If you happen to stumble across the liner notes of the new Doors tribute record, you’ll be fortunate enough to come across such hilarious quips as the following from Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. When discussing his collaboration with Cult front man Ian Astbury, Ray confesses, “ He’s a very spiritually aware inhabitant of our blue marble … Almost bodhisattva …” Wow, man, that’s deep. Hope Brother Ray took his Chinese herbs before coming up with that one. Bet Morrison’s spinning in his grave. Or better yet, maybe he’s in hell being reread all his hilariously bad poetry by G.G. Allin.
On paper, tribute records always announce themselves to be these great, groundbreaking, artist-driven undertakings. Or to use one of several clichés, “a marriage of old and new.” Or perhaps, some sort of “definitive collaboration” between some historic artist and his or her newer day counterparts-admirers. However, at the end of the day, here’s the reality: The perception of what a tribute record is versus the actual quality of the end product are usually polar opposites.
Take the case of Kiss’ average, yet amusing Kiss My Ass offering, or the more recent Springsteen homage to Nebraska, Badlands. Rearrangements of those artists’ more insular songs tend to lend themselves to “reimagination.” In Kiss’ case, Lenny Kravitz’s romp through “Deuce” (with Stevie Wonder on harp) or Garth Brooks’ cover of “Hard Luck Woman” make perfect sense. Same theory applies to the Badlands tribute piece. Johnny Cash, Son Volt, Ani DiFranco et al attack the Nebraska tales of American desolation with a newfound purpose.
As for the Doors, Stoned Immaculate leaves very little to the imagination — it’s exactly what you expect it to be. And much like the Doors’ original compositions, it’s a “renewed” and/or “reimagined” pastiche of cheesy jazz meets overblown keyboard junkets — with some nice guitar leads thrown in for good measure. Lest we forget just how fabo Monsieur Morrison was in his role of the ever-elegantly wasted rock star, it then comes as no surprise that the equally genius frontmen of today (all in NA or AA) such as Weiland, Steven Tyler and Ian Astbury are the perfect foils for his legacy. And again, not to take anything away from the Doors (after all, L.A. Woman and Morrison Hotel are both excellent records), but why anyone would ever want to hear Smash Mouth covering “Peace Frog” or Train’s execrable version of “Light My Fire” or even Days Of The New’s bloated version of “L.A. Woman” is beyond all human comprehension. One finds it hard to believe that better bands weren’t available to contribute to this release.
Not all is horrid. There are a few bright spots here and there, such as Stone Temple Pilots’ cover of “Break on Through,” Ian Astbury’s reading of “Touch Me,” the Cult’s “Wild Child” and a surprisingly lucid read of “Riders on the Storm” by Creed (yes, Creed!).
All in all, a pretty uneven, predictable affair.
E-mail John Franck at [email protected].