Ray Manzarek / Roy Rogers

Translucent Blues

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The previous collaboration of blues guitarist Roy Rogers and Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek on 2008's acoustic and instrumental Ballads Before the Rain now seems like a dress rehearsal for this full-blown, plugged-in band set with vocals and elaborate lyrics. Despite being released on the Blind Pig label and including the word "blues" in its title, this is a rootsy rock album with a strong emphasis on poetry but less so on blues, which remains an undercurrent snaking through the material. Lyrics are contributed by the late Jim Carroll (his "Hurricane" connects Katrina's effect on New Orleans with biblical references), beat-era wordsmith Michael McClure (who has worked with Manzarek before), and Michael C. Ford (a poet friend of Jim Morrison) among others. Not surprisingly there is plenty of classic Doors' sound as Manzarek's instantly recognizable keyboards jump out of the mix on songs such as "Game of Skill," a distant musical cousin to "Love Her Madly." Between the presence of the poets as songwriting foils and Rogers' swampy slide lines (similar to those of Robby Krieger), it's hard not to think this is an effort to continue the Doors' legacy. There's nothing wrong with that, especially when songs as powerful as the easygoing boogie of "Fives and Ones" (perhaps a reference to the Doors' "Five to One") and the jazzy, sax-enhanced shuffle of "Greenhouse Blues" are the results. Neither Manzarek nor Rogers are particularly compelling singers, but they are convincing, even when navigating the choppy waters of some tricky, occasionally clunky wordplay. Much of this sounds like a better follow-up to the Doors' post-Morrison legacy than either the well meaning yet disappointing Other Voices or Full Circle from the early '70s. Production duties are handled by both headliners, and while the sound is clean and sharp, it's a bit too glossy for music that would have been harder hitting if presented with a rougher edge. Two instrumentals close the disc with Rogers' sweet, noir-ish ballad "As You Leave" -- seeming like something made for a '60s film soundtrack -- and the straight-ahead blues/jazz shuffle of Manzarek's "An Organ, A Guitar and a Chicken Wing," somewhat of a tribute to the Jimmy Smith/Booker T. & the MG's style of playing.

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