Review: Gritty “Morrison Hotel” draws gripes, not groove

Review: Gritty Morrison Hotel draws gripes, not groove

Carolyn Brown

Morrison Hotel is weird because it isn’t.

In this 1970 album, The Doors, led by songwriter and frontman Jim Morrison, abandoned their typical hippie spirit in favor of edgy rock and blues. Sometimes it’s good to be different, but straying from the trippier tracks that made the Doors famous was a bad choice and a letdown to a devoted fan who expected continuity.

To the band’s credit, though, it was wise to start the album with “Roadhouse Blues,” a rollicking country-esque song whose strong overtones of harmonica instantly cleave listeners away from the psychedelic essence of 1968’s Waiting for the Sun and set the tone for tracks like angsty “Maggie M’Gill.” Happy keyboard riffs counteract morose lyrics on “Ship of Fools” (“The human race was dying out/No one left to scream and shout”) and “Peace Frog” (“Blood on the streets runs a river of sadness/Blood in the streets, it’s up to my thigh”) while forceful drumbeats carry ethereal, airy lyrics on “Waiting for the Sun.”

That said, some songs that attempted to be poetic ended up prosaic. The gorgeous instrumentals of “Indian Summer,” a song much loved by younger fans, are offset by disappointingly shallow lyrics. “I love you/The best/Better than all/The rest” was certainly not Morrison’s best. (It’s less bearable to hear—Morrison stretches every syllable.) “Blue Sunday” is worse: “My girl is mine/She is the world/She is my girl.” Even a 1970 critic called both songs “insipidly ‘lyrical’ pieces crooned in Morrison’s most saccharine Hoagy Carmichael style.” Worst of all is “The Spy,” drowsy and inane. Still, with more spirited songs like “Peace Frog,” the album makes some reparations.

The ten bonus tracks are a mixed bag. Although the music of the four “Roadhouse Blues” outtakes is worth a listen, be warned: the dialogues are a bit disillusioning with Morrison’s popular mystical-enlightened-poet image. His knack for profanity and crude insults made tracks like “Money Beats Soul” hard to endure. Do listen, though, to the jazz variations of “Queen of the Highway” and “The Spy,” which were much better than the originals.

An album from a band like The Doors shouldn’t make me cynical, yet I was let down. Should you buy it? Perhaps. If you really like the Doors, go ahead. If you’re just getting into the band, start earlier in their discography. If you’re completely unfamiliar with them, stick to “Roadhouse Blues” and “Peace Frog.”

Overall grade: B

Carolyn is a senior in HSU at duPont Manual High School and a staff writer for ManualRedEye.