The two-disc reissue of The Doors' L.A. Woman (Elektra, 1971), released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original album, documents how this band achieved what The Beatles could not with Let It Be (Apple, 1970). Jim Morrison and company effectively and authentically went back to their musical roots and, in so doing, restored their camaraderie as a band.
It matters little whether disc one or disc two is approached firstthe former contains the now-classic, finished product, the latter outtakes from the sessions, produced by engineer Bruce Botnick when long-time producer Paul Rothschild walked out in frustration at the end of the initial recording. The internal mechanics of The Doors are equally obvious in the digitally remastered sound, which illuminates how the enlistment of additional musicians (guitarist Marc Benno and bassist Jerry Scheff) maximized the spontaneous atmosphere of the recording spacedevised with the help of Botnick at the group's office location.
In The Doors' workshop recordings, there's an easygoing give-and-take amongst the ensemble, instrumentalists and vocalist alike. The catchy singsong quality of tunes like "Love Her Madly" explicate how the band retained its grip on the commercial mainstream, even as it worked its way through a somewhat fallow phase in its career with Waiting for the Sun (Elektra, 1968) and The Soft Parade (Elektra, 1969). Drummer John Densmore, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger were all tasteful musicians who inspired each other to heights beyond their respective levels of competence. Krieger's performance throughout the second disc is particularly noteworthy; each of his solos has its own distinction, and his flamenco training lends inventiveness to his rhythm work.
Jim Morrison's role isn't so much diminished as placed in the proper perspective of The Doors as a four-piece band. Often misperceived as the group's figurehead, Morrison shared a love of the blues with his loyal comrades. This comes through loud and clear on "Cars Hiss by My Window," while "Been Down So Long" is 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)." He, in turn, refused the temptation to overshoot his own poetic abilities.
Jim Morrison had reinvented his role in the band by the time The Doors were recording L.A. Womanjust in time to announce a hiatus from the group after the sessions were complete and post-production was underway. The two actions were probably not coincidental. As this icon of the 1960s finally grasped the limitations of his stature, he turned them into the same strengths that had originally stirred the musicians around him on albums such as Strange Days (Elektra, 1967), the best of The Doors' early work.
CD1: The Changeling; Love Her Madly; Been 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
CD2: The Changeling (Alternate Version); Love Her Madly (Alternate Version); Cars Hiss By My Window (Alternate Version); L.A. Woman (Alternate Version); The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) (Alternate Version); Been Down So Long (Alternate Version); Riders on the Storm (Alternate Version); She Smells So Nice; Rock Me.
Jim Morrison: lead vocals, maracas, tambourine; Robby Krieger: guitar; John Densmore: drums; Ray Manzarek: Hammond C-3 organ (1), tack piano (2, 5), Vox Continental organ (2), rhythm guitar (3), Gibson G-101 organ (6), Wurlitzer electric piano (8), Fender Rhodes electric piano (5, 10, 12); Jerry Scheff: bass; Marc Benno: rhythm guitar (3-5, 8).