THE SOFT PARADE: 50TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION
Rhino (3 CD/1 LP)
That The Soft Parade is considered one of The Doors’ “lesser” albums shows what a good band they really were. Most bands would give anything to have a timeless hit like “Touch Me,” not to mention the likes of “Wild Child” and “The Soft Parade” itself. But at the time of its release, the group was seen as selling out their more experimental, underground roots by going in a more pop direction, and layering on the horns and strings. Nonetheless, both the album and “Touch Me” reached the Top 10.
And this 50th anniversary edition reveals what the album might have sounded like without those additional “whipped cream” flourishes, as keyboardist Ray Manzarek referred to the horns and strings. Among the bonus tracks, there are “Doors only” mixes of “Tell All the People,” “Touch Me,” “Runnin’ Blue,” “Wishful Sinful” and the B-side “Who Scared You,” both with and without new guitars overdub from Robby Krieger. To these ears, the songs all sound better, and more robust, with the embellishments (though that may be because that’s the way one’s used to hearing them); it’s nonetheless interesting to hear them in a cleaner state. Krieger’s guitar overdubs are a nice addition, though you wonder why it was felt necessary to do them.
There’s a few rehearsal tracks with Manzarek on lead vocals, including an early version of “Roadhouse Blues.” Oddly, these too have new bass overdubs by Robert DeLeo, for no obvious reason. Nice for completists, though it’s unlikely you’ll want to listen to them more than once.
There’s also a few previously unreleased outtakes. Now, who wouldn’t want to hear Jim Morrison working over two minutes and 19 seconds to get the just right intonation on the “When I was back there in seminary school…” incantation that opens “The Soft Parade”? It’s great fun. Even better is the hour-plus long rendition of the legendary “Rock Is Dead” jam, the first time it’s ever been released officially in its entirety. After running through “Whiskey, Mystics and Men,” Morrison begins vamping on “Love Me Tender,” and things take off from there, rambling through the blues, R&B, and surf rock, among other variations on a theme, with Morrison singing and ranting away on top. Improvisation was always a key element in the band’s repertoire — it’s why live performances of “Light My Fire” are so varied — and it’s clear that whatever interpersonal problems plagued the band (and Morrison does sound under the influence), they could leave them aside when they made music together.
The deluxe box also includes a copy of the album on 180-gram vinyl.
A lot of good extras here to entice Doors aficionados.
— Gillian G. Gaar