Roadhouse Blues (1970)
In 1970, the Lizard King died. The Doors, once the dark side of Flower Power, had been overtaken by younger, more eclectic artists like the Who and, more significantly, Led Zeppelin. The rock scene which Morrison and co. had gate-crashed in January of 1967 was dying. In a rare moment of clear thought, the old act was tossed out. And so the dark psycho-delia and more intellectual posturings were dropped, along with Jim’s famous leather duds. In the place of Jim’s old persona the singer took on a persona that he would ride out to the end: The Old Blues Man.
Aside from the changes affecting the rock scene, a lot had changed since 1967. After two fantastic albums, the Doors had begun to fall into a quagmire of creative and personal hurly burly. Jim Morrison's alcoholism, always a problem, had begun to affect his performance on and offstage. His relationship with his bandmates, always a thorny issue, had been broken completely.
Out of this mire, ROADHOUSE BLUES represented something of a reappraisal, both creatively and personally. Remodeling themselves on the blues bands of the Fifties, the Doors boiled their sound down to it’s roots, returning to the hi-octane stomp of such work horses as ‘Soul Kitchen’ and scintillating cover ‘Back Door Man’.
The album is not perfect. But as a penultimate album, ROADHOUSE BLUES lays down the template that LA WOMAN, released the following year, would follow. Its success not only rejuvenated the band, however briefly, but put them in a place to realize a suitable finale to the brand of ritualized psycho-erotica which they were famous for.
Key tracks: If I was brutally honest, I would say it’s worth it for the title track alone, with its fantastic bass and harmonica. ‘Peace Frog’ is a funky Krieger riff lent a playfully nihilistic edge by Morrison’s disturbing eulogy to the late Sixties and his own personal demons (‘Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile, eggshell mind’), while ‘The Spy‘ is an eerie ditty that seems to have escaped from some decrepit saloon on the road to Hell.
Midnight Love (1982)
After three 'interesting' albums of decreasing quality and relevance, Gaye bounced back with this, his first album released outside of Motown. Tragically it would also be his last, as his comeback was brutally cut short by his murder less than two years later.
If IN OUR LIFETIME saw Gaye lose his muse then 1982's MIDNIGHT LOVE saw him reclaim it with a vengeance, and some absolutely bangin' tunes. Reclaiming lost loves, regaining your mojo, getting some sexual healing, MIDNIGHT LOVE is all about personal redemption - spiritual, sexual and creative.
A tight set clearly designed to meet the challenge of Jackson, James and Prince, MIDNIGHT LOVE sees Gaye merge the stylistic trademarks of Eighties RnB with his own concerns to create a more streamlined and commercially oriented sound distinct from his more insular and weird work of the late Seventies.
Key tracks: ‘Sexual Healing’ is the centre-piece, and became Gaye’s last big hit, but there really isn’t a duff track in sight. ‘Midnight Lady’ and ‘Rockin’ After Midnight’ are dance tunes every bit as good as anything on Rick James’ STREET SONGS and ‘Joy’ is a rather glorious combination of sanctified soul with Eighties trimmings. The best track of the bunch though, and the one most indicative of Gaye’s mindset is ‘Turn on Some Music‘ with its lyrics highlighting the singer’s renewed belief in the power of music to save him from his demons.
Heaven & Hell (1980)
How do you replace Ozzy? If you are Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, you pull in the man with the golden tonsils, one Ronnie James Dio, and lay the ground work for one of Sabbath's best albums.
Key tracks: The title track is a monster, and opener ‘Neon Knights’ is a great shout out to the true believers. Sabbath was back, armed and ready to meet the young bucks of thrash and speed metal with renewed vigor and power.