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The Doors - L.A. Woman CD (album) cover

L.A. WOMAN

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

4.01 | 518 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars The legacy that is known as THE DOORS had a history shorter than The Beatles at least during the Jim Morrison years and went from a complete unknown to world class superstars in a short time but in the brief five years from the self-titled debut to the band's last album with Morrison, THE DOORS lived a million life times and then some. The year 1969 had taken a particular harsh toll with the band's fourth album "The Soft Parade" taking nine months to record, racking up unthinkable debts and then taking a major fan based nosedive due to producer Paul Rothchild's brilliant idea of create a bloated orchestrated version of the band. Not to mention Morrison's brush with the law in Miami, FL which left him a criminal charged with indecent exposure which led to a series of cancellations and outright bans from more conservative areas of the USA. The nature of the music biz may giveth but more often than not it taketh away even quicker.

Despite the series of debacles which included Morrison's own flirtations with the devil in the form of an incessant drug and alcohol addiction, the band triumphantly returned with the fifth release "Morrison Hotel" which eschewed the pompousness of "The Soft Parade" and reinvented the band's sound with blues rock which added the proper garage rock creds that fit the band's image. The album was a triumphant success and it would've been insane to look a gift horse in the mouth and deviate from that trajectory. Having used up all prior song material the band was forced to start from scratch and work out completely new compositions, however right from the start the various tunes that would be included on the band's sixth album L.A. WOMAN were met with contempt and scorn by longtime producer Rothchild who claimed that songs like "Riders On The Storm" were nothing more than cocktail music. The tune "Love Her Madly" particular rankled his sensibilities.

The four members Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzerek and John Densmore refused to budge and Rothchild had a hissy fit and quit after serving as essentially the "fifth" member for the band's previous five albums. Suddenly free from his slave driving work ethos, THE DOORS took on the challenge of producing the album themselves and took things even further into the "back to basics" arena. While "The Soft Parade" consumed a whopping nine months of recording time which clashed with Morrison's restless nature and short attention span, L.A. WOMAN was recorded outside of the major high tech luxuries of the major recording studios and instead unfolded organically in the lo-tech facilities known as the "workshop." Living as if in a fraternity the band members rekindled the creative spark that made them a household name in the first place an crafted the entire album in less than a week with an additional week of mixing with a little help from engineer Bruce Botnick. Some of Morrison's vocal parts were even recorded in a bathroom!

While the original four members followed in the footsteps of "Morrison Hotel" with a stripped down bluesy rock sound, the band employed a couple of guest musicians for the extra parts. Marc Benno who played with the Asylum Choir and Leon Russell in the late 60s contributed rhythm guitar on several tracks and the role of bassist was assigned to Jerry Scheff who had just completed a tour with Elvis Presley. Scheff contributed a noticeable shift towards funk especially heard on the opening track "The Changeling" and "Crawling King Snake." While the back to basics ethos was clearly emphasized, THE DOORS were about having fun while creating music and scoffed at too harsh of restrictions therefore L.A. WOMAN has a more diverse sound than "Morrison Hotel" and not only found new creative expressive ways to steer their unique brand of psychedelic blues rock but also found new life in earlier styles not heard since the first two albums.

After the soulful and funk laden opener "The Changeling" establishes L.A. WOMAN as the more down-to-earth album of the band's canon, the hit single "Love Her Madly" follows. The title came from a Duke Ellington catchphrase that he used to end his concerts. The track itself is about Krieger arguing with his wife but ultimately it's the super catchy mix of guitar riffs and keyboard magic that makes the track burrow into the psyche forever. Of the original ten tracks, several stick to the blues rock paradigm. "Been Down So Long," "Cars Hiss By My Window," "Crawling King Snake" and "The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)" all emphasize bluesy guitar struttin' as their modus operandi with Morrison taking on the role of blues bro No.1 and pulling it off quite well i might add. The remaining three tracks all exude a personality of their own despite adopting the blues, funk and psychedelia heard elsewhere.

The spectacular title track was one of the most sophisticated songs THE DOORS had recorded and spawned the famous phrase "Mr. Mojo Risin" which Morrison shouts out several times during the song's bridge. The tune is filled with references such as the phrase "city of night" referring to a John Rechy novel. "L'America" was originally recorded for a Michelangelo Antonioni soundtrack more specifically for the 1970 film "Zabriskie Point" but was ultimately rejected for being too rowdy! It was the only track that was already written previously. "Hyacinth House" is one of the slower tracks with a slower blues rock tempo and more focus on the extraordinary psychedelic rock keyboard additions. The track also displayed Morrison's labyrinthine lyrical style as the subject matter relates to another DOORS song, "The End." The music was entirely a Manzarek construct and was inspired by Frederic Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 during the organ solo which seems fairly imperceptible but a testament to how well these guys could mix and mingle all the major genres of music without detection.

It's well known that after the recording of the album, Jim Morrison took a long needed vacation to Paris but would never return having suffered from a premature death at the unthinkable age of 27 on July 3, 1971. The final track on L.A. WOMAN, "Riders On The Storm" couldn't have been a better track for Morrison to end his all too brief career on. Not only was it the last song on the album but the last one Morrison recorded. The eerie mix of thunderstorm sound effects and lyrical themes inspired by an old cowboy song that lamented over a serial killer adopted the galloping country and western chops of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend," made famous by Vaughn Monroe and turned it into a psychedelic rock classic that was released the day Morrison died. Not only does the song evoke the spirit of Morrison haunting the skies above but also paid tribute to his career before he had actually even passed on. While the speculation of whether he overdosed on drugs or was actually murdered may never be known, the track amazingly was brought back to the origins of the psychedelic hazy sounds of the band's debut album, namely on the song "The End." Wow.

Despite all the odds against them at every turn from outside and especially from within, THE DOORS defiantly reinvented themselves and in the process crafted their best album since the one-two punch masterpiece combo pack of 1967's "The Doors" and "Strange Days." L.A. WOMAN cleverly summarizes the band's entire run through its brief five year stint as America's most celebrated psychedelic rock band and although the remaining members would make a feeble attempt to release a couple more albums without Morrison in the picture, for all true fans this is where all those "Strange Days" ended forever. The band of course would live on in perpetuity on classic rock radio stations and playlists worldwide but they couldn't have ended the Morrison led years on more of a high note than L.A. WOMAN which only hints at the musical achievements they could've achieved if only they were allowed to continue however when all is said and done it's actually a miracle they made it as far as they did.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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