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The Doors: L. A. Woman: Fiftieth Anniversary Deluxe Edition

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The Doors: L. A. Woman: Fiftieth Anniversary Deluxe Edition
The 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Doors' L.A. Woman is the fifth such package issued of the iconic band's catalog (the sole exception to the CD-plus-vinyl LP configuration is the corresponding anniversary edition of Strange Days (Elektra, 1967). And, like its predecessors, as well as other titles such as the audio and video configurations of The Doors: Live At The Bowl '68 (Rhino, 2012), the package benefits tremendously from the insightful recollections and technical wizardry of the group's long-time engineer, Bruck Botnick.

With no undue polish applied to the audio mix, the sound of the remastered original album is rightfully the most tangible virtue of his participation. Minimal overdubbing on the ten tracks maintains the spontaneity of the moment(s) both the band and Botnick envisioned when planning their co-production collaboration in the wake of the departure of long-time producer Paul A. Rothchild.

Yet reading about these six days of recording sessions may prove to be as gripping as hearing the end result or the work-in-progress. Though David Fricke's command of facts remains in place, the author is curiously detached from the object of his passion in his essay. But even if that were not the case, Botnick's own piece would be equal parts eye-opening and thought-provoking: he keeps tech minutiae to the minimum in favor of regaling the reader with a virtual account of the ambiance within the makeshift studio constructed in the Doors' office building after departure from the original location at Sunset Sound.

Photographer Wendell Hamick's various shots around the tiny space corroborate the impression(s) left in the engineer's writing. An easygoing, intimate camaraderie nurtured the efficient productivity in which these participants engaged. It's testament to the vivid nature of nearly two additional hours of (mostly) unreleased music here that it does not suffer in comparison to the indelible effects of the text and images that accompany it: the internal mechanics of The Doors, far greater than the sum of its parts, clearly illuminate how the enlistment of guitarist Mark Benno and bassist Jerry Scheff (then a member of Elvis Presley's band) maximized the informal atmosphere of the space.

United with the Doors' instrumental core of guitarist Robbie Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore, these two musicians, plus vocalist Jim Morrison, become a genuine ensemble, the whole far greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, the demos illustrate the fluid chemistry of the band: an acoustic guitar. vocal and makeshift percussion take of "Hyacinth House" wobbles slightly but never truly falters. And while the early rendition of "Riders on the Storm" (from the original recording location of Sunset Sound) is perfectly fine, it's also perfectly conventional, a marked contrast to virtually every take on CD two radiating at least some measure of the ghostly atmosphere of the final version. Likewise, as with three parts of this titlesong, successive takes of "The Changeling" evince the increasing focus (and abiding relish) of the quartet, while, for all its ostensible pop confines,"Love Her Madly" allows for more than a little improvisational potential.

No question it takes some curiosity and no little patience for a listener to process this content, but it's worth it to hear the music crystallize. The confidence and authority of the band grows as it draws ever closer to their target ideals, and not surprisingly, there are precious few digressions from the Doors material in progress. When deviations do occur, such selections invariably take the forms of blues ("Rock Me Baby") and variations thereof (New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman") and they are of a piece with an original titled "Cars Hiss By My Window."

Frontman lead singer and songwriter Morrison's role here isn't so much diminished as placed in the proper context of the band here. After some years of miscasting as the group's figurehead, Morrison lost his illusions about such a role in the wake of the famous Miami incident of 1969. As a result, his devotion to performance again becomes an invaluable component of the Doors' sound. "Been Down So Long" may have been deliberate overstatement on Morrison's part but, considering his personal travails at the time, perhaps not.

There's no mistaking, however, the tongue-in-cheek irony in "Crawling King Snake" or the more forthright self-reference in "The Changeling." It's clear how comfortable Morrison was with his band mates, and vice versa: they accepted his ambitions as a poet, limited though they might have been, on tunes like "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)," even as he, in turn, refused the temptation to overshoot his own linguistic abilities for the likes of "L'America."

All the Doors anniversary reissues have been revelatory to a greater or lesser degree and this one devoted to L.A. Woman rivals the corresponding pinnacle that is the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the group's third opus Waiting For The Sun (Rhino, 2018). That set was enhanced by its rare live inclusions, the likes of which are absent here, but the comparable plethora of outtakes renders this final output of the original lineup a vivid document of organic creativity. Such compelling instances of inspiration earmark the peaks of the Doors discography, rarities in and of themselves within contemporary rock history.

Track Listing

TRACKS: CD 1: Original Stereo Mix Remastered - The Changeling; Love Her Madly; Been Down So Long; Cars Hiss By My Window; L.A. Woman; L’America; Hyacinth House; Crawling King Snake; The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat); Riders On The Storm; Hyacinth House; Riders On The Storm. CD 2: L.A. Woman Sessions, Part 1; The Changeling; Love Her Madly; Riders On The Storm; L.A. Woman” (Part 1). CD 3: L.A. Woman Sessions, Part 2 - L.A. Woman” (Part 2); She Smells So Nice”; Rock Me Baby; Mr. Mojo Risin’; Baby Please Don’t Go; L.A. Woman” (Part 3); Been Down So Long;Get Out Of My Life Woman; Crawling King Snake; The Bastard Son Of Jimmy & Mama Reed (Cars Hiss By My Window); Been Down So Long; “Mystery Train; The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat). LP: Side One: The Changeling; Love Her Madly; Been Down So Long; Cars Hiss By My Window; L.A. Woman. Side Two: L’America; Hyacinth House; Crawling King Snake; The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat); Riders On The Storm.

Personnel

Jim Morrison: voice / vocals; Robbie Krieger: guitar; Ray Manzarek: keyboards; John Densmore: drums; Marc Benno: guitar, electric; Jerry Scheff: bass; The Doors: band/orchestra.

Additional Instrumentation

Jim Morrison: maracas, tambourine; Robby Krieger: guitar; Ray Manzarek: rhythm guitar; Marc Benno: rhythm guitar; Jerry Scheff: bass; John Densmore: drums;

Album information

Title: L. A. Woman: Fiftieth Anniversary Deluxe Edition | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Rhino

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