The Doors – L.A. Woman: 40th Anniversary Edition (1971; 2012 reissue)

If people thought the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were radical, they were probably stunned to the core by the Doors.

Although the Los Angeles band arrived at a time, in 1966 to be exact, when rock music was rapidly expanding beyond its traditional format, they pushed the envelope to the most shocking heights imaginable.

Cutting a moody figure, lead singer Jim Morrison bellowed, grunted and whispered poetic verse scripted of carnal hunger, the seedy side of life and death. The sound of the Doors, revolving around a gripping grab bag of blues, classical music, jazz and straight on rock and roll, corresponded perfectly with their darkly shaded lyrics.

For sure, a psychedelic perspective lurked within the grooves, but the band definitely stood apart from their peers, meaning there was little sunshine and flowers to be savored. Nonetheless, a mystical mentality washed over a good deal of their material, making them instant favorites with the burgeoning hippie brigade of the era.

The Doors may have been a freaky lot, but they were not so weird that they lacked commercial appeal. And the proof was in songs such as “Light My Fire,” “Hello I Love You,” “People Are Strange,” “Touch Me,” “Love Her Madly“ and “Riders On The Storm,” which raced to the top of the charts.

Released in April 1971, and set for reissue this week in an expanded 40th anniversary edition, L.A. Woman marked the band’s final album with their charismatically controversial front man, who was found dead in Paris just a few short months later. A bittersweet affair it was, for the record staged something of a comeback for the Doors. The band’s last couple of discs were not that well received and in certain circles they were considered done and finished. It didn’t help matters any that Jim Morrison battled a serious drinking problem and could be quite a public nuisance.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The new rockumentary "Mr. Mojo Risin'" takes you inside the creation of "L.A. Woman," unearthing some juicy new tidbits behind the making of the Doors' sixth studio album.]

Flourishing with power and excitement, L.A. Woman is a gold-plated collection of hard-rocking, blues-battered tunes. The Doors are at their absolute best here, and if this was the only album they had ever waxed they would still be fondly remembered and revered today.

A bout of swinging keyboard thrills, reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis, add a bit of an old school rock and roll feel to the frenzied “Love Her Madly,” where the bold and brawny “The Changeling” reels and roars with demanding rhythms. Charged with a sleepy, creepy air, “Riders On The Storm” drips with loneliness and despair, “Been Down So Long” explodes with hair-raising riffs and “Cars Hiss By My Window” slithers and slinks to a brooding beat.

The title track of the record pulsates with precision, tempered by a shot of jazzy drumming before resuming an insanely rocking stance and going right off the rails. Spurred by spooky chords and military styled drum patterns, “L’America” curiously combines haunting tones with a carnival-infested atmosphere.

Admired for their revolutionary outlook, the Doors remain a highly important and influential band. Having already floored the masses with their experimental excursions, the band largely returned to their roots on L.A. Woman a no-frills blues rock platter where every single song is a showstopper.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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