The Doors usually take between six to eight months to deliver a new album of material to the public. After some long touring and personal issues, it took the band over a year to release their last album in the spring of 1971. Lead vocalist Jim Morrison died that summer in Paris, making this the swan song for the original line-up. Despite the lengthy hiatus, the band still didn’t have a whole lot of songs going into the studio. They were forced to write something on the spot to Jim’s poems and come up with something that resembled a song, a practice they have employed over the last three or four albums. Jim Morrison was a blues singer in his mind, and although The Doors were not a blues band when they started, LA Woman sure sounds like they came around to Jim’s way of thinking, at least for the time being. After Jim’s death, the band went on and recorded two more albums in the early 1970s, with the three remaining members singing to more of a jazz rock genre.
LA Woman opens us with The Changeling; a rocking track that sounds pretty good in the way that it keeps building to a bigger sound. My guess is that Morrison had no idea what the word ‘changeling’ meant, as we can clearly see by his lyrics ♫I’m a changeling, see me change / I’m the air you breathe, the food you eat / friends you greet in the swarming street♫. Robbie Krieger thankfully had written some songs during his time off. Love Her Madly was a top twenty hit for The Doors, which helped the album do well as a result. Love Her Madly has a similar vibe to a song like Touch Me as far as the guitar goes; the band really gel on this song with Ray Manzarek over dubbing an organ over his jangle piano. The band again hired a bass player, this time they used Jerry Scheff, known best as the bassist in Elvis Presley’s band, and Marc Benno for rhythm guitar duties on a number of the bluesier songs. The band wanted more of a live sound and they wished to record it quickly instead of taking months.
Jim’s Been Down So Long is the first of the real bluesy songs. Robbie Krieger plays slide guitar, as well as licks overdubbed that he plays throughout the song. Jim’s lyrics are minimal and repetitive giving off the stench of a throwaway, as he gives no real effort to put any soul into his lyrics as he used to. Cars Hiss By My Window is a bit more digestible, with a nice laid back blues beat, almost quiet. Jim’s vocals definitely sound live here, fulfilling a premeditated requirement for the album. Toward the end of the song Jim fakes a harmonica solo with his mouth only, kinda funny.
The title track LA Woman begins with the slow release of the tremolo bar, making it sound like a motorcycle revving down the highway at full speed. It’s no surprise that they named the album after this song, as it is a true highlight, another huge Doors classic. The song is another blues number, and yet it rocks pretty hard. I love the piano break from Manzarek, which then leads into a total tempo change for the bridge. The song’s lyrics is an ode to Los Angeles, a place Morrison loved, and his lyrics are about driving around and seeing the many sights. It’s the perfect driving song. I’m not sure why Morrison’s vocals sound better than ever, I can’t be sure if it is because of the technique he used of recording all of his vocals in the bathroom for this album, but on every song he sounds great.
Just as LA Woman starts with an ascending note, L’America begins with a descending note courtesy of the tremolo bar. The marching drumbeat and the seemingly random notes on the piano together sounds haunting. The song was originally intended for Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point, but was rejected by the director; this probably makes it one of the first songs recorded for the album. I’m not sure what the lyrics mean, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun. What is L’America, Latin America maybe? ♫You know the rainmain’s coming to town / He’ll change the weather, he’ll change your luck / And then he’ll teach you how to…find yourself♫ The opening guitar riff of Hyacinth House sounds exactly like Black Coffee in Bed by Squeeze doesn’t it? One thing The Doors don’t seem to get credit for is the great backing vocals they sometimes provide behind Jim Morrison. Hyacinth House is a good example for their ability to do so. Ray Manzarek’s organ is phenomenal on this track. Morrison again travels back to his masterpiece from the debut album in these lyrics ♫I need a brand new friend – The End♫, also kind of prophetic once again on his part about his own demise.
The band tried consciously to recapture the magic of their debut on this album, despite the fact that it’s almost all blues. They had a goal of recording the while thing in six days, and here for the first time since their debut they have included a cover song, Crawling King Snake, a blues song that either compliments the rest of the album, or if you’re like me bores you for an additional five minutes. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) owns a bluesy, yet somewhat complicated and jazzy in some parts. Morrison is heard with spoken word in the first two verses. How is Texas Radio originating out of the Virginia swamps? Was this before there were any FCC regulations on how many kilowatts you can broadcast at? Virginia is pretty far from Texas, but in any case, it’s one of the better songs on the album. One more way the band tried to recapture that debut album magic is to include the epic long track at the end of the album, the song that is usually better than the rest of the album’s tracks. They did it easily with Riders on the Storm. With the sound effects of a storm falling in the background to the laid back piano and jazzy drumbeat, it is no wonder that this above all other LA Woman tracks is the most loved. It sounds especially awesome in 5.1 surround. For the choice of stereo or surround for their entire catalog, try and pick up their Perception box set from 2006. They have all of the songs that I’ve listed in my Doors reviews in both stereo and DTS or DD surround, plus some extra video bonuses on every DVD.
The two bonus tracks are just a couple of more blues tracks. The last song is sung by someone other than Jim Morrison, but I’m not sure who it is. LA Woman is finally Jim Morrison’s final vision of The Doors, a gritty blues band with ballsy tunes. Admittedly, Morrison vision was most likely blurred brought on by a perpetual drunken haze, but as long as you have people around him yessing him and obliging him, his blurred vision becomes valid direction. So The Doors may have lost their way in the end, but at least they still made great music whenever they got together. It may only be one or two songs, but at least they still had the chops to create magic.
Length: 58:21 minutes
Released: April 19th, 1971
Rating: 3½ stars
1. The Changeling
2. Love Her Madly
3. Been Down So Long
4. Cars Hiss By My Window
5. L.A. Woman
7. Hyacinth House
8. Crawling King Snake
9. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)
10. Riders on the Storm
11. Orange County Suite (bonus track)
12. (You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further (bonus track)
More Doors from Scapp70
Waiting For the Sun
The Soft Parade
LA Woman (my first review of this album)
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