on June 29, 1999
In L.A. Woman, The Doors continue their evolution after the gradual loss of power they had experienced through The Soft Parade. Whereas in Morrison Hotel they went for a combination of hard rock and blues, in L.A. Woman The Doors make it clear that the blues is their chief focus.
All Jim Morrison's excesses had affected his voice along with the rest of his body in his very last years. Morrison Hotel shows him a bit raunchier, but on L.A. Woman it is clear the smoothness in his voice has somewhat deteriorated except on the songs that are slower/more like spoken-word poetry in character: "Cars Hiss By My Window," "Hyacinth House," and of course, "Riders on the Storm." Actually, an exception too, more inexplicably, is the rocker "Love Her Madly," the Doors' last short AM hit. Bouncy, very catchy, and with a great carnivalesque solo by Ray Manzarek. It is Robbie Krieger's song, but with some of the bleakness characterizing Jim's songs: "Don't you love her as she's walking out the door," "All your love is gone, so sing a lonely song." The Doors were always a cohesive unit, not "Jim Morrison and The Doors."
But the grittiness Jim shows in place of smoothness in other songs worked well, particularly with the bluesier numbers. Check out "Been Down So Long" and John Lee Hooker's "Crawling King Snake," the group's first cover on a studio album since their debut (gee, why did Jim pick one with that title?). Then--in the magnificent title cut, how would a rangy Jim have been? Yet fate had it well. His grittiness, his grunting--they worked. This was not "Tell All the People"--it was a Doors and rock classic, a car driving song, with a "bright beat," as the sheet music says, potent rock 'n roll infused with some blues. L.A. Woman actually expresses joy (the "Eye" is Mr. Mojo Risin'), is this The Doors? Yet Robbie Krieger's briefly overdubbed guitar solo following the song opening is lively, celebratory, slightly country, in fact, reminding one a bit of The Allman Brothers' "Jessica," gradually working its way upward, opening up like a blooming flower--awesome. Then there is Ray's great, uplifting electric piano solo, and Robbie's simple but very pretty revolution around the "A" chord in the "I see your hair is burning" section. And whatever you thing of "Mr. Mojo Risin'," how about that dynamite climax?
Jim's raunchier singing also shows up on the opener, "Changeling," certainly very autobiographical, and he once again asserts himself as the group's leader: His verseline sets the pace, the instrumentalists oblige, Robbie with some fabulous bluesy slide guitar. In "Cars Hiss By My Window" and "Been Down So Long," Jim is isolated, enclosed--looking outward--a prison is one of the images in the latter, but the emphasis is the bluesy down mood, as Robbie's guitar slithers through the blues again magnificently. In "Cars," Jim tells us the cars hiss "like waves out on a beach"--nicer to be in a beach house, tho the girl he's got beside him is "out of reach." Robbie's guitar sounds just like waves, The Doors' being ever so theatrical. A witty moment at the end: Robbie uses a wah-wah to the effect that one cannot tell whether it is guitar or Jim improvising.
Paul Rothchild refused to produce this album, saying it was cocktail lounge music except for the title cut and "Riders on the Storm." Interesting that he excluded the latter, for it certainly is. And certainly better than almost anything that is not. "Riders" is thoroughly excellent, with Ray's lovely jazz piano work and Robbie's pretty gliding guitar lines. Like in "Light My Fire," Jim's verse is relatively sparse in a long cut, but his lyrics are striking and memorable. But then, how about the amazing "The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)"? Talk about striking images, exemplifying the ever-so-clear truth that Jim's song lyrics were superior to his poetry. The Doors achieve a compelling mood with a catchy, primitive beat; bluesy and slightly jazz-infused instrumental sweeps; and John Densmore's great percussion, with one memorable short soft drum flourish, as Jim declares, "No eternal reward will ever forgive us for wasting the dawn. "
L.A. Woman is a brilliant finale from a group that had suffered through so much turmoil, induced by Jim, that it was questionable whether they had anything left. But they took one more trip down to "L'America" and came up with this monumental work before Jim left for Paris, never to return. And everyone should enjoy the trip in this one--the Doors' perennial themes are there: the down side, this time with the blues; highways; empty houses; image-laden, but sometimes sparse or discomforting, expanses; reptiles; the sense of humor (check out "Hyacinth House"). But there are things new and different too. Then The Doors are closed.