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Bruce Botnick Remasters The Doors “Soft Parade” 50th at Bernie’s

Includes Stripped Down Tracks and Unreleased Gems

Pictured in the disc cutting room are (L-R) mastering engineer Bernie Grundman and producer/engineer Bruce Botnick. Photo by David Goggin.

To commemorate the album’s 50th year anniversary, Rhino Records reimagines The Soft Parade in a newly expanded 3CD/1LP set. The Soft Parade: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition includes the original studio album – and the B-side “Who Scared You” – newly remastered by Bruce Botnick, The Doors’ longtime engineer and mixer. The collection is a limited edition of 15,000 individually numbered copies and also includes the original album on 180-gram vinyl.

“Back in the days when this album was made, the tape machines were fairly good,” says mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, “but some machines had a variety of problems. Nowadays, we can do a lot of correction, and Bruce Botnick made adjustments to stabilize the tape in terms of speed, and also electronically making the phase relationship between the two channels perfect. After those corrections, what I’m doing is going back over the material and adjusting the spectrum balance. When this album first came out, it had a few balance problems that we are now able to correct.”

The Doors’ fourth studio album, The Soft Parade, became the band’s fourth straight Top Ten album when it was released 50 years ago in 1969. Despite featuring one of the group’s biggest hits, “Touch Me,” it remains the most-polarizing record of The Doors’ career due to the brass and string arrangements that embellish several tracks.

“The recording is a little edgy, Grundman continues, “so we’re trying to expand it and make it into a bigger soundstage. We are able to get more out of these performances so that the listener can get insight into what the music can do emotionally to them. At every stage, Bruce and I are keeping the high quality and the right balance so that the whole album flows nicely and every tune relates to the other one so that it’s a strong statement of what The Doors were doing at that time.”

A trio of studio outtakes collected on the set’s final disc feature the much-bootlegged, hour-long jam, “Rock Is Dead,” which appears in its entire, surviving form for the first time ever. The track finds The Doors riffing through the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll, from early delta blues through surf music, ending with the death of rock.

“The purpose here in remastering is to get the best version of this album that we can do today,” explains Bruce Botnick. “These are analog tapes that have been very carefully archived at 352.8 Kilohertz, 32-bit. When we originally recorded this album it was the second album that we had done with Dolby A. Dolby A had its own problems where it ate up ambience and cymbals became little splashes rather than real clean. Dolby could produce an edgier sound. Yes, it was cleaner and it was quieter, but it also had its problems.”

The core of the new collection is comprised of more than a dozen unreleased songs. Among the highlights are stripped down “Doors Only” versions of five tracks where the horns and strings have been removed (“Tell All The People,” “Touch Me,” “Wishful Sinful,” “Runnin’ Blue,” and “Who Scared You.”)

“What we’re doing here is transferring the analog tape at the highest resolution possible,” Botnick continues, “and then sending my analog to digital transfers to a company called Plangent. They are able to resolve the speed of the analog two track. By doing that, you hear the exact speed of the eight-track masters that we had, and we are able to also put all the songs in tune at 440. It’s really interesting because when I took these files and I put them up against the original album, in the speed you can hear the drift, how it goes in and out of phase. So now with the Plangent process, we’re able to actually resolve the speed of the machine and correct for this. It’s a big deal.”

The 50th Anniversary collection also uncovers three songs from studio rehearsals, with Ray Manzarek (a.k.a. Screamin’ Ray Daniels) on vocals, that include an early version of “Roadhouse Blues,” a song that would be released the following year on Morrison Hotel.

“Three CDs are MQA encoded so that if you play it on your normal CD player, it’ll play perfectly,” adds Botnick. “But if you have a decoder, it’ll open up at 176 Kilohertz, 24-bit, which is pretty awesome in a home listening environment.”

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The name Bernie Grundman is synonymous with Mastering. His world-renowned facilities, responsible for a consistently large percentage of chart recordings, were launched in 1984. In 1997, Grundman opened his Tokyo mastering studios and in 1998 relocated to expanded facilities in Hollywood. Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood is a complex of six studios, including dedicated 5.1 Surround and Lacquer Cutting rooms. Virtually any analog or digital format can be played back thanks to a deep inventory of modern and legacy equipment. The facility provides high quality vinyl masters, pre-masters for CD, and file masters for standard and high-resolution digital distribution and streaming.