In 1971, The Doors released their last album with Jim Morrison, L.A. Woman. One of the most popular Doors albums, it continues the blues-rock sound started on their previous effort Morrison Hotel, though in a different context. This album was recorded live and took about three days to make. After each p ftheir previous albums taking tediously longer and longer to record due to lack of material, not playing parts correctly, and overall just spending too much time trying to make everything from the mixing to the horn section perfect, The Doors just wanted to go back to how it was in the beginning – simply making songs and recording them live. Although it is highly regarded to its popularity from the hit singles Love Her Madly and Riders on the Storm, some fans, on the other hand, view the album as being filled with blues filler, which is true to some extent. One definite agreeable aspect of this album; however, is that the band has changed. This change brings on a fair share of notable pros and cons. Unfortunately for me, the cons outweigh the pros.
Jim Morrison, who had virtually drunk himself into uselessness by this point, takes on a new persona. You will not find him reciting psychedelic tales of mythology and mysticism; instead he opts to tell stories ranging from city life in Los Angeles to his self destruction. He seems to have gained some wisdom as he recounts his various experiences. His voice is scratchy, angry, and guttural as displayed in tracks like L’america and Crawling King Snake.
The musicianship, while steady, occasionally falters and at times, fails to excite. John Densmore’s drumming isn’t as complicated as it once was. Rather than providing complex, jazzy fills, he resorts to a much more straight forward rock approach which can supply a good back beat to songs like Been Down So long. His playing is mostly just basic rock beats yet he’ll still occasionally show off his chops. Robby Krieger’s guitar playing is comfortable on the whole. Though some of his solos are full of clichéd blues licks that get old fast, they are for the most part, tasteful and concise. When he’s not soloing, you can find him comping out chord progressions adding another element to the band’s sound. As well as filling in the guitar role, he also contributes one of the album’s most popular hits, Love Her Madly. Ray Manzarek takes more of a back seat on this album than on others. Rather than playing in his trademark catchy carnival style, he lays back and chunks out chords, backing up the rest of the band. The downside, though, is that the new character he takes on lacks the groove that he once had. On the Changeling, for example, his keyboard lines attempt to bring back that hard to resist catchiness that dominated songs like When the Music’s Over and Soul Kitchen yet he fails and they are just kind of bland, simply put. Overall, the instrumentation is a little more reserved and bluesy which ultimately leads to a duller sound though the band members still show glimpses of greatness on certain tracks.
L.A. Woman and Riders on the Storm are the two most epic songs of the album. L.A. Woman starts off with a bass line at first before Mr. Densmore chirps in hitting the high hat. Next the piano starts playing crisp descending melodies. Soon to follow is the guitar mimicking whatever the piano is playing and all of the other instruments blend together very nicely. Before long, the band is jamming a t a comfortable pace, and the vocals start. They seem to be about city life in Los Angeles. The song continues on smoothly through changes in dynamics and structure for another 7 minutes as the song has no verse: chorus: verse pattern. Peppered throughout are euphoric instrumentals from each of the members. This epic concludes with Jim Morrison shouting “L.A. Woman!” at a high energy pace. Probably the most energetic moment on the album. Riders on the Storm serves as the grand finale to the record. It is a more mysterious, jazz influenced number with mostly the piano and drums, the latter of which is one of Mr. Densmore’s finer moments on the CD. The piano weaves in and out which makes the perfect complement for the effect of rain in the background. Whenever I listen to this song, connotations of sailors dressed in yellow coats in a boat in the ocean during a storm come to mind. Adding to the theme are the lyrics.
“Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house were born
Into this house were thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the Storm”
If you are a Doors fan, you may be thinking, “Hmmm, more mature Jim Morrison, new blues style, more grounded musicianship, etc. This must be a good record.” But in all truth, it’s not. Why? The answer lies in the fact that their new style is just plain boring. About two thirds of this CD is throwaway blues. Been Down So Long and Cars Hiss By My Window are prime examples. Both of them have lyrics that just about anyone could’ve thought up off the top of their head along with boring instrumentation that drags on for at least three and a half minutes. Crawling King Snake, an old John Lee Hooker song, falls victim to the same culprits. With its sexist lyrics and plain blandness, it is representative of the downfalls of this album. Producer Paul A. Rothchild dismissed the music on this album as “Lounge jazz,” and quit working with the Door because he couldn’t bear to see them turn so bad. The Changeling, L’america, and Hyacinth house are more of the same thing – sad attempts to bring back what they once had – intensity, energy, and excitement which are what shone through in their earlier releases. Though this may seem a little harsh, it’s true. While it would be inexcusable not to mention the good material – the catchy choruses in Love Her Madly(You’ve probably all heard the familiar chorus, “Don’t You Love Her as she’s walking out the door. / Like she has one thousand times before.”), the lyrical strength of The Wasp, the mediocre outweighs the good. It just seems that The Doors had lost the uniqueness that they used to be distinguished by. For fare-weather fans of the group, you should probably stay away from this and buy one of their earlier records if not something else. All in all, my opinion on this album is that the amount of filler can’t justify me to give it a higher rating than 2.5/5.