Tuesday, April 06, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘L.A. Woman,’ The Doors (1971)

The Doors’ final record is a mixed bag. Overall, it’s a very bluesy affair, with a dirtier sound than the band’s most famous songs. Jim Morrison is refreshingly un-JIM MORRISON here, shedding much of the bombast that infiltrated some previous efforts. Instead, the iconic frontman growls and howls his way through most of these tracks.

“The Changeling” is a great stomping number that sets the lowdown feel of “L.A. Woman” immediately and effectively. It’s followed by the unmistakable bounce of “Love Her Madly,” and two prototypical blues numbers, “Been Down So Long” and “Cars Hiss By My Window.”

The title track anchors the disc and finds the group pivoting back toward their more familiar sound to fantastic effect. Unlike many bands I’ve reviewed thus far in this little experiment, The Doors knew how to write long songs and keep you involved all the way through. Over the course of nearly eight minutes, “L.A. Woman” continues to add layer upon layer of sound and instrumentation as it makes dramatic twists and turns while maintaining a common general theme. It’s not until the five-minute mark Morrison starts his “Mr. Mojo risin’” refrain, and he and the band slowly crescendo into the “city of night” climax in the final minute. Wonderful stuff.

The last great track on “L.A. Woman” also is the last on the disc: “Riders on the Storm” is as “Doors” as the Doors get on “L.A. Woman,” and seeing as this would be the last piece of recorded music people would hear from the original band (Morrison died a few months after the album’s release), it’s a fitting way to go out, even if it is a bit over-dramatic.

The downside to this album is the four songs between the title track and “Riders”—there isn’t a breakout cut in the group. “Hyacinth House” has a nice Zeppelin-esque riff (think “Thank You” or “Tangerine”), but “The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” is Morrison at his worst. Overall, though, positives well outweigh the negatives on the swan song for one of rock's indelible groups.

Grade: B+

Favorite Track: “L.A. Woman”

Least Favorite Track: “The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”

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