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The Doors - The Soft Parade CD (album) cover

THE SOFT PARADE

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

2.73 | 191 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars (Can you find me 3.5?)

So Jimbo woke up out of his drug induced stupor one fine day (perhaps, perhaps not), and said to himself, "Wait a second man, the Doors aren't some sissy pop band! We're, uh..."

And then Robbie Krieger whispered, "A symphonic pop band!"

And Jim said, "A symphonic rock band!"

"Close enough." True story.

Well, history books aside, this is perhaps the most hated product of the Doors' fine catalogue. And that's just not right. There's plenty of stuff to laud about this record. Of course, like any underrated product, there's also a reason to loath. It is not, however, that there are horns and such; a lot of people defend The Doors while hatin' the Strange Days because "the sound is fuller" on the debut. Well, the sound's full here too! No, the problem lies with material. See, for every dark classic that Jim wrote, Robbie wrote two "nu-Doors pop" songs. Let's tread the results.

"Tell All the People" is probably the worst Doors opener ever. The melody isn't offensive, but it is stupid, and far too simple for Jim (although he does give it his best go vocally). Not to mention happy. Yuck! The hit "Touch Me" IS somewhat better though. The tune is more interesting, and the orchestra actually tries to contribute to the dark menace in the coda. Just ignore the goofy sax solo and focus on the build.

"Shaman Blues" ushers in Jim's numbers (devoid of orchestration, no less). Anyway, it's not really blues, sorry. It's a waltz of all things. It's solid lyrically, the drumming is interesting, the keyboards are interesting, and the guitar is practically gorgeous. No complaints.

Well, the last two numbers seem like we're on an upswing, but don't worry. "Do It" is certainly the worst thing here. The melody is beyond stupid, and the lyrics are mindless. Jim is practically singing them for laughs; bet he knew how dumb they were. "Easy Ride" is not much better; I can't remember a thing about it, other than it sounds largely like the stupid pop songs off the debut (hey, lovers of the debut, again this is YOUR album!).

"Wild Child," Jim's second effort, I'm just a bit iffy about it. It's catchy, the jungle boogie riff is cool, and I dig the martial drumming, so why am I complaining? Dunno. Don't skip it though, and stick around for the ending too. Great stuff.

Now, I realize that every other intelligent reviewer HATES "Runnin' Blue," but I kinda like it. I mean, it's not a classic or anything, but at least Robbie is trying to achieve an air of menace, and he almost pulls it off. The dark, heavier Jim sung parts (nicely augmented by orchestra) are contrasted by the goofy bluegrass Robbie sung parts. It is kinda annoying, but it's also kinda catchy. Finally from Robbie, the ballad "Wishful Sinning" is pleasant, pretty even...but something about it rubs me wrong, and it ends up passing me by most of the time. Maybe the orchestration? The lyrics? Who can say.

Ah, but then Jimbo strikes one final time, and gods, it's good. I almost feel like giving the album a solid four just for this number. It's probably the band's most artistically mature epic ever. We open with "Petition the Lord With Prayer," some poetry shouted by Jim (catches me off guard every time), and then we cut to the ballad-ish "Can You Give Me Sanctuary," which actually is one of the prettiest things the band ever recorded, and there's something really resonant about Jim pleading "Can you find me soft asylum? I can't make it anymore."

This bleeds into the brilliant bouncy-then-dainty hippie send up "Peppermints, Miniskirts," which is so darkly humorous it makes me laugh whenever I hear it ("Carrying babies to the river?" You're sick Jim). But, with a cry of, "This is the best part of the trip," Jimbo takes on his old carnival showman guise again, and the meat of the track starts. This is the grim march, "The Soft Parade" itself. The build is just about flawless (keyboard, guitar, whatever is making that tuba noise...oh, drums. Dig those drums, they're great), and the lyrics match it note for note, until you hear a dozen Jims, each screaming some snatch of lyric, and then it all falls away (with just a spot of horse poetry). Fantastic.

Not only that, but it's a "being a musician sucks" song! And I ADORE it! Do you know how rare that is? It's probably the best of its kind; I love the lyrical imagery (favorite spots include Jim moaning "We need someone or something new, something else to get us through," the cry of the whiney fan; oh, and, Jim shouting ala a producer, "WE'RE DOING GREAT!"). Yeah, the lyrics have meaning. The Doors are always in it for the art.

What disgusts me most is some reviewer I read on this very site who said that the Doors were treading the same ole ground while King Crimson was inventing a new genre; well, first and foremost, of course Inna Court is a stronger album than this. I'm not stupid. But it's not like the Doors stopped experimenting. In fact, if anything, this album shows that they were always ready to continue experimentation; the title track alone is proof of that, and stuff like "Shaman's Blues" paved the way for the wet and swampy, but still dark and mystical, art blues of "Maggie M'Gill."

The darkness is back, you just have to find it. Mostly in Jim's numbers, but Robbie does try from time to time. The orchestration CAN be dorky, but it can also be complimentary (besides, the titular tune is ample proof that the band can sound symphonic WITHOUT the orchestra). "The Soft Parade" though is where the Doors have been hiding since Strange Days, and it's one of my favorite spots in their catalogue (oh, and, the cover is the best they did after Days as well. Creepy man, what are they looking at?). Is the album, overall, not as strong as the earlier stuff? Yes. However, is it bad? No. Not at all. Any Doors fan should own this, and anyone who doesn't believe me...well, screw you. Yeah.

(Huzzah! Good Doors bonuses. Well, first off, the album has been revised expanded within and throughout (love the pretty poetic/mellotronic intro "Soft Parade" gets), but there's good bonus tracks too. How good? Well, even if I didn't quite have the heart to give the album four stars, this guarantees it, AND shows what the album could have been. "Who Scared You" is a nice, dark blues tune built out of a cool riff. And, it shows that the orchestra could work with the band to produce a sufficiently moody song. "Whiskey, Mystics and Men," holy crap, where'd THAT come from? Really cool song, pure American folk, with mandolins and crap, but still mantra and mystical ala Jimbo. Dig the pirate voices in the background. But if the first version isn't good enough for you, the second is the best of the bonuses; the actual band playing the song. A little thinner lyrically, but there's a much appreciated guitar solo, and that pause before the accordion starts up again? Creepy man. The only misstep is "Push It," a fun, but still too lengthy and lethargic, Mexican folk workout. No vocals, by the way. But the final bonus is great, a "Touch Me" outtake. There's still an orchestra, but listen to the coda again. Densmore plays EVERYTHING he can to build tension, even speeding up the tempo. He's awesome. Hell, I don't even mind the "I bumped the snare mike" intro; it's goofy! And it's good. Four stars for the remaster.)

The Whistler | 3/5 |

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