[Review] The Doors: The Soft Parade (1969)

A hornful, stringful album that starts strong but quickly unravels.

Kronomyth 4.0: This is not the best part of the trip.

This is the worst album The Doors released during Jim Morrison’s lifetime. Just getting that out of the way early. It’s been re-issued, re-mastered, re-mixed and re-evaluated, and it still reeks of misdirection. The problem stems, apparently, from Morrison being less than fully engaged and the decision to over-engage horns and an orchestra to flesh out the band’s mediocre material. The Soft Parade still has a few great tracks on it and the nine-minute title track to chew over, but the album mostly lent fuel to critics’ charges that Morrison and the band were all bluff and bluster.

The funny thing is, the record starts out remarkably strong. Tell All the People and Touch Me make the decision to add horns seem inspired. The opening track in particular feels like Morrison piercing the fourth wall as he exposes his own inability to save himself, let alone those around him. “Touch Me” is pure joy set to music. Both of those tracks, tellingly, are credited to Robbie Krieger. What follows are songs written by Morrison that fail to generate much excitement. They’re not terrible, but they don’t strike terror into your heart the way that a good Doors song should. Morrison and the band sound lost on these tracks, often getting upstaged by the hired horns and strings.

The album at least closes strongly, with another heavily arranged Krieger song (Wishful Sinful) and Morrison’s sprawling epic, The Soft Parade. The spoken introduction on the title track is the album’s most terrifying moment, as Morrison screams “you cannot petition the Lord with prayer!” (You actually can. It’s right there in the bible: 1 Thessalonians 5:17.) On moments like this, Morrison actually seems possessed. Maybe he was; he certainly had his inner demons.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t own a copy of The Soft Parade at some point, but that point would be after you bought all the other, better albums by The Doors. Over the years, the original album has been expanded with lots of additional material that offers a deeper look at this interesting if chaotic period in the band’s history. Whether the 40th anniversary remixes helped, I couldn’t tell you. And the uber-expanded 50th anniversary packages seem a bit much. It goes to show you how bountiful a feast The Doors prepared that people should make a meal from their scraps.

Original elpee version

A1. Tell All the People (Robbie Krieger) (3:24)
A2. Touch Me (Robbie Krieger) (3:15)
A3. Shaman’s Blues (Jim Morrison) (4:45)
A4. Do It (Jim Morrison/Robbie Krieger) (3:01)
A5. Easy Ride (Jim Morrison) (2:35)
B1. Wild Child (Jim Morrison) (2:36)
B2. Runnin’ Blue (Robbie Krieger) (2:27)
B3. Wishful Sinful (Robbie Krieger) (2:56)
B4. The Soft Parade (Jim Morrison) (8:40)

All songs arranged by John Densmore, Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison.

Original 8-track version
A1. Tell All the People
A2. Easy Ride
A3. Wild Child
B1. Touch Me
B2. Runnin’ Blue
B3. Wishful Sinful
C1. The Soft Parade
D1. Shaman’s Blues
D2. Do It

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Who Scared You
11. Whiskey, Mystics and Men (version 1)
12. Whiskey, Mystics and Men (version 2)
13. Push Push
14. Touch Me (dialogue)
15. Touch Me (take 3)

The Players

John Densmore (drums), Robbie Krieger (guitars, chorus vocal on B2), Ray Manzarek (keyboards), Jim Morrison (vocals) with Curtis Amy (sax solos), Reinol Andino (conga), George Bohanon (trombone solo), Harvey Brooks (bass), Jimmy Buchanan (fiddle), Paul Harris (orchestral arrangements), Doug Lubahn (bass), Jessie McReynolds (mandolin), Champ Webb (English horn solo). Produced by Paul A. Rothchild; production coordination by Jac Holzman; engineered by Bruce Botnick.

The Pictures

Photography by Joel Brodsky. Inside illustration by Peter Schaumann. Art direction & design by William S. Harvey.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in July 1969 in the US and Australia (Elektra, EKS-75005/X 55005, Ampex, M 85005), the UK (Elektra, EKS 75005) and Japan (Elektra, SJET-8161) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve. Reached #6 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold album).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Elektra, K 42 079).
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Elektra, EKS-75005) [butterfly label] and the UK (Elektra, K/K4 42079) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on 8-track in the US (Elektra, ET-85005).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Elektra, EKS-75005) [red/black label].
  5. Re-issued on cassette in 1980 in the US (Elektra, TC-55005) and on elpee in Japan (Elektra, P-6414E).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (Elektra, 75005-2).
  7. Re-released on expanded, remastered 2CD in 2006 in the US (Elektra/Rhino, R2 77645) with bonus material.
  8. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2009 in the US (Rhino, 79864-9).
  9. Re-released on 40th anniversary expanded, remixed compact on August 27, 2009 in Japan (Elektra, WPCR-12719) with 6 bonus tracks.
  10. Re-released on high-definition gold compact disc in 2009 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 038).
  11. Re-issued on compact disc in 2012 in the US (Elektra/Rhino, R2 532122).
  12. Re-released on 50th anniversary expanded, remastered 3CD+LP in 2019 in the US (Elektra/Rhino, 603497851324) with bonus material.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *