Review Summary: One of the truly rare occasions in which a band has ended with its best album.
By 1971, The Doors has remained relevant in the music world having released the excellent Morrison Hotel album the year prior, but with the numerous antics of front-man Jim Morrison, the band, Morrison in particular, drew a large amount of controversy from the press and inner turmoil was creating increased distance between Morrison and his bandmates. When L.A Woman was being recorded, the band seemed to have worked well together under the circumstances at the times, although Morrison continued to drink and smoke heavily. When L.A. Woman was released on April 19th, 1971, critics praised the album as being one of the most mature and well-crafted albums by The Doors to date. The viewpoints of many critics are very hard to disagree with as L.A. Woman is by far the finest record that the Doors had released and the perfect album to end a legacy with.
From the opening track to the final masterpiece, L.A. Woman is an album that only slightly loses momentum on some songs. To start off with the negative aspects of the album, the track "Cars Hiss By My Window" is the worst song on the album. While it is not an awful track, the song does not deliver in keeping the pace and momentum of the album steady and its droning duration is forgettable at best. Another track that can be considered weak on this album is "Crawling King Snake", which is a cover of a John Lee Hooker song. The track shows Morrison's interest in blues-based bands prior to The Doors, and while the song is better than the aforementioned "Cars Hiss By My Window", it just doesn't fit well on the album and the inspired vocal performance of Jim Morrison saves this song from complete mediocrity. Although there are two weak tracks on L.A Woman, the album's greatness remains unscathed by the two duds as the eight other tracks do more than enough to craft a masterpiece of musical genius.
The opening track, "The Changeling", is an energetic opener that is known to be one of the finest cuts from the album. While there are better tracks within L.A. Woman, "The Changeling" is a quality opener that is arguably the most lively song on an otherwise slow, moody album. The third track, "Been Down So Long" is a solid track that is probably the most blue-sounding song on the entire album. The instruments are solid all throughout the track and Jim Morrison adds more power in his vocal delivery for the song. Other tracks, such as "L'America" and "Hyacinth House" are much different than the rest of the material found on L.A. Woman and are a breath of fresh air of sorts that save the album from sounding fairly monotonic for its duration. Particularly, "L'America" is an enjoyable song that contains the psychedelic roots of The Doors in contrast to the majority of the blues-based songs on the album and is an underrated track in general. Of all of the songs on L.A.Woman, the song that has left the most lasting impression on me is "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" which I believe to be the best song on the album. Unfortunately, while it may be on numerous greatest hits albums for The Doors, the song nonetheless remains rarely brought up in the discussion of the greatest songs by The Doors. Personally, I believe that "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" is the best song by The Doors, with long-lasting lyrics such as "we is stoned immaculate" and "no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn" as well as one of the catchiest choruses by band, it truly is a masterpiece of epic proportions. Nevertheless, the song remains in the shadow of three tracks that are viewed as the true masterpieces on the album by the general public.
The three songs noted as classics from L.A. Woman are "Love Her Madly", the title track, and the album closer, "Riders on the Storm". While "Love Her Madly" is a great track, former Doors producer, Paul A. Rothchild, dismissed the song as "cocktail music" and left the production of the album. "Lover Her Madly" is the one track in which keyboardist, Ray Manzarek truly shines as his position in being one of the greatest keyboard players in the history of music. It also doesn't hurt that the song is very catchy. The title track was the first song by The Doors that I ever heard and I count it among the band's best work. From its opening verses to the fast-paced conclusion, it truly is a classic track that has rightfully earned its playtime on classic rock radio stations many years later. The closing masterpiece, "Riders on the Storm", is a slow song that is lyrically powerful and serves as the perfect conclusion to The Doors as a band and the swansong of Jim Morrison.
In conclusion, L.A. Woman is the perfect way that The Doors could have ended their legacy, yet the remaining band members released two albums after the death of Jim Morrison later in 1971. While there may have been two albums released after it, as well as a Jim Morrison poetry album, many fans view L.A. Woman as the definitive end to The Doors as a band and I agree with this sentiment. L.A. Woman is a true spectacle all throughout and with the most raw sounding vocals that Jim Morrison ever put to record, in addition to the superb drumming of John Densmore, the dominant keyboard playing by Ray Manzarek, and the solid guitar playing by Robby Krieger, it remains a fan-favorite album by The Doors. While Jim Morrison may have moved to Paris before the album was officially released and it seemed apparent that The Doors may not have made another album with Morrison, regardless of his death or not, it truly is interesting to think of what The Doors could have accomplished if the four original members were to make more albums throughout the 70's. L.A. Woman may have just been a foreshadowing for what was to come, but unfortunately tragedy befell Jim Morrison, who died three months after the release of the album of apparent heart failure. If you want to listen to the other albums without Morrison that were released after L.A. Woman, I will not stop you, but if you want to listen to what is viewed as the true end of The Doors and their best album, I recommend listening as far up as L.A. Woman, which is possibly the greatest final album to be released by a band and one of the only times that a band has ever ended on top of its game.