First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Fri August 17, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
On Morrison Hotel, The Doors had taken a few steps toward righting its ship, but rather than dealing with the problems that had plagued every outing since Strange Days — a lack of material, a general sense of disinterest and weariness, and, of course, Jim Morrison’s incessant drinking — the band simply had learned how to work around them. Not surprisingly, most of the skeletons once again came prancing out of the closet during the initial sessions to L.A. Woman, which, in turn, caused longtime producer Paul Rothchild to throw his hands in the air and walk away from the project. This, however, was precisely the swift kick in the ass that the group needed to survive.
Left on its own and with little to lose, The Doors, along with engineer Bruce Botnick, retreated to its rehearsal space, where, with Elektra’s blessing, it turned its familiar hangout into a makeshift recording studio. The relaxed and comforting environment had the effect of calming the group’s nerves. At the same time, the loss of Rothchild forced The Doors to confront its many issues. Most important of all, it gave the ensemble a reason to come together: It had to prove Rothchild was wrong about its future.
Shedding the tentativeness of Morrison Hotel but building upon its blues-oriented structures, L.A. Woman became one of The Doors’ more focused and inspired endeavors, and it fulfilled the need for escape and rebirth that permeated its lyrics. From the James Brown-style funk of The Changeling to the snarling cover of John Lee Hooker’s Crawling King Snake to the tired resignation of Cars Hiss by My Window, the music flowed as naturally as it ever had for the band. Robby Krieger was liberated by the presence of second guitarist Marc Benno, and the exemplary contributions that he made to the set were as imaginative as they were variegated. Likewise, Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore fully rediscovered their method of unspoken communication, and with their confidence reinstated, they provided sturdy support to Morrison’s ominously edgy rockers as well as his haunted laments.
The Doors had approached the recording sessions for Waiting for the Sun, The Soft Parade, and Morrison Hotel by trying to recapture the success of its initial sojourns. "Money beats soul every time," Morrison had chanted during each iteration of Roadhouse Blues, as if to drive home this point. For L.A. Woman, The Doors’ easy-going attitude, by contrast, allowed the magic simply to happen. For certain, the group’s maturation hadn’t come easily, but throughout the endeavor, the band sounded as if it finally had made peace with itself. Tunes like the heady rock of the title track and the hypnotically eerie Riders on the Storm easily rivaled the best moments of the collective’s career. Although the ensemble had no idea that the outing would be its swan song, L.A. Woman proved to be a fitting epitaph that allowed The Doors to go out on top. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box