To the Doors faithful, L.A. Woman was a continuation of the band's peak moments, a picture of the white bread blues the would carry the band through the 70's, with short bursts of jazzy blends and the peaceful, easy feelings that would saturate the scene for the rest of the decade.
Of course, the Doors faithful could also be incredibly wrong, and the mantra "take it easy" could also be seen as "spoiled laziness" among other observers, and The Doors certainly had a track record of taking the path of least resistance.
The reality of L.A. Woman is somewhere in the middle. There are moments of true brilliance, mostly contained within the epic sprawl of "Riders On The Storm" and the title track, both lengthy offerings in the band's penchant for drawn out dramas. The difference being that both of the tracks that ended up closing out sides one and two on the original release sounded nothing like their track record of over-seriousness, where charming film school boys could get away with a few moments of poetry recall and pouty snapshots.
For L.A. Woman, those boys were fat and fuzzy, wallowing in the notion of new directions and the new found grittiness that the Sunset Strip had gone from seedy to scary ("Motel, money, murder, madness").
By the time they called up L.A. notable Bruce Botnick, who took over after original Doors producer stood firm in his belief that "Love Her Madly" was a piece of shit. Botnick simply documents the band, so the hints of new directions and the reliance on the band's continual assertions that they are perfectly capable of playing the blues are found throughout L.A. Woman.
The fact remains that The Doors weren't the best interpreters of the blues, but at least Morrison's transition into middle-age (from a physiological standpoint) makes such blurts like "Well I've been down so goddamn long" sound halfway legitimate.
I say "halfway" because Jimbo is the weakest link throughout L.A. Woman. He farts around the same four or five notes throughout the entire record and his delivery is as lazy as its ever been.
If you get the sense that Morrison wanted to be somewhere else, then you'd be pretty spot on. While the rest of the band were busy plotting their ways to remain relevant in the new decade, Jim was thinking about a new life in Paris, where he would be able to focus on his poetry without the distractions of being in a rock and roll band.
The argument could be made that L.A. Woman is less about being required listening and more about being the last recorded documents of Jim Morrison. As an admitted fan, I can't subsribe to that cynicism because the record also contains some of his best work as a lyricist.
Those aforementioned long players are classic rock radio royalty, but there's a few under appreciated gems like "The Changeling," "Cars Pass By My Window," and "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" finally gets a proper release for its "stoned, immaculate" imagery.
Morrison even works up a bit of mysterious foreshadowing with "Hyacinth House." He revisits a bit of Greek mythology just like he did with "The End," (even quoting from the song itself, at one point) and in the very first line of the track, Jim visualizes his final resting spot ("I see the bathroom is clear") and gives fans a clear link to where he wants to go next.
Unfortunately, that next step would lead him to leaving this world entirely, and it's not exactly clear if The Doors would have continued on with additional success in the 70's had Morrison lived, or if Jim would have found an audience receptive to his poetic proclamations.
What is clear was how L.A. Woman became linked to greatness on the sheer fact that it followed tragedy.
While it is a fine Doors release, it is nowhere near the heights of their debut or even the band's first attempt at defining lazy SoCal blues with Morrison Hotel. It may not have been the album that made Morrison's passing more tragic, it certainly contains enough moments to warrant appropriate mourning-particularly among the remaining band members who were willing to risk tainting their legacy with a pair of records after his departure.