“The Soft Parade” by The Doors - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1969Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

Leading lights of the late 60s counter-culture movement, The Doors could do no wrong in my eyes. Album after album was consistently terrific, and 1969’s episode was right up there – although there aren’t too many who agree with that sentiment. The general consensus seems to be that fame brought flabbiness – a criticism which is usually levelled at front man Jim Morrison, and his general dis-interest from mid-1968 onwards, exacerbated by his alcoholism. Paul Rothchild explained: “Jim was not really interested after about the third album. It became very difficult to get him involved in the records. When we made The Soft Parade, it was like pulling teeth to get Jim into it”. For the first time, writing credits were appointed individually rather than as a group whole – another sign that all was not as it should be within the camp. But they had a job to do – The Doors were big business. Producer Paul Rothfield brought in Paul Harris to handle the arrangements and horn overdubs, while various session musicians were hired to play bass guitar, fiddle, mandolin and such-like. Total cost of the nine-month exercise amounted to $80,000 – an incredible sum in 1960s terms. Jim Morrison later reflected on the drawn-out sessions, saying in 1970: “It kinda got out of control, and took too long in the making. It spread over nine months. An album should be like a book of stories strung together, some kind of unified feeling and style about it, and that's what The Soft Parade lacks.” Compare and contrast with the debut – done and dusted within a week.

Still, for all the gnashing, wailing and grinding of teeth, the results are mighty fine, mighty often – even those from the reluctant front man. Guitarist Robby Krieger’s “Tell All The People” sets the opening tone. Straight from the off we get the impression it’s to be a brighter, breezier affair than the previous works. It’s sharp. Apparently, this is the one that caused the song writing stooshie; Jim didn’t want anyone to think that he had written the lyrics urging “all the people” to “…get your guns.” He’s so responsible. This is followed by the sensational “Touch Me”, atypical of Rothfield’s methodical striving for perfection on this album. The single mix (which omits Jim’s sarcastic anti-commercialism Ajax-advert mocking dig “Stran-ger-than-dirt” heard at the very end of the album version) gave the group their third and final Top 10 hit on the Pop Charts. The masterwork is dismissed by Doors purists as a sell-out – such a notion is baffling to my ears. Notably, this is the only song on the LP to be harmoniously co-credited to all 4 members; just like the good old days. Best on side 2 is another Robby Krieger composition, “Runnin’ Blue”, a tribute to Otis ‘Blue’ Redding who had died back in December ’67, just a couple of weeks before a scheduled concert date with the Doors. It’s the strangest song, veering between the album’s brass-led dancefloor-Pop and a strange square-dance chorus sung by Robby doing his best Bob Dylan imitation. They’re having fun and, no doubt, irking those purists again. Ultimately, this is an excellent album, high on quality, despite the well-documented shortcomings of the centre-stage prima-donna.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:21] 9.4.png The Doors - Tell All The People (Robby Krieger) Cerebral Pop
A2 [03:12] 10.0.png The Doors - Touch Me (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore) Cerebral Pop
A3 [04:48] 8.7.png The Doors - Shaman’s Blues (Jim Morrison) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A4 [03:09] 7.4.png The Doors - Do It (Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A5 [02:43] 6.8.png The Doors - Easy Ride (Jim Morrison) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B1 [02:36] 8.0.png The Doors - Wild Child (Jim Morrison) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B2 [02:27] 9.3.png The Doors - Runnin’ Blue (Robby Krieger) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B3 [02:58] 7.8.png The Doors - Wishful Sinful (Robby Krieger) Cerebral Pop
B4 [08:36] 7.6.png The Doors - The Soft Parade (Jim Morrison) Psychedelia

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