Vinyl Corner : The Doors ‘L.A. Woman’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as a brief overview of the music itself. Today we’re giving the low down on the best album by one of the most iconic rock bands ever – The Doors’ ‘L.A. Woman’.

The Music:

A gnarled blues rock masterwork, ‘L.A. Woman’ is the most focused, satisfying and powerful album ever made by The Doors. Released in 1971, the record would prove to be Jim Morrison’s swansong. It’s perhaps fitting that the album would prove to be the group’s last – no, we’re not counting ‘Full Circle’ or ‘Other Voices’ – as it was ‘L.A. Woman’ that took The Doors back to their roots. Although their debut album was a milestone of psychedelia, it was the blues that originally brought the band together.

By cutting away the excess that had grown around some of the previous Doors records, the band were able to create the most complete record of their career. With the surging guts of the title track and the eerie power of ‘Riders On The Storm’, it’s not hard to see why Jim Morrison felt he was rock’s answer to an ascended shaman. If only one album by the band were to be called essential, this is it.

The Pressing:

Both sonically and in terms of pressing quality, this is an outstanding issue. Utilising the album’s original stereo mix, this reissue remains true to the band’s original vision and sounds excellent. The fact that the album was cut by Bernie Grundman should be enough to suggest that this reissue wasn’t rushed, but playback speaks for itself. Volume is just right – loud enough that it sounds good at low volume but never overloud and the original mix remains as powerful as ever; a visceral reminder that remixes are not always needed or wanted.

Pressed by America’s reliable RTI, it’s a quality slab of wax with a very low noise level – so low, in fact, that’s it’s barely audible even between songs unless played on headphones or at considerable volume. The album’s sonics are immediate and compelling throughout, with certain instruments really shining here; the bass on ‘Hyacinth House’ sounds fantastic and small touches – like the subtle reverb on Jim Morrison’s vocals on ‘The WASP’ – jump out on this version in a way that they simply don’t on lesser pressings.

The Packaging:

Full marks for the sleeve and general presentation on this release. The original US release of ‘L.A. Woman’ featured an unusual die cut sleeve with rounded corners and a large window overlayed with see-through plastic, the album’s inner sleeve providing the yellow backing to the famous cover image. While relatively few modern reissues would go so far as to accurately reproduce such an intricate design, Rhino have gone the extra mile here and presented the sleeve in very faithful form. They’ve actually got it right, too – while some ‘replica’ sleeves try but fail to facsimile the quirks of an original pressing, they’ve reproduced the original sleeve with impressive accuracy and it looks great. Labels, too, bear the same art as the original and again look really good.

Final Thoughts:

While those seeking the final word when it comes to ‘L.A. Woman’ would likely be best served either hunting down an immaculate first pressing (no mean feat) or the 2012 Analogue Productions 45rpm edition, both come with a much heftier price tag than this, actually very fairly priced, 2009 Rhino issue. Even for those with high quality setups, this is a pressing to be very happy with. It’s an authentically reproduced take on the original issue and the accuracy with which Rhino have recreated the original pressing both sonically and aesthetically should be commended. A great version of a classic album and highly recommended.