscovered its inspiration and its passion, and it began to pull together the loose strands of unrealized potential that increasingly had dotted its work. On Indian Summer, it returned to the mystical moodiness of its self-titled debut, while the psychedelic shimmer of Waiting for the Sun was a throwback to Strange Days. The manner in which the album ruminated upon issues of love, relationships, marriage, and fidelity while also incorporating political tales of a more global nature mirrored the underlying essence of its third outing Waiting for the Sun. As for the Stax soul and Sinatra-esque crooning of The Soft Parade, it finally came to fruition within the pairing of Peace Frog and Blue Sunday.
Still, Morrison Hotel wasn’t merely about retrospectively examining the past. It also pointed the way toward The Doors’ future. By this point, Jim Morrison’s interest in the blues had become something of an obsession, and he publicly had stated on several occasions that he was happier resurrecting lost classics by Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, and John Lee Hooker than he was delivering The Doors’ own material. Wisely, the ensemble let him have his way. The group’s concerts featured an abundance of cover tunes, and several of its new songs — most notably the Chuck Berry-meets-Jerry Lee Lewis charge of You Make Me Real, the thunderously raw stampede of Roadhouse Blues, and the swampy snarl of Maggie McGill — were designed specifically to embrace Morrison’s vision.
Only one problem remained: Longtime producer Paul Rothchild was so stressed over The Doors’ troubles that he was beyond hope. There’s no doubt that his constant prodding during the making of Morrison Hotel helped The Doors to find its focus, but his desire for perfection — as is outlined by the banter that precedes the renditions of Roadhouse Blues that are featured as the reissue’s bonus cuts — also had a negative impact upon the proceedings. His tension and his angst rubbed off on the group, and the effect was that he simultaneously was propelling it forward and holding it back. Within the various permutations of Roadhouse Blues, the music is sometimes sloppy; at other moments, it is remarkably inspired. It’s here within these sessions that The Doors, at long last, had figured out, once again, how to work together as a band. The lessons that it learned during the sculpting of Morrison Hotel would pay huge dividends, soon enough, on the subsequent L.A. Woman. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Morrison Hotel is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box