The Doors / L.A. Woman – Rhino Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for L.A. Woman

The Rhino pressing we auditioned from the Doors Box Set was surprisingly good. It’s rich and smooth with an extended top end — tonally correct in other words — and there’s lots of bass.

This is all to the good. For the thirty bucks you might pay for it you’re getting a very good record, assuming yours sounds like ours, something we should really not be assuming, but we do it because there is simply no other way to write about records other than to describe the sound of the ones we actually have played.

What it clearly lacks compared to the best originals is, first and foremost, vocal immediacy.

Jim Morrison seems to be singing through a veil, an effect which becomes more and more bothersome over time, as these kinds of frustrating shortcomings have a habit of doing.

A bit blurry, a bit smeary, somewhat lacking in air and space, on the plus side it has good energy and better bass than most of the copies we played. All in all we would probably give it a “B.” You could do a helluva lot worse.

Record Collecting Advice

All the ’70s and ’80s reissues of this album we’ve ever played were just awful, especially those with the date inscribed in the dead wax. For more moderately helpful advice, click here.

Remastering Out Too Much of the Good Stuff

What is lost in the newly remastered recordings so popular with the record collecting public these days ? Lots of things, but the most obvious and irritating is the loss of transparency.

Modern records tend to be small, veiled and recessed, and they rarely image well. But the most important quality they lack is transparency. Almost without exception they are opaque. They resist our efforts to hear into the music.

We don’t like that sound, and we like it less with each passing day, although we certainly used to put up with it back when we were selling what we considered to be the better Heavy Vinyl pressings from the likes of DCC, Speakers Corner, Cisco and even Classic Records.

Now when we play those records they either bore us to tears or frustrate us with their veiled, vague, lifeless, ambience-challenged presentation.

It was sometime in 2007 when we turned a corner. The remastered Blue on Rhino Heavy Vinyl came out and was such a mediocrity that we asked ourselves “Why bother?” That was all she wrote.

We stopped selling those second- and third-rate remasters and dedicated ourselves to finding, cleaning, playing and critically evaluating vintage pressings, regardless of era or genre of music.

The result is a website full of great sounding records that should find special appeal with audiophiles who set high standards, who own good equipment and who have well-developed critical listening skills.

These newer records, with few exceptions, tend to be compressedthickdullopaque, veiled, recessed and lacking in ambience. These are currently the hallmarks of the Heavy Vinyl LP.

Here are some of the Commentaries we’ve written about Heavy Vinyl over the years. Please to enjoy.

A Confession

Even as recently as the early 2000s, we were still impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings we’d auditioned. If we’d never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem impressed by these days.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate and even worse.

Some audiophile records sound so bad, I was pissed off enough to create a special list for them.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers often see things the same way.

The Doors – L.A. Woman

More of The Doors

Commentaries and Reviews of L.A. Woman

  • An L.A. Woman like you’ve never heard, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This early pressing is huge, lively and rich, with in-the-room vocal presence that no Heavy Vinyl pressing can begin to offer
  • Here is the big Bruce Botnick sound we love
  • If all you know are the various Heavy Vinyl versions, this excellent copy will show you just what you’ve been missing
  • 4 1/2 stars:”The seven-minute title track was a car-cruising classic that celebrated both the glamour and seediness of Los Angeles; the other long cut, the brooding, jazzy ‘Riders on the Storm,’ was the group at its most melodic and ominous.”
  • If you’re a Doors fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1971 clearly belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


The Doors – L.A. Woman Is a Disaster on German Heavy Vinyl, Part One

There is [was; it’s out of print now] a German 180 gram pressing of L.A. Woman which [was] so bad, I am calling this commentary The Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing is a sign that, to me at least, The End Is Near, or May Be. If this isn’t a good example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.

[This commentary was written a long time ago and much of our thinking about the recordings of The Doors has evolved since then, having played scores of their records in shootouts and learned something from every one. Click here to read more.]

Dateline: January, 2005

[Note that some of this commentary from the dawn of time (2005 qualifies when it comes to Hot Stampers) falls under the heading of We Was Wrong, especially the part about there not being a good vinyl version of the album. We heard some killer pressings starting around 2011-2012, but boy are they few and far between.]

There is a new 180 gram German pressing of The Doors LA Woman album which is so bad, I am calling this commentary Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing to me is a sign that The End Is Near. There is no hope for audiophiles if they can’t tell a good record from a bad one, and this is clearly a bad one.

When I first played it I thought there must be something wrong with my stereo. There was no deep bass. (This recording has amazing deep bass.) The sound was upper midrangey and distorted. There was no extreme top at all. This surprised me, as I had heard that this was supposed to be a good record. What I heard coming off the copy that I was playing was pure garbage. I was confused. (more…)

The Doors – L.A. Woman on German Heavy Vinyl, Part Two

Part One can be found here.

I have a Super Saver budget reissue domestic pressing of LA Woman. Want to guess what it sounds like? It sounds exactly like this German version. When I described the sound of the German version to Steve, he immediately recognized what I was talking about. There is a tape — they call it “the master tape” — of LA Woman that has exactly the bad qualities I have described above. I’m guessing that my Super Saver copy is a flat transfer of that bad tape. (When budget reissues are mastered, it’s often the case that the transfer is flat or something very close to it, because little time and expense is justified for a cheap reissue.)

