L.A. Woman
(40th Anniversary Edition)
Mr. Mojo Risin':
The Story Of L.A. Woman

The Doors

There's no easy way to make a graceful exit, but somehow the Doors did it with their final album. Released in the spring of 1971, L.A. Woman marked the last time Jim Morrison would set foot in a recording studio to make music with organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Whether the singer ambled on down to the local Parisian record store to pick up a copy over the course of the three months it was out during his lifetime will forever remain shrouded in secrecy and hearsay. But you can bet your sweet Père Lachaise that the Lizard King, wherever he may be, in time or space, body or soul, is marveling at the fanfare 40 years later.

To celebrate this milestone, Rhino has put together a double CD package - the first disc comprises the remastered album in its entirety and the second disc is filled with outtakes and previously unreleased "songs". To complement the set, Eagle Rock Entertainment has Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story Of L.A. Woman, an intriguing, song-by-song (with a full range of sidebars) documentary told through old footage, photos, and interviews with Manzarek, Kreiger, Densmore, Electra Records founder Jac Holzman, manager Bill Siddons, engineer/co-producer Bruce Botnick, DJ Jim Ladd, Rolling Stone contributor David Fricke and other friends and associates.

In the film, available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Krieger describes L.A. Woman as the most fun album he ever made with the Doors. But, as the story goes, producer Paul Rothchild, who had guided the Doors on their previous five albums, was not amused. He had, in fact, lost his passion for the band, announced his resignation and left them to their own devices. He ended up doing them a big favor. The Doors, with engineer and newly appointed co-producer Bruce Botnik, went organic and decided to record in their rehearsal studio, the Doors Workshop. They came up with a batch of songs, applied a bluesier, jazzier approach - and completed L.A Woman in six days.

From the moment "The Changeling" lifts the record off - that skippin ' riff succinctly aligned with Morrison's determination to escape - you feel the immediate energy and vibrancy of the band. With Jerry Scheff, Elvis Presley's bass player, and rhythm guitarist Mark Benno, added to the mix, the overall sound is fuller, punchier and relaxed at the same time. Once Morrison asserts, "See me change," he creates a pattern of a wandering soul ready to move on. He bids goodbye to Los Angeles in the classic title track before floating away into the moonlit desert on "Riders On The Storm." Listening to the thunder and the rain and glancing at Morrison's bearded headshot seemingly detached from the rest of the band on the album cover - it's only too obvious this is the man's final adieu.

And let's not forget the others, without whom the Doors would not have ever opened. In the documentary, Manzarek proudly cops to stealing licks from Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chopin; Densmore speaks glowingly of countering Morrison's words with terse, percussive rhythms and tempos; and Krieger talks about how "Love Her Madly" was inspired by his wife. Their role in shaping the sound and execution of the Doors is undeniable.

The documentary ends as most Doors documentaries do - in Paris where Morrison died on July 3, 1971. In this case, however, it's far more appropriate to the story. Jump to the second CD of the 40th Anniversary edition of L.A. Woman, and you see that Morrison was alive and on the mark months earlier for his last stand as a rock and roll hero. There are alternate versions of every song but three, plus a so-called "new" one called "She Smells So Nice," which amounts to nothing more than an impromptu jam with overly distorted vocals. There's a good reason it and the equally unstructured, but joyfully played "Rock Me" didn't make the original cut.

Aside from some exceptionally raw versions of tunes like "The Changeling," "Cars Hiss By My Window," and "Been Down So Long," the best thing about this disc may be the bits between songs where we hear Morrison, in particular, talking to Botnik and the band. While the players warms up for "Riders On The Storm," the singer sings a little ditty, something about Albuquerque and saddle bags filled with beans and jerky, followed by a slice of "Rawhide," then the title of the song, followed by "Take 9" and "Bwooo…kooow…" or something along the lines of the sound of thunder. "Hey, that's a good idea," Morrison remarks, "thunder." If you know the song, you know the rest, as they say, is rock and roll history.

~ Shawn Perry

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