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Real Roadhouse Blues

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Twisted Tales, the 2013 release by Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers, is one of those wonderful—though sad—surprises.  Manzarek and Rogers put out Translucent Blues in 2011 and that album had some brilliant moments. It had a new sound for Manzarek, not Doors and not like Manzarek’s earlier solo work either, but something new—the compound that was Rogers and Manzarek working together. So anything from that duo is welcome, though after Manzarek’s death on May 20th, 2013, we know there will be no more authoritative Manzarek.  Twisted Tales, as uneven as it is, is worth a close listen and rewards a careful listener too.


Some voices are for choirs and some aren’t. Manzarek’s would render many a choir an atonal mess. And then there’s voice—a completely separate matter and something that distinguishes Manzarek from all other performers.  He has it, the Manzarek voice.  That syncopated, confident piano sound that made so many great moments for Morrison’s voice, fitting perfectly with Krieger and Densmore, is wonderfully evident on Twisted Tales—though it’s Manzarek’s voice in the lead. On these works with Rogers, he has his sound and Rogers has his.

The organ is that Manzarek sound too, the one many of us heard as a sort of upturned and trampled church-Hammond on albums by The Doors, engendering the straightest of instruments with cool in the age of acid and Woodstock(not that the Doors played there, mind—What’s up with that?).

Luckily we don’t have to hang out in the mud and absorb warnings of bad acid to hear Manzarek’s sound.  It’s been constant through the years.  You can pick out his keyboards on Carmina Burana and any other touch he’s had, Doors, Rick & the Ravens, and Manzarek and Rogers.

It’s As If You Wandered Into a Remote Roadhouse 

This isn’t an old guy playing oldies; he’s got an edge.  A careful listen to “Street of Crocodiles” or—better yet— “Black Wine/Spank Me With a Rose” will show Manzarek and Rogers at their best.  It isn’t Doors, but it is certainly some of the best work Manzarek has ever done, with Morrison or without.  It’s a shame so many fans did not hear Manzarek as an old man renewing himself with lines such as those from   “American Woman”: “It’s expensive in America to starve yourself to death.”


Don’t forget Mr. Rogers in all of this.  They were a band and “Shoulder Ghosts,” with Rogers on vocals, proves it