JIM MORRISON & THE DOORS; "An American Prayer" (Elektra). * * * 1/2
This posthumous 1978 spoken-word album, featuring Morrison's poetry backed by music composed by the three remaining Doors - keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore - was even nominated for a Grammy. And though the album was available on vinyl and cassette, this is its first, a remaster, appearance on compact disc.
Some people may know Morrison considered himself a poet more than a musician/rock star. In fact, the Doors' two main commercial-hit lyrics weren't penned by Morrison at all. "Light My Fire" and "Touch Me," which both reached No. 1, were written by Krieger.
But enough of history. This album offers insight into the man the press and public called the "Lizard King."
The beauty of "An American Prayer" is the way the ramblings of Morrison come together in a tight yet almost spontaneous mix. Opening with the famous "Is everybody in?" line from his epic poem "Celebration of the Lizard," the album explodes into a lucid yet strange trip into the world of a man who was said to possess an I.Q. of about 150.
"Ghost Song" contains snippets of "Peace Frog," from the Doors album "Morrison Hotel" and rings through clear and clean, as does a live version of "Roadhouse Blues." Other poems include "The Movie," "An American Prayer" and "A Feast of Friends."
Also on the album is an eerie telephone-call recording called "The Hitchhiker," in which Morrison apparently confesses to killing a man. Though this sound bite is actually a scene from a movie script Morrison wrote, it chills the soul - especially when the dreamy ar-range-ment of "Riders on the Storm" is mixed in.
Three previously unreleased selections make their debut on the remastered disc. "Babylon Fading" is a ghostly soliloquy that molds a shamanistic aura around Morrison's voice as he leads the listener through a feast of sounds. "Bird of Prey" is a poem sung by Morrison a capella. A remix of "Ghost Song" features the aging Doors in a more dynamic tone. The disc ends with an unlisted calling to God.
"American Prayer" takes the listener to a new plane. Those who felt and heard the sometimes existential philosophies of Morrison will cherish his words and feel they've stepped closer to the poet-turned-martyr-turned-icon.
RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.