Friday, February 05, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, February 5-11: Morrison Hotel, by the Doors

What can possibly do justice to Morrison Hotel? Hands down the best Doors album, in my not at all humble opinion, with their debut a distant second.  So far, it's the 1970 Album of the Week I've been most excited to feature. I'd rate seven of its 11 tracks as at least competitive for any "Top 10 Doors songs" list.

The band recorded the album at the close of a pretty dark period. Jim Morrison had been charged with indecent exposure following a Florida concert in June of 1969. They lost 25 tour dates, and their July release of orchestra-laden The Soft Parade hadn't played well with either critics or their fan base. About the time The Doors went into the studio to record Morrison Hotel, Morrison was again criminally charged -- this time with skyjacking, for causing a ruckus on a flight to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones in concert.

Whatever dark magic was tearing Morrison apart (maybe it was just the booze), it got distilled and bottled as the band shed the strings and brass that unduly softened The Soft Parade. The stripped-down sound resulted in a strange and wonderful rock album featuring more of a blues feel than previous outings (the obvious example being "Roadhouse Blues," of course). They had help from (insufficiently appreciated) guitarist Lonnie Mack on bass and John Sebastian (flying under the radar as "G. Puglese" to avoid contract conflicts) on harmonica.

Morrison Hotel is 50 years old, and I doubt I've gone a week in the last ten years without listening to at least one track from it. It's just too damn good to not keep in heavy rotation on my personal playlists. The only real problem I've got with throwing it at you is picking a single song to feature. Through a process that did not involve flipping of coins but might as well have, I settled on "Queen of the Highway" ...

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