Now if the Super Saver is a flat transfer and sounds just like this German pressing, I think we can safely infer that this new 180 gram remastered record is a flat transfer. It’s a flat transfer of a bad tape. Nothing more, nothing less.

And nothing new. There are tons of badly remastered records out there. I’m sure you’ve bought some. I could spend days listing them in the Records We Don’t Sell section. Most of the records found on my competitor’s Web sites could be cut and pasted into that section if I wanted to take the time to do it.

But how is it that such a bad record seems to have met with such favor among audiophiles? I’m frankly at a loss to understand it. I’m sure some of you reading this commentary own the record. Some of you no doubt LIKE the record. So let me think of a few reasons why you might not have noticed how bad sounding a record it is.

Maybe you don’t know how well recorded The Doors are

If you don’t own the DCC pressings, or the MOFI of the first album, how would you ever know? The domestic copies, as well as the German, British and Japanese pressings I’ve heard, are for the most part pathetic. So there’s one possibility: You’ve lowered your standards for what you take to be a mediocre ’60s rock recording.

Maybe you were influenced by the reviews you read

You heard what you wanted to hear, or what you thought you should hear, not what was really on the record. This is a common problem. Many people own awful sounding pressings that they read about on the TAS list and have somehow convinced themselves that they sound good, when they obviously do not. A list of the bad sounding records on the TAS list would be a very long list indeed. When it comes to Golden Age recordings, the right stampers are EVERYTHING, and most people are simply not going to be in a position to buy a half dozen copies of Scheherazade at hundreds of dollars each and shoot them out to find the really hot sounding copy. So if your LSC 2446 doesn’t thrill you the way Harry’s thrills him, it’s probably a different stamper. Or a badly pressed copy with good stampers. (Those sound just as bad.)

The third possibility is that your stereo is compensating in some way for the shortcomings of this L.A. Woman pressing

How that could be I have no idea. Most audiophile systems lack bass. This record lacks bass. So it should be a double whammy. Most systems lack extreme highs. This album lacks extreme highs. The one area I can see where a modest system may help this record is in the midrange. Many audiophile systems have notoriously dark, muffled midranges. Vandersteen speakers are famous for their “forgiving” midrange. This record will help to compensate for the dark quality of some speakers. I guess. I don’t know. I really can’t see how that makes much sense, but there has to be some reason, so if these reasons aren’t good enough, feel free to come up with some on your own.

And the fourth possibility is: maybe you just like bad sounding records

The fact that people still collect lots of bad sounding Half-Speed mastered records and bad sounding Japanese pressings and bad sounding audiophile records like Telarcs and Cheskys and such tells me that a lot of people must just like bad sounding records.

There’s not much I can do about that. We try to point everybody in the direction of what we consider to be Better Sounding Records. But as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

And maybe they’re right and I’m wrong

Who’s to say what a record really sounds like? I’ve been wrong before. I once put a full page commentary in one of my old catalogs under the heading Mea Culpa, apologizing for recommending The Beatles Past Masters album.

I was also very wrong about the Japanese Analog Remasters of the Led Zeppelin catalog from about a dozen or so years ago [1992 to be exact]. Some of the cheap Columbia reissues that I used to recommend I now realize leave a lot to be desired.

But we live and learn. If there’s one thing you get out of this commentary, I hope it’s the impetus to listen critically to the records you are buying, especially if it’s a record like LA Woman. See if you hear the sound I described. 

Something similar is going on with the awful Mercury Heavy Vinyl classical reissues from years back. Some of my customers agree with me that they’re awful, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who like them just fine. The sonic shortcomings I ascribe to those records I believe are real, and if you own those records, perhaps you may want to take another listen to them to see if you might have overlooked something the first time around. Just a thought.


Letter of the Week – “I’m so blown away with this Hot Stamper that I think it’s a bargain at $500.00.”

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Commentaries and Reviews of L.A. Woman

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hi Tom,

I must confess, that like most audiophiles, I was not a believer in Hot Stampers. I thought my DCC Compact Classic and my 180 gram Box Set was the best. Boy was I dead wrong! I have been buying Hot Stampers from you on a regular basis for the past two months. They truly allow me to hear what was intended in the recording studio and, man, is it breathtaking. I received the Doors – LA Woman a couple of days ago and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think a record could be this realistic.

I couldn’t believe the amount of information I was hearing coming out of the groove of this LP — the biggest, most realistic staging and largest acoustic space I have ever heard in my life. The highs were sweet and extended, the midrange was as natural as a midrange could ever be, and the bass was tight and rich with incredible weight down to the lowest region. Transparency and resolution on this LP are simply out of this world. I’m so blown away with this Hot Stamper that I think it’s a bargain at $500.00.

I truly believe you really have to experience a Hot Stamper, especially one like this, to see why I’m losing my mind. I’m slowly but surely replacing all of my favorite records with your Hot Stamper versions. Thank you for this masterpiece! (more…)