Keep your eyes on the road,
Your hand upon the wheel…
There may not be a better album opening that the initial guitar chords of “Roadhouse Blues” on Morrison Hotel. There are some that as good, to be sure – “Whole Lotta Love” on Led Zeppelin II and “War Pigs” on Sabbath’s Paranoid come to mind – but none that can make you forget about this brilliant blues-rock song by The Doors.
Morrison Hotel (1970) is the fifth stop in my sequential journey through The Doors’ six studio albums featuring Jim Morrison, all remastered as part of The Doors Vinyl Box. As I moved on past the band’s self-titled debut I quickly found myself in uncharted territory, with one or two recognizable songs on each record but most of the rest songs I’d rarely or never heard before. And I’ve been surprised by the breadth of The Doors’ style and influences – this was an immeasurably talented band, one known primarily for its flamboyant, brilliant, and controversial lead singer but in fact a collection of insightful musicians who were more about the group than any one individual.
I sped through my entire comfort zone eight minutes into this record when I got through the first two tracks on side A, “Roadhouse Blues” and “Waiting for the Sun,” which left me staring straight down the barrel of eight songs I didn’t know with one minor exception (more on that in a sec). The very next song got me jacked up for the rest of the record, the old school 1950s style rock ‘n’ roll number “You Make Me Real,” a song that seems like the kind of thing that the forward-thinking doors would have scoffed at as being too basic or predictable, but one that they in fact nailed.
Which brings me to “Peace Frog.” I vividly remember what I believe was the one and only time I heard this song. It was a few years ago on a weekend and I’d left the house early to go somewhere, when “Peace Frog” came on the radio right after I left. It was obviously a Doors song, but something I’d never heard before, and I was mesmerized. Why the hell wasn’t this on the greatest hits albums? The lack of consistent flow made it impossible to allow the song to fade into the background, and Morrison’s cadence changes were captivating. Just now was probably the second time I’ve ever heard it. And I’ll tell you right now, I need to find a way to get it into the regular rotation. It’s as good as just about anything The Doors ever did.
Side B continues in much the same vein. Make no mistake about it, Morrison Hotel is a blues-rock album more or less through and through, a fact John Densmore remarks on in his book Riders on the Storm. In that respect it may be the band’s most internally consistent album since The Doors in 1967. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, especially after writing about how much their musical range impresses me, but one thing I know for sure is it makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. There aren’t any weird songs to throw you off; it has a feeling to it… a sense of direction that you get caught up in and carried along. True, “Peace Frog” and “Indian Summer” bring some different vibes, but the still fit with the bluesy, hard living, melancholy flavor of the record as a whole.
While The Doors is by far the band’s best collection of songs in one place, Morrison Hotel is probably the best album in my mind.