Tag Archives: blues

180. The Doors – Morrison Hotel

 “I’ve been singing the blues ever since the world began” 

– Jim Morrison, “Maggie M’Gill”.

The Doors - Morrison HotelFor all the musical skill floating around in the band, the fact is that it’s hard to separate the story of The Doors from its uniquely talented but similarly ridiculous lead singer. Just as Melody Maker mocked The Doors’ 1993 reunion as akin to the Jimi Hendrix Experience reforming, Jim Morrison was, and is, The Doors.

By the time their fourth album, “Morrison Hotel”  turned up in February 1970, the band had gone from creating their eponymous and classic debut to the decidedly iffy (but hugely successful) “The Soft Parade”, packed with experimental weirdness and pomposity. Meanwhile Morrison had degenerated into full-blown alcoholism and whipping his todger out on stage in Miami (and facing the prospect of imprisonment and hard labour for his troubles).

For “Morrison Hotel”, they decided to return to their blues-rock roots, and it’s an album with far less of the psychedelia that their following had gotten used to. From the opening “Roadhouse Blues”, it oozes blues respectability, even with Morrison’s slurred lyrics, making it perhaps the best-known track from the album.

There’s also a Crystal Method remix out there which I enjoyed far more than I’m proud of, but I digress.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_cpnrtmK5A

Anyway, moving right along, “Waiting for the Sun” is a subdued affair that’s arguably the most Doors-ey track of the bunch, and with reason, originating in sessions for their album of the same name two years previously.

It works in sharp contrast with “You Make Me Real”, a proper funky rock stomp complete with electric piano and cries of “roll baby roll…”. Lester Bangs called it ‘a thyroid burst of manufactured energy worthy of a thousand mediocre groups’ but then he was hardly the band’s biggest fan. Actually it’s a hidden gem.

“Peace Frog” is a brave and exciting effort, full of funk with a delightful interlude of Morrison’s spoken word poem “Newborn Awakening”, and it always draws a smile. It segues seamlessly into “Blue Sunday”, romantic, drifting and quite lovely, with some rather nifty guitar from Robby Kreiger.

That surprising funky twist comes back on “Ship of Fools”, which closes Side A, leaving you with a feeling of optimism that is, let’s be honest, kind of unexpected.

With “Land Ho!”, which kicks off Side B, it turns out that not only do The Doors have a happy side, but are more than capable of a little humour when it suits them (who knew?). “Land Ho!” is full of Davy Crockett-inspired mischief and is joyful for it.

“The Spy” floats on by with bluesy harmony, and coins the phrase “I am a spy in the house of love” decades before Was (Not Was) got their hands on it. It’s more a filler track, as could also be said for the following “Queen of the Highway”.

“Indian Summer” evokes memories of “The End” with its sublime bassline, even though it’s far less ambitious, but still works as a charming and gentle ballad, despite being just 156 seconds long.

The final track, “Maggie M’Gill”, reeks of the blues, and with its starting bars could be mistaken for BB King. It’s a lyrical treat too, with lines like “Illegitimate son of a rock and roll star, Mom met Dad in the back of a rock and roll car, yeah”. It ends an album that, while far more interesting in the first half, keeps its energy and spark throughout and establishes the band as a legitimate blues-rock performer. While their days were numbered, they were still capable and energetic with this, their penultimate studio album.

176. Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Derek and the Dominos - Layla and Other Assorted Love SongsAh Eric you smug racistcredit-stealingoverrated cunt… good to see you.

Of course, as much as the band’s title wasn’t particularly rocktastic (Derek?), they were responsible for this album’s title track, “Layla”, which is basically THE song, the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” of the dad rock generation. It is, to be fair, an epic of a song, with a riff that’s as iconic as riffs get, a fierce energy and heartfelt, often venomous lyrics. That it was inspired by über-muse Patti Boyd, George Harrison’s missus at the time, only adds to its legendary status.

Time, and a few too many driving rock compilations, have dulled the song’s importance with time (plus there was that godawful MTV Unplugged version back in 1993), but when it gets going, it’s still a wonder of music. Personally, I’ve never been too fond of that segue into piano that occupies the latter half of the track, but that’s just splitting hairs.

It goes without saying that “Layla” is the standout track on the album (even the title acknowledges that), and it’s worth noting that this album was an obscure flop for nearly a decade before being rediscovered on the back of THAT song, but it’s not the only interesting tidbit on here.

In fact, it’s worth noting that Derek and the Dominos weren’t really a band as such, and that this is really a solo Clapton album (although the presence of keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon, all from Delaney and Bonnie and Friends certainly adds to the flavour). It brings with it some rich original blues tracks like the sombre “Bell Bottom Blues” and the Eagles-y “Keep on Growing”, as well as some blues classics like Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway” and a cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” (you’re not helping yourself by covering Hendrix Eric).

Still, even at 77 minutes long, when you compare the album to the likes of “Disraeli Gears” or “John Mayall’s Blues Breakers”, it does feel like a lesser morsel, less experimental and without the same passion. It has the appeal of an album that’s evolved out of some relaxed jam sessions, but apart from that one track, there’s just not enough here to be truly memorable.

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175. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's FactoryWell, this is the first album in the list from the 1970’s and, as much as I’m looking forward to funking, punking and glamming my way through the next 278 treats on here, this album is a pretty good start.

Of course, I’ve alluded to being a Creedence fan before, and both “Bayou Country” and “Green River” were great pieces of work. But this, their fifth effort, is to me, Creedence at their Creedenciest. It kicks off with the frenzied “Ramble Tamble” before delivering a mix of old rock and blues covers (“Before You Accuse Me” and Roy Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” standing out as treats on side 1), and more soulful pop rock, such as the joyful “Travelin’ Band”, that oozes Little Richard through the speakers.

The shitty time the album was born from isn’t too far away, and the second side turns to a darker path with the Vietnam-themed “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” and “Run Through the Jungle”, but it pulls it back with a quite epic interpretation of “I Heard it Through The Grapevine”, which stretches out into 11 minutes of bassy, gravelly jam filth while keeping the soul of the original. By the time the album closes with the anthemic and poignant, “Long as I Can See The Light”, you feel like you’ve been on quite an epic ride.

“Cosmo’s Theory” lacks for the big hits that defined “Bayou Country” and “Green River”, but they still pulled three singles from it, and “Travelin’ Band” is a welcome addition to their greatest hits. Still, as I say, between snarling swampy bass notes and Jon Fogerty’s growling vocals, this is a joy to listen to, and, dare I say it, probably the most accessible CCR album. By the time it was released the band were beginning to tear themselves apart, but with this album, they were at their finest hour.