When the Doors recorded Morrison Hotel at the end of last year the guest bassist was not Doug Lubahn but Lonnie Mack. Also with the Elektra stable (two solo albums: Glad I’m In The Band and Whatever’s Right) he later joined the band for live gigs, beginning with a successful two-night stand at Madison Saquare Gardens on the 18th and 19th of January, as their lead guitar. For the live set Robbie Krieger steps down to rhythm, a welcome change for the many who ‘prefer’ his recorded sound to onstage performance. Mack is only credited as bass on two tracks, but his addition to the group seems to mark a new departure-point in the history of a troubled band.
This is only one comparison I’m going to draw between the Doors and the Stones: both had a time of change last spring and summer, and in the rock world which will prove to be the more important event, the Miami Flash or the death of Brian Jones? The sacking and death of Jones were were untidily close together, and undoubtedly changed Jagger’s head a great deal. The result was the musical success of Let It Bleed or letting it bleed at Altamount depending on how you feel. Similarly the exposure of Morrison’s cock to an impressionable audience resulted in a controversy (presumably sane people were asking other presumable sane people ‘Why did he do it?), which forced some sort of retirement on him. The Doors arrive back eventually with another member, a well-known blues guitarist (compare Mick Taylor’s reputation in England, at least with followers of Mayall), and an outstanding relaxed album, which, like Let It Bleed, moves back to a full understanding of bases of rock-and-roll. Again it owes its direction and success to the ego, electricity and talent of the vocalist, in this case Jim Morrison.
‘Let it roll baby, roll… all night long’… Morrison gets off into ‘Roadhouse Blues’ on side one. The side is subtitled ‘Hard Rock Café’, is supposedly heavier than side two (‘Morrison Hotel’), and features Lonnie Mack on ‘Waiting for the Sun’ and ‘Peace Frog’. The only slow track, ‘Blue Sunday’, is a drag: Morrison gets moody at half-pace and it sounds like he’s trying to do a Sinatra; at full pace he’s satanic introspective and mature. He makes Jagger sound like a kid.
The other numbers feature the band as tight and full as they’ve ever been recorded. To be fair to Morrison, where the Doors sounded thin and weak on Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade he still sounded strong. Now they all appear to be working together his voice is more replaced, more reflective, and the instrumental work, in particular the drumming, is full of energy. It’s difficult to pick a winner from side one; Morrison has written a number of excellent songs that may be simple evern repetitive, but at least they’ve got more balls than his last couple of albums. ‘Peace Frog’ is my standout: good chunky playing full of pauses that trip you up, followed by guitar solos that shoot you in the arse, and lyrics that shout ‘Blood in the streets, it’s up to your elbows’ and record the terrifying insanity of street-law in the town of Chicago’. Morrison writes in ‘Ship Of Fools’ ‘The Human race was dying out, no-one left to scream and shout’. At least he’s doing just that. Even if Morrison’s politics are peculiar to himself, he knows the streets as well as Jagger, and to more effect.
Side Two Morrison Hotel, another five songs, including the slow and beautiful ‘Indian Summer’. The most spectacular cut is ‘The Spy’. Piano and brushes turn it into a mood piece that has an ally in the ‘Harry Lime Theme.’ Morrison is probably the only singer in the world who could do this and mean it all…
I’m a spy in the House of Love
I know the dream that you’re dreamin of
I know the word that you long to hear
I know your deepest, secret fear . . .
I know everything, everything you do
Everywhere you go, everyone you know
I’m a spy……………………………………………..
Total paranoid fantasia or the all-seeing eyes of the Lizard King?
‘Queen of the Highway’ is more noticeable for its instrumentation than the lyrics full of rhythm-changes; it does give room for the lines:
American boy, American girl
Most beautiful people in the world
And I think he means the college kids.
‘Maggie M’gill’ opens up like a track from ‘Safe as Milk’, with Krieger’s guitar repeating itself over each phrase. Then Morrison arrives, singing about the chick who went ‘down to town’, and ‘people down there really liked to get it on’. So they did.
Morrison Hotel is possibly the best album yet from the Doors, it will convert new adherents to Morrison’s demonic failt, and reassure those like me who thought the last two sets were bummers. Good hard, eveil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade. More power to Morrison’s leather pants.