L.A. Woman (1971)
L.A. Woman, on one hand, is a continuation of the ethos and sound the Doors had returned to on Morrison Hotel, but it also feels like a final chapter that stands apart from everything that preceded it. It traveled the same raw blues-rock lane as its predecessor, but now the Doors sounded ragged, bleary. It’s one of those early-’70s records that comes off like a beleaguered hangover from the end of the ’60s. At the same time, these are some of the Doors’ most fleshed-out and muscular recordings, partially due to the fact that they worked with a bassist and rhythm guitarist this time around. Though Morrison was more involved and interested in these sessions than he had been on other latter-day albums, this was also close to the time of his death. You can hear his lifestyle in the music here, with his voice sounding like he’d seemingly aged an extra decade as soon as 1971 hit. There’s some inherent Doors quality to the sound of this record that they had flirted with in the past but grow up into in a different way. Maybe it was the chronicles of life in Los Angeles, maybe it was that a blues-rock sound as frayed as it was emphatic, but this is a version of the Doors they in ways always seemed to want to be. Unfortunately, they only found it late in the game, and wouldn’t get the chance to fully explore it. For Morrison in particular, this kind of weathered bluesman poet sound was an interesting look after his ’60s celebrity provocateur bit. Collectively, they seemed inspired by wherever they were at in this moment, resulting in brilliant career peaks like the title track (the primary rival to “Five To One” as their best moment, period), “Love Her Madly,” the gorgeous and haunting “Riders On The Storm.” “Hyacinth House” is secretly one of the Doors’ finest songs, the more straightforward pop song on the record that still fits into the universe of L.A. Woman; the way Morrison delivers the lines “And I’ll say it again/I need a brand new friend” sounds like a man who has seen way too much for his young age. Who knows what could’ve come after. The Doors here sound so quintessentially ’70s, it’s easy to wonder whether that decade would’ve inherently suited them better. Either way, it’s a shame that the story was abruptly cut short only months after L.A. Woman. There had been so many moments in the Doors’ past where Morrison tried to force mythic qualities. Here, they simply were: this is music that sounds born from some desert wasteland deep in the country, on the edge of something or another, wielding some warped shaman vision of America.