8-Trackin’: The Doors, ‘Morrison Hotel’ (1970)

American rock group The Doors posed for the album MORRISON HOTEL at Morrison Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. From Left: Ray Manzarek (1939-2013), Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison (1943-71), and John Densmore. Photo by Henry Diltz.
American rock group The Doors posed for the album MORRISON HOTEL at Morrison Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. From Left: Ray Manzarek (1939-2013), Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison (1943-71), and John Densmore. Photo by Henry Diltz.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ANDREW TONKIN AND PUBLISHED BY CHERRY STEREO ON OCTOBER 11, 2018.

Before Jim ascended to that great snakepit in the sky, the Doors put out six studio albums. Conventional wisdom holds that the first (The Doors) and the last (L.A. Woman) were strongest, with quality dipping a bit mid-career. There’s certainly some truth to this, with treacly pop #4 The Soft Parade easily the nadir. However, album five, Morrison Hotel, is actually pretty fantastic, with nary a bad song nor sour note. Since it didn’t have an actual hit single (radio favorite “Roadhouse Blues” was a B-side that only went to #50), it tends to be overlooked. If you haven’t visited the Hotel in a while (or ever), let’s “check in” and check it out.

No epics. Jim always had that mystical poet side, and some of the Doors’ best moments onstage were the long, experimental, partly spoken numbers such as “The End” and “When The Music’s Over.” Though these translated well into long album cuts, they could be a bit much if you weren’t in the mood for the “weird Jim.” Like Waiting for the Sun (album three), Morrison Hotel limits itself to relatively short pop songs, and is thus easier to enjoy any time of day, in any state of mind.

Mostly happy. Eh, is that a plus? Well, remember we’re talking about the Doors here, whose brightest moments were still pretty dark and glum. So they achieve a really nice tension giving a lyric like “The human race was dyin’ out / No one left to scream and shout” (“Ship of Fools”) a carefree, bubblegum feel — you’re forced to smile while singing along.

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