The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

On The Doors’ 1969 album, The Soft Parade—the group’s fourth release in just two and a half years—the band members and their producer, Paul Rothchild, expanded their sound to include studio horns and strings. It was a decision many of the group’s peers had made in recent years, but what had sounded revolutionary when The Beatles and The Beach Boys did it just a few years earlier was already considered passé when The Soft Parade’s first single, “Touch Me,” was released in late 1968. And the lush production style had become positively gauche by the time the album dropped in summer 1969—resulting in scathing reviews. While the criticism was not unmerited, it also wasn’t entirely fair. Much of rock’s vanguard—including The Beach Boys’ lead songwriter Brian Wilson—had slowed or stopped touring by the late-1960s, allowing them to focus solely on new music. But The Doors had been stuck in a grueling recording and performing schedule that was straining the band—so much so that the band’s label head, Jac Holzman, described the Soft Parade recording sessions as “grinding them into the ground.” (Morrison’s infamous indecent exposure incident onstage in Miami in 1969 further illustrated the group's downward trajectory.) The entire situation was best described contemporaneously by Rolling Stone reviewer Alec Dubro: “A rock group must produce vital, listenable, interesting music, or the rest is just so many limp wicks waving in the Miami breeze.” Yet for all of the naysaying, several Soft Parade tracks demonstrate The Doors’ ferocious, if no longer innovative, power. “Wild Child” recalls the stark, gothic blues of the band’s early work, while the closing nine-minute title track proves Morrison was still interested in composing extended multi-movement compositions akin to “The End” and “When the Music’s Over.” Later in his review, Dubro would describe The Doors as “in the final stages of musical constipation.” This fortunately proved to be true, as the group’s final two albums—Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman—would find the band members returning to their bluesy roots, while still expanding on the form.

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