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Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe
The Doors

Elektra 75007
Released: February 1970
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 27
Certified Gold: 2/23/70

Jim MorrisonMorrison Hotel opens with a powerful blast of raw funk called "Roadhouse Blues." It features jagged barrelhouse piano, fierce guitar, and one of the most convincing raunchy vocals Jim Morrison has ever recorded. This angry hard rock is that at which the Doors have always excelled, and given us so seldom, and this track is one of their very best ever, with brooding lyrics that ring chillingly true: "I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer/The future's uncertain and the end is always near."

From there on out, though, the road runs mainly downhill. It's really a shame, too, because somehow one held high expectations for this album and wanted so badly to believe it would be good that one was afraid to listen to it when it was finally released. The music bogs down in the kind of love mush and mechanical, stereotyped rock arrangements that have marred so much of the Doors' past music. "Blue Sunday" and "Indian Summer" are two more insipidly "lyrical" pieces crooned in Morrison's most saccharine Hoagy Carmichael style. "Maggie McGill" is a monotonous progression in the vein of (but now nearly as interesting as) "Not to Touch the Earth," and "You Make Me Real" is a thyroid burst of manufactured energy worthy of a thousand mediocre groups.

The Doors - Morrison Hotel
Original album advertising art.
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Admittedly, these are the worst tracks, and the rest ranges from the merely listenable to the harsh brilliance of "Roadhouse Blues" or the buoyant catchiness of "Land Ho!", a chanty that sets you rocking and swaying on first listen and never vails to bring a smile every time it's repeated.

This could have been a fine album; but the unavoidable truth -- and this seems to be an insurmountable problem for the Doors -- is that so much of it is out of the same extremely worn cloth as the songs on all their other albums. It's impossible to judge it outside the context of the rest of their work. Robbie Kreiger's slithery guitar, and Manzarek's carnival-calliope organ work and whorehouse piano are the perfect complement to Morrison's rococo visions. But we've all been there before, not a few times, and their well of resources has proven a standing lake which is slowly drying up. Perhaps if they recombined into a different group the brilliant promise of the Doors' first album and sporadic songs since might begin to be fulfilled, but for now they can only be truly recommended to those with a personal interest.

- Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, 4/30/70.

Bonus Reviews!

The Doors' long awaited latest album is a concept LP that will be in demand not only because of the group's strong track record, but also for the LP's contents. Side One, with the overall title of Hard Rock Cafe boasts "Roadhouse Blues," the fascinating "Peace Frog," and "Waiting for the Sun," while "The Spy," "Indian Summer," and "Maggie M'Gill" are the most impressive cuts on the Morrison Hotel side.

- Billboard, 1970.

One side is called "Hard Rock Cafe," the other "Morrison Hotel." Guess which I prefer. Now guess which is supposed to be more "poetic." And now guess which is more poetic. "The future's uncertain and the end is always near" is just the Lizard King's excuse for mingling with the proles who "get on down," but it sure beats the Anais Nin tribute for originality and aptness of thought. Still, the band is rocking tighter than it ever has. Robbie Krieger's phrasing keeps things moving, and Morrison's gliding vocal presence -- arty and self-absorbed though it may be -- provides focus. He's not the genius he makes himself out to be, so maybe his genius is that he doesn't let his pretensions cancel out his talent. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Putting aside their arty-politico pretension as leaders of the youth generation The Doors surprised fans and critics by turning aside from the lightweight pop of Soft Parade -- this album hit with a beam of pure R&B.

The Compact Disc is clean and lively with a fair dynamic freedom, relaying the songs with an appropriate directness. Rim shots crack out through Ray Manzarek's organ chords while Morrison's vocals come across with a new freshness.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

The band's apparent concept album that comes close and just doesn't quite make it -- the Doors were primarily a singles band. That's not to say this is a failed effort, far from it, outside of their debut recording, it probably maintains the highest level of musicianship from cut to cut of any of the Doors' album releases. As always with this group, Jim Morrison in the center of it all, and as Robert Christgau said: "He's not the genius he makes himself out to be, so maybe his genius is that he doesn't let his pretensions cancel out his talent." The sound is a bit murky, close in quality to that of the LP. B

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

A bluesy, hard-rock album that nevertheless contains some of Morrison's most visionary songs. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Morrison Hotel kicks off with "Roadhouse Blues" and never really looks back, as the Doors sound more and more like a hard-hitting rock band. * * * *

- Alan Paul, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Generally referred to as Morrison Hotel although its title according to the U.S. chart "bible" is Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Café, this was the fifth album by The Doors in three years. (Keyboardist Ray Manzarek had spotted the hotel in downtown L.A. during a drive around town with his wife.) The group was under pressure because vocalist and USP Jim Morrison was due in court to answer obscenity charges. Indeed, they had recorded several shows that could become a live album if Morrison received a jail term, but the U.S. legal system was so slow that there was time for this new studio release.

The album's predecessor, The Soft Parade, had been regarded as disappointingly unchallenging. Perhaps as a result, this was a muscular R&B-inspired offering, betraying the group's roots. The chugging, ballsy "Roadhouse Blues" makes most immediate impact, featuring hitmaker Lonnie Mack on bass and The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian ("G Puglese") on harmonica. (It was subsequently covered by acts as diverse as Blue Öyster Cult and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.) The twitchy funk of "Peace Frog" echoes the social unrest of the time, and namedrops New Haven, where Morrison had once been arrested onstage. The clattering, keyboard driven "You Make Me Real" features Morrison at his bawling best; elsewhere, he croons smoothly through "Blue Sunday," the sinuous "The Spy," and "Indian Summer," a beautiful ballad whose undulating bassline recalls Doors magnum opus "The End." The Doors were back on course again.

- John Tobler, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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