By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: The Doors – Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman on Blogcritics.
The Doors – Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman is an hour-long documentary about the making of the final studio album by The Doors. After a brief recap of some of the band’s history leading up to the recording of L.A. Woman, the program combines new interviews with the surviving Doors as well as additional key personnel and commentators. These participants include engineer Bruce Botnick, who assumed production duties after original producer Paul Rothschild walked out, The Doors’ manager Bill Siddons, and Elektra records founder Jac Holzman. Rolling Stone critic David Fricke chimes in with reflections on the album, as does famed rock DJ Jim Ladd.
The documentary takes the form, more or less, of the popular Classic Albums series. The L.A. Woman album is placed into the context not only of The Doors career but also the music and pop culture scene at the time of its 1971 release. The very best parts of the piece are when the surviving band members share stories about the recording sessions and creation of the songs. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek comes across, predictably, as a pretentious tool, but his recollections are still interesting. Guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore are much more down to earth in their segments. They speak about the old days with pride, but also a noticeable tinge of bitter regret over the way the band ended, particularly Densmore. Manzarek, on the other hand, seems overly rehearsed. Each band member has been interviewed separately, which each offering solo demonstrations of their parts from various tunes from the album.
Basically each song from the album is discussed one by one, introduced by cool mock billboards “advertising” each track. Strangely, while it plays in the background during an early segment, “L’America” is not discussed. What’s great about these discussions it that they really serve as a reminder of what a great rock record L.A. Woman is, especially if you haven’t heard it in a while. The Doors went out with their best album since their 1967 self-titled debut. There’s so much more to the album than the trio of classic rock staples of the title track, “Riders on the Storm,” and “Love Her Madly.” In fact, the program saves my personal favorite for last, the sad, paranoid “Hyacinth House.” Speaking of sad, the program appropriately closes with the various participants thoughts on the untimely demise of Jim Morrison.
Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman looks and sounds very good on Blu-ray. The 1080i high definition video presentation, framed at 1.78:1, includes a mixture of sources given the documentary nature of the production. Newly taped talking head interviews look sharp. Vintage interviews, such as clips featuring Paul Rothschild, look their age; grainy but clear. Performance and rehearsal footage of varies but nothing looks unacceptable. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio varies as well, depending on when the material was recorded. The main audio attraction is, of course, the music. The studio recordings sound great, with plenty of definition between the instruments. Vintage audio, like the video, is not quite as polished but is more than acceptable given its age. The new interviews sound fine; nothing fancy, but they don’t need to be.
Some 40 minutes of extra material is very welcomed, given the relative brevity of the main feature. Perhaps most highly anticipated (it was the very first thing I accessed upon loading the disc) is the L.A. Woman outtake “She Smells So Nice.” The recently discovered song is a rather lengthy, up-tempo blues workout and is presented her with a slide-show style video. While it’s absolutely nothing noteworthy–and marred by annoying distortion on Morrison’s vocal–it is pretty cool to hear a “new” Doors song. Best among the remaining features are extended interview segments with Manzarek and Densmore (why no extra Krieger, I wonder) and a live performance of “Crawling King Snake.” While not earth-shattering, the extra material adds considerable extra value to the release which Doors fans are likely to appreciate.