The Doors returned to their blues rock origins, following the criticism stemming from their album, The Soft Parade. Morrison Hotel, marked the band's change in musical direction, noted in a Jazz & Pop magazine review which stated the album was "A return to the tight fury of early Doors music". For the album, the band continued along the lines of the music featured in Morrison Hotel, attempting to avoid the complex orchestration that The Soft Parade centered around. However, early into recordings for L.A. Woman, Rothchild, who had guided the band through five albums, exited from further developments. Rothchild found himself in conflict with the band's musical direction, and the issue spilled over while they were conducting rehearsals. According to Rothchild, Robby Krieger's composition, "Love Her Madly", was "the song that drove me out of the studio". Rothchild felt that The Doors were not taking the recordings seriously enough, with Morrison being late to the sessions, and the lack of enthusiasm from the rest of the band. John Densmore later admitted that the group performed poorly in the rehearsals, but cited that they later improved upon their issues when Rothchild left. From that point on, the Doors co-produced the album along with their sound engineer, Botnick.
In the final stages of recording, the Doors embarked on a brief tour that only included two scheduled performances. On December 12, 1970, the band performed for the last time with Morrison in New Orleans, Louisiana at a venue known as the Warehouse. The previous concert was completed with no issue, however, at the Warehouse, Morrison failed to recall the lyrics to the last song of the set list, "The End", and, in frustration, left the mic stand to sit on the drum set. After a nudging by Densmore, Morrison walked to the mic, and repeatedly smashed it onto the stage, until it splintered and Morrison abruptly left. In an account by Ray Mazerak he said "[Jim] put his arm around Vince [Treanor]'s shoulder and just stood there, at the mic, looking out at the audience as we finished the final chorus of 'The End.' We would never play that song with Jim Morrison ever again." It was reported before going on stage, Morrison drank a whole case of beer and ingested opium. Following the cut-short performance, the band mutually decided further touring was impractical, making the two concerts the only live showings of the band's new material. A manager and accountant of the venue, George Freidman claims to be in possession of a two-track soundboard recording of the concert, and plans to eventually release the recordings at an unspecified time.
After Rothchild's departure, the Doors and Botnick organized their two-story Doors Workshop building at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, California into a makeshift recording studio. This enabled the band to construct a more comforting and relaxed setting, while avoiding the expenses of recording in an Elektra studio. A mixing console, previously owned by Elektra, was installed into the upstairs of the Workshop, while studio monitors, microphones, and keyboards were set downstairs. To compensate for the lack of an insolated vocal booth, Morrison recorded within the facility's bathroom. Again, the band initated the sessions without prepared material, so they were required to compose tracks, mainly through jam sessions, in the studio. A common theme within the compositions pertained to life in Los Angeles, and, by extension, the US. Morrison, unlike on past recording sessions, appeared on time, and reduced his alcohol consumption; however, he was coughing more than usual as Morrison had not yet fully recovered from the pneumonia he was suffering from since the spring of 1970. For recording, the Doors hired Elvis Presley's bassist, Jerry Scheff, and rhythm guitarist, Marc Benno to round out their sound. Scheff, in particular, became a staple in the studio as he performed on every track except "L' America". The songs were completed in a few takes, almost spontaneously, and, overall, the album was finished within six days. This had a positive affect on Morrison, who disliked having to conduct several takes. Most of the album had a raw, live sound with few overdubs, aside from the keyboards played by Ray Manzarek. As Botnick stated, "The overall concept for the recording session was to go back to our early roots and try to get everything live in the studio with as few overdubs as possible". Mixing for the album was completed between February and March 1971 by which time Morrison had relocated to Paris, France.
L.A. Woman was released on April 19, 1971 on the Elektra label (stereo EKS 75011). It peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, during a stay of 36 weeks and reached number 88 in the UK, spending one week on the UK Albums Charts. The album's front cover was intially released to the US and UK with curved-corner sleeves and embossed text. Photography was credited to Wendell Hamick. According to Jac Holzman, then the president of Elektra Records, "I wasn't sure there would be another album ever, so I had Bill Harvey create a collector's cover. The Doors' faces were printed on clear film. The backing color of the inner sleeve could be changed and would affect the mood of the package. This is the first album on which Jim is bearded. His photo is on the right, no bigger, no smaller than the others, just another guy in the band". Three months following the album's release, Morrison was found dead on July 3, 1971. There had been discussions between Morrison and the band for future recording, however he never had the opportunity to return to the US to take part in possible developments.
The album was preceded by the "Love Her Madly" single, which was released in March 1971 and charted at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a stay of 11 weeks, but failed to chart in the UK. An additional single taken from the album, "Riders on the Storm", was released in June 1971, and reached number 14 on the Billboard chart, while managing to peak at number 22 in the UK chart.
Botnick later produced and mixed a new 5.1 Surround version of the album, which was released on DVD-Audio on December 19, 2000. It was produced from the original eight-track analog 1" master tapes.