Billed and sold as the ninth and final studio album by The Doors, An American Prayer tends to divide Jim Morrison fans. On the one hand, it’s a captivating document of the late singer reading his free-associative poetry: dark, weirdly beautiful psychedelic lyrical fugues. On the other hand, it’s only a “Doors album” in that the three remaining members convened in 1978 to record original music over the deceased Morrison’s solo readings. While the resulting product is both a haunting tribute and an immersive late-night listen, many have felt that the band’s rendering did violence to the departed singer’s original intentions. (Listen to and download it here for free.)
An American Prayer's readings were recorded unaccompanied in March 1969 and December 1970. In 1971, Morrison joined his long-time lover Pamela Courson in Paris. That same year, Jim Morrison died, under some rather mysterious circumstances, at the age of 27. Before his death, however, he made what is said to be his final studio recording, a poetry reading/performance with a couple of unknown Parisian street musicians. Although Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek allegedly dismissed this recording as “drunken gibberish,” Doors fans have circulated it since 1994—combined with a 37-minute poetry reading from 1968—as a bootleg called The Lost Paris Tapes.
While it’s true that An American Prayer is a powerful and haunting album, it’s also true that The Lost Paris Tapes represents the unadorned, unedited Morrison, in full control of how his voice sounds, and without his famous band. I cannot help you find a copy of The Lost Paris Tapes, but many of the tracks are on Youtube, such as “Orange County Suite” (top), an affecting piece written for Pamela Courson. Other excerpts from the bootleg, such as “Hitler Poem” (above) show Morrison in a very strange mood indeed, and show off his unsetting sense of humor. While the work on The Lost Paris Tapes ranges in quality, all of it preserves the seductive voice and cryptic imagination that Jim Morrison never lost, even as he began to slip away into alcoholism.