Stephen Davis’ Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend got me interested in the Doors. It didn’t make me like the Doors, but his depiction of a band that knew it was good being forced to deal with the singer who made them great is pretty compelling. They only played weekends because they knew they couldn’t get more than three good shows out of Morrison in a row, and he was still usually drunk and terrible for one of the three. The new Live in Pittsburgh 1970 (DMC/Bright Midnight/Rhino) literalizes the band’s task of waiting on Morrison. Time and again, you can hear them vamping, waiting to see what he’ll do next. At the end of lines, they’ll play fills to maintain a song’s form, but nobody rips into a solo because he could be about to step to the mic. That drama is far more interesting to me than all the faux gloom that mucks up their songs, and the waiting actually works in the band’s favor. It takes some of the bounciness out, so they don’t sound so proud of themselves for their/his transgressiveness. I still don’t like it enough to really like the Doors, but it’s the one Doors album I may return to.
Dame Shirley Bassey got a renewed lease on musical life when Propellerheads featured her voice on “History Repeating” in 1997, and she’s enjoying interest again because the Arctic Monkeys are fans. She has a new album, Get the Party Started (Decca), and the title cut is so divariffic it can turn any car, house or iPod into a gay disco. She also sounds more comfortable than Grace Jones ever did in the lushness of “Slave to the Rhythm.”