L.A. Woman was The Doors sixth studio album and their final album with Jim Morrison. Released in 1971, L.A. Woman is very much a back to basics/return to roots album, a road that many bands were going down during the years 1969 to 1972 almost as a response to the somewhat out of control nature of 60s psychedelic music, not to mention an opportunity to revisit past influences. Although the bands brand of psychedelic rock which they had become notable for remains across this album, the music on here takes in other styles as well ranging from funk on “The Changeling” to blues rock on tracks such as “Been Down So Long” and the slithery hypnotic “Crawling King Snake”.
L.A. Woman for me captures the band at their musical best and contains many of their greatest songs. Fans and critics alike respond glowingly to the material on their debut album and so they should with tracks such as “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through”, but some of the tracks on L.A. Woman are right up there with those songs and others in the bands catalogue. Just some of the tracks that standout on this album include the psychedelic dance of “Love Her Madly”, the moody jazz like psychedelia of “Riders On The Storm” a magnum opus like moment if ever there was one, and the raunchy driving rock of title track “L.A. Woman” where Morrison croons about the city he loves. Even Morrison’s spoken word poetry gets an airing on “The WASP”, an amazing psychedelic stomp that combines the sounds of bluesy organ and marching drums with Morrison’s take on 1950s Mexican border blaster radio stations; an experimental piece for them, but a good one at that.
L.A. Woman does a fantastic job in showcasing the quintessential Doors sound and provides a snapshot of all the key elements of what makes a Doors album. There’s the masterful playing of Ray Manzarek (R.I.P) whose keyboard playing is the centre of the band’s sound and is what gives the songs that classic eerie psychedelic feeling that often has the effect of taking you the listener to another place and the songs to another dimension. There’s also Robbie Krieger’s guitar playing a style almost Spanish like in parts with his carefully crafted solos and subtle rhythm playing, he is a man who plays for the song not himself and boy does it sound good.
And then of course there is Morrison, by this stage a troubled soul battling with addiction although you wouldn’t know on listening as he croons, speaks, and swaggers his way through the album. His vocal style of Sinatra meets Elvis meets Delta blues man lends itself so well to The Doors style of psychedelic rock, not to mention his own diverse lyrical influence on the songs, lyrics that include themes ranging from king snakes to Greek gods. If there is any album that best exemplifies why Morrison was one of the greatest singers in rock it surely is this one. The unfortunate sub-context to this albums release was the fact that Morrison would die roughly three months after the album’s release in July 1971. Had he lived the future of the band was have also been possibly up in the air as they had cancelled the tour in support of the album after only two dates when Morrison suffered a breakdown on stage, while by the time of the album’s release Morrison had left America for France, seemingly for good.
For me L.A. Woman is along with their self titled debut The Doors best album, it best represents the band’s sound, while it is also consistent throughout in terms of the songs on display. It showcases all of the bands styles from jazz to blues to psychedelia and probably most notably marks the final point in Jim Morrison’s musical journey with the band and his final musical statement. A must have album for any Doors fan and anybody into psychedelic rock of the late-60s period.