Perhaps the most bipolar of all the Doors albums, given that Krieger's decent but undistinguished songs shuffle nervously beneath a dark awning cast by Morrison's iconic but now bloated silhouette. As to what competing influences brought about this discernible tension between the band and their anxious employers Elektra is of course the source of endless debate and lucrative careers for those cat flap pussies a.k.a. Exit Doors scholars. I've always suspected that Jimbo had become such a basket case hereabouts that his colleagues had to fashion material by themselves from scratch and coax their sodden meal ticket into actually singing for (their) supper. Robbie's tunes are buried beneath a thick layer of cloying horns and strings that conspire to smother the life out of what dying embers were left from a burnt out stump of an association. We can't blame a thwarted poet for lyrics he had no hand in shaping:
"I'm gonna love you, till the heavens stop the rain I'm gonna love you, till the stars fall from the sky for you and I"
The foregoing would be trite, hackneyed drivel even from the Osmonds so why couldn't the Lizard King have banished same to exile with one swish of his celebrated mighty tail? The inference should be transparent: maybe by this stage he really couldn't give a whistling squidgy one. I'm sure that with just a modicum of self respect, Jim Morrison would have consigned some of the chaff that sullies both the Soft Parade and Waiting for the Sun
to where it belongs i.e. on a ruinously expensive out-takes compilation that only the aforementioned 'cat flap pussies' are gauche enough to buy. On the other hand, anecdotal accounts would support the view that Morrison abhorred the direction taken by the Doors on Soft Parade to the extent that individual writing credits were considered expedient if only to distance himself from culpability for the likes of this from Krieger's Tell All the People
"Come out and take me by my hand, gonna bury all our troubles in the sand, oh yeah Can
't you see me growing, get your guns, the time has come, to follow me down"
The call to arms re 'get your guns' seems particularly crass but perhaps the author had 'Annie' in mind. You are also advised that the harmonic progression used for this number would be exploited to brilliant and memorable effect on All Around the World by Oasis
some 30 years later. John Updike was right: we contain chords others must strike (but don't expect any royalties)
It's also disappointing to report that the strongest musical ideas throughout this record are mostly sacrificed to those tracks where an arranger with delusions of becoming Acid Rock's Jimmy Webb wasn't punched into paralysis beforehand. However, amidst the twitching pile of lurid roadkill there survives some moments of genuine class and distinction. Curtis Amy's sax solo towards the end of the otherwise toe curlingly awful Touch Me
is quite brilliant (why is it that some of the most sane, intelligent and perceptive people I know cite this song as their favorite Doors tune?) Would someone like those Scandinavian teenybop cuties 'Aha' attract the sort of scrutiny and lavishly illustrated box sets afforded to this MOR flotsam? Ray's keyboards even plagiarize the Four Seasons C'mon Maryann for pity's sake. (I'm at a loss) Morrison is reputed to have altered the original lyric from C'mon hit me babe, I am not afraid to C'mon Touch Me
babe on the pretext that the former would make him vulnerable to physical assault at live shows. What's rather ironic is that he was so anesthetized from booze at this point, it's unlikely he would have felt a thing.
Wishful Sinful is simply beautiful from start to finish despite a rather ragged (read sh*t-faced) vocal from Jim that still cannot impinge on either the sumptuously haunting arrangement (for once) or the resilient elegance of the melody. Wild Child
has a bit of welcome grunt about it but on closer inspection just comes across as either a really bad Kinks song or a proto metal dirge where the melody has no career aspirations above replicating the riff verbatim. Similarly, the energy and raw primacy of Shamen's Blues threatens to deliver a cathartic bounty but is never gonna survive this impenetrable candy coating:
"You'll be dead and in hell, Before I'm born Sure thing, Brides maid, The only solution, Isn't it amazing?"
I know I've used this before but 'pastiche' remains forever an anagram of it's cheap and there is no armistice for the likes of Runnin' Blue
or Easy Ride
. Prosecution rests. Take them down. Don't Do It Jim please, (Miami would have thanked you for keeping yer pants on)
The title track is often trumpeted as a portal for the sorts of expanded consciousness and kaleidoscopic imagery we are asked to believe practically defines the hallucinogenic imprint of the 60's on popular culture. Bollocks. By way of mitigation, it does start brilliantly with Mr Mojo Risin's uncanny appropriation of a southern preacher with the incriminating whiskey breath of fiery sedition in his belly:
"When I was back there in seminary school, There was a person there who put forth the proposition, that you can petition the Lord with prayer, petition the Lord with prayer....You cannot petition the lord with prayer!" (in short, no-one here gets out alive)
This is followed by a disarmingly angular and claustrophobic melody underpinned by Manzarak's penitent harpsichord that should have presaged a creation the Doors are celebrated for but seldom delivered: credible progressive intent albeit unwitting proto. Instead we often have to settle for undernourished experimental rock debris or the product of a broken Psyche forever stymied by a cold, distant and bullying authoritarian father?.
you give me sanctuary? I must find a place to hide A place for me to hide Can
you find me soft asylum? I can't make it anymore The Man
is at the door"
There is more substance and rigour in these candid lines than the swathes of esoteric blather Morrison habitually used to plaster over the cracks in his own crumbling facade. During a headfirst dive towards a prematurely shallow end, we are witness to a bloodied and bruised muse that abandoned her host long before any coroner's report annulled the relationship. The autobiographical and historical elements combine here in a passage that intimates the singer's own private despair and references the final madness and hospitalization of his hero Nietzsche. I think the final lines re the horses eye's may also have been inspired by an incident in a Turin street that precipitated the philosopher's collapse.
The title track promises much but ultimately fails to save the day, despite some arresting changes of mood, texture and tempo during its ambitious eight and half minute duration. There is however, one truly spell binding moment remaining within re the refrain:
The Soft Parade has now begun, listen to the engines hum People out to have some fun, a cobra on my left, leopard on my right, yeah
Unfortunately what fun ensues rests upon a lumpen and lazy bass pivot over which Morrison very quickly runs out of ideas and resorts to regurgitating badly digested philosophical soundbites with volume in direct inverse relationship to coherence. There are other instances in the Door's output where he falls into this same trap e.g. Moonlight Drive, Five to One, My Wild Love
, My Eyes Have Seen You
There is of course a danger that we end up appraising the Doors using criteria that is only applicable to the legion of artists that followed in their hugely influential wake. For all their prescience and innovation, the Doors were NEVER a Progressive Rock band and although Krieger, Densmore and Manzarak subsequently returned a timid nod in Prog's direction, Morrison would have been horrified at the idea and I'm now convinced he (covertly) despised the entire counter-culture as embodying Nietzsche's nemesis: the ressentiment of slave morality.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: Much of this deeply flawed document flirts with a knowing self parody of psychedelic conceits, a disposable zeitgeist that artists of this calibre should not have wasted an ounce of creativity disseminating. The greatest art is timeless, the Soft Parade is what happens when you allow antique collectors to become speech writers for iconoclasts.