By Mike Jahn
The Doors have a new album out called “L.A. Woman”, and it is a continuation of their tend back to the hard rock of their birth.
“L.A. Woman” [Elektra] is nearly all blues. The first album the Doors produced themselves; it is stark, bare and simple; it is more driving and rocking than ever their last record, “Morrison Hotel,” which was considered a step from mysticism back to rock and roll.
When the Doors first appeared, in early 1967, their motif was hard rock with weird [later called “Poetic”] lyrics. You never could tell quite what lead singer and lyricist Jim Morrison had in mind when he wrote the words, but the music generally was hard and exciting.
Later, as Morrison’s fame as a songwriter increased, the lyrics superceded the music and things slowed down a little. Now the trend seems to be reversing, and although one still can wonder just what is happening in Morrison’s head, the music again is dominant.
“L.A. Woman” is a good LP, best when played loud. The Doors use a rhythm guitar on it, played by Marc Benno, roommate and former partner of Leon Russell when the two of them formed the Asylum Choir, precursor to Russell’s current efforts. Jerry Scheff plays bass – rather well.
A Doors devotee will find the record more solid musically, and by solid I mean hard, thick, dense, not “substantial.” All Doors’ products are “substantial.” This one lies on more earthly terrain than the others, that’s all.
The one problem is Morrison’s voice. He’s quite exquisite as a crooner of weird songs, as a creator of particularly frightening kind of mysticism. He’s less convincing as a blues singer; in fact, he’s hardly convincing at all. At times he tries too hard and is making himself hoarse. At other times he doesn’t try at all, but sort of reads along with the music, which is hardly the right approach in blues.
His voice is just too soft for blues, at least for blues as represented on “L.A. Woman.” Additionally, when Paul Rothchild produced the Doors, Morrison seemed to be singing with a good deal of echo on his voice, most of which now appears to have been removed. He sounds distant, flat and detached under the Doors’ own production.
Still, this is a fine LP, one of the Doors’ better efforts. Blues, of all things, for the Doors. But now and then Morrison manages to insert his own personality [“there’s a killer on the highway”] and poetics. “the WASP [Texas Radio and the Big Beat]” is a sort of poem, and “Riders on the Storm” is more of a middle period Doors song, not blues.
Other new albums
“MUD SLIDE SLIM AND THE BLUE HORIZON,”
James Taylor [Warner Brothers]: Once you’ve seen fire and you’ve seen rain, how much of a surprise will it be the second time around?
When James Taylor first “burst upon the scene” [as they say in the newsmagazines] with “Sweet Baby James,” he was rather different from all that surrounded him. But now, “Sweet Baby James” and “Fire and Rain” have been recorded by at least 9,000 other artists, and half of the new folkies are James Taylors.
So Taylor’s own new album, “Mud Slide Slim,” is not quite the earth shatterer it was perhaps wrong to expect. With a few exceptions – “Highway Song” and “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up on the Jukebox” – the songs are nice but unexceptional.
Taylor’s voice remains exquisite, capable of such shadings as are seldom seen in folk music. And the entire album has an overwhelming casual, pleasing air. It’s good to listen to in quite moments, over wine and cheese and old Boho things like that, and it makes you feel good. I suppose it’s selfish to ask for anything more.
“VACUUM CLEANER,” Merryweather & Carey [RCA]:
They are a white soul couple who occasionally really lift one off the ground. Their debut album is uneven, the production bogging down in its own complexity now and then. But even with the faults, they’re comparable to Dalaney & Bonnie, and on cuts like Johnny Otis’ “S’ Fine” and Berry Gordy-Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around,” Merryweather & Carey are even somewhat more lively. With proper production, they could be rather incredible.
“LIVE CATFISH FEATURING BOB HODGE,” [Epic]:
Catfish is one of the Detroit “get down” rock and blues bands that don’t fool around for anybody. They have a beer-hall approach to things, which is to say they just bust thru everything in their path.
Hodge is the lead singer, built along the physical lines of Bob Hite of Cannes Heat, and endowed with a sense of righteousness that seems to emerge in all of the group’s songs. Seldom has a band been so convinced of the rightness of what it is doing, which is a heavy kind of rock and blues.
This LP was recorded under good conditions with Hodge at his best. It includes the old rockers “Money” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” as well as the band’s own classic, “300 Pound Fat Mama,” a long track during which Hodge ad libs on such topics as female fashion, wine, the temper of the audience and other situations of interest. This one should be played very loud. Like the Merryweather & Carey LP, it comes alive with volume