The Doors Can Swing Either Way on 50th Anniversary Reissue of ‘Morrison Hotel’

The Doors | Morrison Hotel | 50th Anniversary Edition/Rhino
3 out of five stars

A 50th edition of The Doors’ Morrison Hotel ought to come as no surprise. The album was considered by many to be one of their landmark albums, a return to basics after the elaborate embellishments that brought some pundits to damn their previous effort The Soft Parade. Nevertheless, the release came at a tumultuous time in the band’s trajectory. It arrived on the heels of Jim Morrison’s arrest in Miami for allegedly exposing himself at a concert at the city’s Bayfront Stadium and as Morrison was experiencing further decline following a weight gain and his increasing struggle with alcoholism. Divided into two sections subtitled “Hard Rock Cafe” and “Morrison Hotel,” each derived from the location photos that adorned the front and back of the album, it was nevertheless a fairly straight-ahead effort, at least by Doors standards, given that much of the music is derived from the basic blues that inspired them early on. And while none of the tracks accrued enough top 40 airplay to match the same success the band’s earlier radio-ready entrees accrued, certain songs would become a staple of their set lists — “Roadhouse Blues,” “Queen of the Highway” and “You Make Me Real” in particular.

Like the 40th anniversary reissue, this 50th year revival boasts a number of outtakes and rehearsal recordings that enhance the experience and give Doors’ enthusiasts reasons to reacquire an album they’ve likely purchased several times previously. Fortunately, despite the somewhat steep price, there’s the added incentive that comes with hearing the band run through multiple, and often extemporaneous takes and witnessing Morrison in the control booth as he attempts to nail down his vocals. Indeed, his shrieks can be ear-shattering at time. Likewise, hearing the back and forth conversations between producer Paul Rothchild and the band as they run through take after take offers a rare inside peak at how the album eventually took shape. Yet even despite the false starts, by the final disparate run-throughs — culminating in no less than nine takes for “Queen of the Highway,” the five given “Roadhouse Blues” and two allotted for “Peace Frog” — the entire ensemble, including studio bassists Lonnie Mack and Ray Neapolitan seem well in sync. At one point, Morrison suggests jumping ahead and warming up with the aforementioned “Road House Blues” before moving on, but the idea was apparently vetoed, and instead we get a spot-on version of “Maggie M’Gill” that’s every bit as driven and determined as the offering that eventually made the original album.

And so it goes. Even completists might quibble with the fact that several of these bonus tracks appear to overlap those on the previous edition. The fact that two additional covers are included — a loose cover of “Money,” expanded from the 40th anniversary extra, and an extended read of “Rock Me Baby,” each well in keeping with the blues motif that encompassed the album overall — may be cause for persuasion, although certainly not on their own 

Ultimately, one might consider these extras interesting but not necessarily essential. Of course, the booklet provides additional worth, as most generally do, but if cost is a factor, the need to acquire may be balanced by finance versus the extent to which one considers themselves a Doors completist. Pardon the pun, but in this case, the Doors can swing either way.

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