I thinks it’s safe to say anytime a conversation arises concerning epic pop and rock bands of the 1960’s, The Doors are sure to come up at some point. Granted, the five multi-platinum records The Doors had were nowhere near the twenty-four Beatles multi-platinum records. Looking further into record sales, The Doors paled in comparison to such greats as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and sadly, Neil Diamond. Nevertheless, none of that has any significance to the loyal Doors fan, and considering what was going down in the late 1960’s, the group definitely deserves a well-respected nod for their accomplishments.
Now, to be fair, I grew up in the early 1980’s: a time when MTV truly played music videos, and men tried to look like chicks (and actually succeeded at doing so). Spandex, long hair, and a can of Aqua Net was all any hard-rock band needed to be famous. The direction of rock certainly became more of a fashion show, with some talented musicians, but it soon became heartless and mundane. I can say The Doors had a lot of influence during the 1970’s through the 1980’s; they were truly in a league of their own. Seriously, nobody sang like Jim Morrison with his unique, strange, monotone and baritone voice, unlike anything in the early days of rock. I can’t say, however, that I was a huge fan of his vocals, as I admired singers with far more dynamics, but I’ll give the guy credit for his poetic way of writing lyrics.
Later, in the 1990’s, the Seattle Grunge scene came into play. Suddenly, singers had this baritone vibrato in their voice, much like what Jim Morrison was doing two decades earlier. Musicians in many circles would refer to a Grunge vocalist as a “goat singer,” or in other circles a “heroine singer,” since heroine was, in a way, connected to the Seattle Grunge scene by default. The Grunge era itself was about how long you could go without taking a bath; at least it looked that way. It was pretty much the angry, rebellious teen with no direction; just like every generation before it. Nonetheless, even the heart of the music became more sullen, serious, and latched onto the poetic darkness in life. Again, we heard many of the same themes and platforms The Doors had already done: “Riders on the Storm,” “The End,” “The Unknown Soldier,” and “People Are Strange,” just to name a few.
“L.A. Woman” was the last album “The Doors” recorded before the early passing of a young twenty-seven-year-old Jim Morrison, and on this new Blu-ray, “Mr. Mojo Risin: The Story of L.A. Woman,” we are treated to the making of each song on the album. The documentary is told through the remaining band members: Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore. There is also an interesting commentary from their co-producer and engineer, Bruce Botnick, and even more contributions from the founder of Elektra Records, Jac Holzman. Altogether, it makes for some interesting information but doesn’t really tell you any more than what you might have learned from Oliver Stone’s film, “The Doors.” Eventually, Jim Morrison blows it on stage in Florida with his exotic escapades that would make today’s conservatives cringe in disapproval. Well, let’s just say there’s a time and place for oral sex, and on a live stage in front of thousands of people is not one of them.
The one thing that was special about “L.A. Woman” was that it was the first album the band, and Bruce Botnick, solely produced. Therefore, they were allotted more freedom to expand and experiment; never mind that most music in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was experimental. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the more experimental material on the album, but I did enjoy the hits the record produced: “L.A. Woman,” “Love Her Madly,” and my very favorite Doors song, “Riders on the Storm.” The making of the album had its challenges, and it is quite interesting to listen to how Botnick engineered the tracks. One of my favorite parts of the documentary was listening to Botnick separate the tracks so you could hear what each instrument was doing. The stories of drugs, women, and Morrison’s destructive behavior were to be expected and don’t really add any surprises to the narrative. Nevertheless, I found the documentary and commentary about making the actual music insightful, especially seeing what recording was like in the early days of making records.
During the halfway point of making the album, Jim Morrison decided to escape to France where he would eventually meet his demise with the angel of death. Since he recorded all his vocal tracks for the record, the rest of the band members were able to finish the album without him. Sadly, when Jim left, it was the last time his friends saw him before his abrupt death in Paris, France in 1971. The news sent shock waves through rock radio and devastated his many admirers. Nonetheless, he left his mark in music history and has, in some poetic means, influenced every Seattle Grunge band that followed twenty-years later. Now, you might ask, am I saying there was plagiarism on the Grunge scene? Why yes, yes I am!
After Morrison’s death, the band simply ended their mark on rock history. It never seemed appropriate to replace Jim Morrison, and being that Jim was quite a poetic original, it never made any sense to do so. In my opinion, and probably the opinion of many music critics before me, Jim Morrison WAS The Doors. Granted, the other members were talented musicians, but they were simply overshadowed by the presence and persona of their lead singer. Together, they may have been a great band, but without Morrison, the journey seemed too pointless to continue.
With a running time of 103 minutes, the video is presented in 1080i, high-definition widescreen at a 1.78:1 ratio. As you can imagine, the video commentary parts are pristine and vivid; however, the restoration of old footage from the late 1960’s is just that, old, muddy footage from the late 1960’s. From a fan’s perspective, none of the grainy old footage will be a bother, and it’s all just icing on the cake. If you’re a Blu-ray collector who’s looking for a finely detailed picture…well, anytime a friend or band member is interviewed, the picture looks great.
The audio is presented in your choices of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM stereo. Since most of the music is delivered in bits and pieces of each song, you never quite get the satisfaction you’re listening for. It’s very average audio with very few bells and whistles when it comes to surrounding dynamics. Just as you begin to hear a song; it is shortly followed by someone giving narration. So, from a documentary perspective, the audio offers nothing to jump up and down on a couch about, but not much to complain about, either.
There are a couple of supplementary features that come packed on this Blu-ray. There is an additional thirty-five minutes of footage not seen on television; much of it includes band members discussing further various songs and playing live. The other extra is an unreleased track called “She Smells So Nice,” which is done to a nicely created picture montage.
Thinking back to my youth, The Doors were either loved or hated among my group of friends and musicians, and I can’t say I was ever a fan. However, as I’ve aged like a fine cheddar over the years, I’ve found I do appreciate a majority of their hit songs. In fact, “The Story of L.A. Woman” did entice me to purchase a CD of “The Essential Doors Hits,” which would have been a painful stretch for me twenty-years ago. Regardless of what I think, there is no doubt this documentary will bring a few hours of pure entertainment to the most ardent Doors fan, or it will at least help one find their mojo.