Review Summary: The Doors not sounding like The Doors.
In 1968, The Doors begin recording The Soft Parade. Once again, Paul Rothchild produces, with Bruce Botnick as his engineer. Jim has begun coming into the studio drunk, or high. Robbie writes half the songs on The Soft Parade. For the first time, he and Jim separate their writing credits. Jim still has doubts about his voice. He’s had no musical training, and he can’t read a note. Sinatra has replaced Elvis as his favourite singer. He describes his own voice as a scream, or a sick croon. Morrison takes a hard turn from psychedelics to booze. Soft Parade takes eleven months to record. This is partly due to Rothchild’s insistence on perfection. He makes the band do hundreds of takes. But no one talks about the elephant in the room. Densmore develops headaches, and breaks out in rashes from detention. One day John walks out of the studio, saying he can’t take it anymore. The next morning he shows up, and the band continues recording without a word.
Sometimes the drinking helps Morrison. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The band becomes adept at keeping him alive on stage. His first onstage arrest is in New Haven, Connecticut. Before the concert, Jim is making out with a girl in a shower stall backstage. A cop walks in on them. Not recognizing Jim, he orders them out. Jim tells him to go *** himself. The cop maces him. Minutes before the show, Jim is in agony. His eyes are still bloodshot, and streaming with tears. In the middle of the first song, he stops, and tells the audience what’s just happened to him. Jim keeps calling the cop ‘a little blue man in a little blue suit with a little blue cap’. When the police move in, Jim gives them a chance to say their thing. They choose not to. Jim is arrested. Two cops punch him in the face, and kick him while he falls. This starts the reputation as The Doors as a dirty and dangerous band. It also marks a change between The Doors and their audience. They’re coming now to watch Morrison go crazy. There is a growing sense that the fans are not there to hear the music, but to witness a spectacle. It is becoming harder and harder to distinguish between himself and the person who appears on stage. But the train keeps picking up speed, and no one wants off.
In April 1968, the Village Voice chooses Morrison as vocalist of the year. The Doors win best band. Ray Manzarek is best musician. The Soft Parade goes Gold, making for four Gold albums in a row. Touch Me, written by Krieger, gives the band their third Top 10 single.
Their fourth album continued The Doors’ popularity, but was, despite its hit single and great sales, met with far less enthusiasm than their first three. Logical, because The Soft Parade is easily The Doors’ weakest record, something that not many fans will argue with. An important cause of the problem is, similarly to Waiting for the Sun, Rothchild’s influence as producer. Choosing to include brass arrangements to enhance the sound was a major mistake, as it is not at all complementary with the band’s style, effectively turning them into something they are not. The producer’s perfectionism is also felt as a negative influence throughout: The Soft Parade sounds too slick, too clean. It’s taking the edge off that The Doors need. Tell All the People, Easy Ride, Runnin’ Blue and Wishful Sinful all suffer gravely from these choices. Even the title track, the third in a series of epic closers that are normally a highlight on the particular album they appear on, isn’t up to par with its kin.
The Soft Parade is limited to merely three great tracks. Touch Me, while not a Doors song pur sang, is the one occasion where the brass addition actually works, and it works really well indeed. The others are Shaman’s Blues, re-inviting the listener to the dreamy playfulness that made The Doors unique in the first place, their core sound that the majority of the album unfortunately lacks, and Wild Child, a typical Morrison-led tune that doesn't fall into the same traps as the majority of the album either.
The Soft Parade may be the group’s biggest misstep, but it also led them to go back to their roots for their final two albums with Morrison, both of which would be an improvement over Waiting for the Sun and this, despite the singer’s worsening condition. Quite simply, The Doors’ fourth album is not the first you’ll want to pick up.
Yeah, I do, and he really did a good job. Of course it isn't his fault the film could have been more accurate. Robby Krieger also commended him for his performance, despite that he thought the movie portrayed Morrison completely differently then he actually was.