The Doors – The Soft Parade – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • The sound on this Gold Label pressing is incredibly powerful — big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively
  • Great songs: Touch Me, Runnin’ Blue, Wild Child and the amazingly trippy extended Soft Parade suite, here with Triple Plus sound!
  • A tragically underrated album and a killer recording, with Demo Quality sound on the best pressings
  • “Much like a true “parade” of an English fugue, the song morphs from Morrison’s a capella sermon-like intro to a Baroque ballad to a show tune-like section to the long rock outro, the music masterfully following the flowing, stream of consciousness lyric.” Hell yeah!

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The sound on this early pressing is HUGE, RICH, and FULL-BODIED, exactly the way it should be.

A New Test

A new test we found helpful on side two was the quality of the strings on Wishful Sinful. Man, they can really get shrieky and shrill on some copies. The best side two’s like this one have them sounding high-rez, rosiny and (almost) smooth.

No two copies of an album will get those strings to sound the same. If you don’t believe us just pull out two copies and listen for yourself. You may be in for quite a shock. You can adjust your VTA (you can and should) until you find the maximum resolution, most body, most harmonic extension, as well as the most correct tonality on the strings, but after you do, you will still never get two different pressings to sound the same.

The Sound

This copy almost completely avoids the problem that plague the typical copy of this album. The vocals are AMAZING — rich and full-bodied with none of that nasty honk that make many copies of this album just plain unlistenable. It’s extremely open and spacious letting each instrument have room to breathe. The clarity is SUPERB — with little to no smearing — and the transparency is breathtaking.

It’s hard to find a copy of this album with enough deep bass — not only does this copy have plenty of it, but it’s also very well-defined, even note-like. There’s good extension up top and more Tubey Magic than you’ve ever heard on the album, guaranteed.

The Typical Soft Parade LP

The sound of most pressings of The Soft Parade is just plain terrible. The brass that opens side one is often so pinched, compressed, grainy and aggressive it will practically make your hair stand on end. Almost all the post-Big-Red-E reissue LPs sound like they are made from sub-generation EQ’d compressed tape copies, what are commonly called cutting masters. So many reissues have such a similar character that it’s hard to imagine they’re not all sourced from the same bad “master.”

Need I even mention how much better this copy sounds than the recent 180g version from the Rhino Box Set, digitally remastered by Bernie Grundman? That thing is just awful, possibly the worst sounding pressing I have ever heard. The Gold CD Hoffman did for Audio Fidelity would be night and day better. So much for the concept of vinyl superiority. Not with Bernie at the helm anyway.

Add to that the fact that almost every copy you pick up will have a pronounced HONK in the midrange, giving you that not-so-fondly remembered AM radio sound we’ve all gotten used to after hearing copy after incompetently-mastered, pressed-on-cardboard copy. (And the awful Bruce Botnick engineered CDs too; can’t forget those. If you can’t afford the DCC Gold discs for The Doors’ catalog, you are in for some shockingly mid-fi sound.)

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above will take you to an extensive song by song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Tell All the People

Jim Morrison, a man with no professional experience as a singer before he formed The Doors, was blessed with one of the most beautiful baritones in the history of Rock and Roll. If his voice isn’t rich, full and Tubey Magical on this track, the sound on side one isn’t likely to be either. If that’s the case you are not in for an easy ride my friend. Chuck that sucker in the trade-in pile and move on.

Touch Me

There’s big bass on this track; you need to be able to hear it right from the start or this track is going to sound like it’s playing through a car radio.

Listen also for the texture on the strings. If you have that rare, tonally correct early pressing with a real top end, the strings won’t sound steely, strident or smeared (the three S’s, don’t you know).

Shaman’s Blues
Do It
Easy Ride

Side Two

Wild Child
Runnin’ Blue

Fiddle and mandolin (we thought it might be a banjo at first but we’re pretty sure it’s a mandolin; listen for strumming at the end) accompaniment on a Doors song? Hey, why not? Let the guys stretch out a bit. That’s what this album is all about. They’re not trying to be Blood Sweat and Tears. They’re trying to add some new colors to their palette, and I for one am glad they did. (When they went back to basics for Morrison Hotel, they turned in one of their weakest efforts ever, if not The Weakest.)

Wishful Sinful

Bruce Botnick Tubey Magic To Die For! Does it get any better for audiophiles than this?

Listen for the lovely timbre of the oboe, a featured element of this track. The orchestral arrangements here rival those of the legendary George Martin (himself an accomplished oboist, bet you didn’t know that!). If large scale orchestral arrangements are good enough for The Beatles, how can The Doors be criticised for incorporating them into their music?

The Soft Parade

This extended suite may be an example where the band’s reach exceeded their grasp; not all of this song works as well as one might wish, but the parts that do work are so good, the song’s shortcomings are easily overlooked.

Ya gotta love that spoken word intro. Once you’ve heard it you’ll never forget it, as long as you live. The best early copies (gold label or big red E) have echo bouncing off every wall of the studio endlessly. The weight the best copies have below 250 cycles is where much of the studio ambience is. Play the typical leaned-out copy and all that space collapses.