The Doors - L.A. Woman - Review
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critics' view

“L.A. Woman” is a true masterpiece; a fierce celebration of the group’s punk-blues sensibilities. Mr Mojo Risin and his boys, bristling with tensions between them, had sparks flying left, right and centre in 1971. For me, they emerged with their greatest set – and that’s no mean feat after the dynamism of their previous output. Following on from last years’ excellent “Morrison Hotel”, the Doors delved even deeper into the blues for this one. The assistance of Lonnie Mack on bass guitar had beefed up the sound on the previous LP, and the group repeated the formula with bassist Jerry Scheff being drafted in this time, on loan from team Elvis. Playing alongside Robby Krieger on second guitar was Marc Benno, who added authentic blues licks on four of the raunchier numbers.

The funky chops of “The Changeling” open up the set, and it’s immediately apparent the group are on their A-game with the sound of now. The joi-de-vivre of the lead-single, “Love Her Madly”, immediately follows, and the feel-good factor rockets. By sheer contrast, the raw-blues gutsiness of “Been Down So Long” snarls aggressively, and we get a glimpse of the angst of the poetic one who has been squaring up to Rock n Roll for 5 years now – “Set Me Free” he wails at the end. Despite his near-future ambitions lying with new European solo adventures, his parting shots on this album were highly potent, artistically and spiritually, belying his “tired” drawl. The Jimmy Reed drag of “Cars Hiss By My Window” is “right-on” as someone shouts in the background, and Jim gets right into the Jimmy spirit by playing a mouth organ without actually using a mouth organ. It sums up the truly brilliant and spontaneous atmosphere that permeates the set. The epic rootsiness of the title-track plays out side 1 and the WOW factor is soaring high.

Opening side 2, the dark-light adventurism of the highly unique “L’America” encapsulates all that is great about the Doors, with the tension-release tricks to the fore; all is not rosy for the Latino immigrants. “The Hyacinth” sounds somewhat sorrowful as Jim again drops “I need a brand new friend, who doesn’t trouble me”. Meanwhile, his bandmates ebb and flow sympathetically with his ruminations, despite being in the verbal firing line. Awkward. “Crawling King Snake”, the album’s sole cover, follows, and the group get down and dirty with authentic roots, as they take re-invent Big Joe Williams’ 1941 song here in the proto-punk era. Taking the baton from there, the added edge from Jerry Scheff’s bass pays big dividends on “The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)”, as the group compete equally with Morrison’s brilliant poetry for a double-whammy attack on the senses. Jeff’s playing is equally prominent on the magnificent album closer, “Riders on the Storm”. For this one, Jim recorded his main vocals and then whispered the lyrics over them to create the echo effect. This proved to be Morrison's last recorded song to be released in his lifetime. The single was released in June of ’71 and entered the Billboard Hot 100 on 3 July 1971, the day that Morrison died.

Spookily, the song, and the album, ends with the storm fading slowly to silence…

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