REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/30/2004
Although the Doors had briefly flirted with blues sounds in their past, nothing prepared listeners for L.A. Woman, the final album Jim Morrison recorded with the group.
Far and away the Doors' best release, this one has a world-weary spirit that leaves behind the psychedelic flourishes, inane lyrics and drug-addled musings that cluttered previous albums. In its place are straight-up blues songs and inspired rock epics; together, they are some of the best songs of the entire Doors canon.
At nearly 50 minutes, the 10 songs have an air of despair; nothing is really happy except for the bouncy "Love Her Madly," as efficient a hit single as any in 1971, but with muscle. "L.A. Woman" sounds great in the car, a nine-minute piece that has aged well, driven by an electric piano, some tasteful guitar fills and some of John Densmore's best drumming yet.
The blues numbers take up half the space and tend to drag after a bit; "The Changeling" is by far the best, with a chugging rhythm and a growled lyric sounding nothing like the Morrison of old. "Been Down So Long" is another solid tune, better than the take on "Crawling King Snake" or "Cars Hiss By My Window."
The second side winds through the trippy "L'America," the only real callback to the Doors of Strange Days; it has a weird charm that grows after a while. "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)", unwieldy title aside, features a great bluesy beat and riff, though Morrison's speaking part detracts slightly from the overall enjoyment. "Hyacinth House" is the Doors on autopilot, nothing more.
But that is all forgiven by the closing "Riders on the Storm" the best Doors song of all time. Jerry Scheff's up-and-down hypnotic bass riff and the sound of a rainstorm transport the listener to the side of the road, where Morrison narrates his musings. Ray Manzarek's electric piano solo is his most elegant and understated, serving to break up the verses. The song ends the album - and the band's career with Morrison - on an ultimate high.This is not the Doors as we generally remember them; it's the only time they consistently staked out a claim as a great rock band with blues influences, and it remains a compelling, if difficult, listen.
|Reviewer fails to acknowledge the brilliance of "The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat"--what great images from Jim and swooshing musical work from the group. Also, the 2d sentence of the 3d paragraph is very hurting.|
|I have amended my review to include that song, which has grown on me over the years, as well as take out some of the awkward language present in the original.|