Guide to British Music of the 1960s

March 2006

CD Review

Donovan - Troubadour

Some saw Donovan as the UK's answer to Bob Dylan. While there are clearly some similarities in that they both came from a folk background, the music that they produced was very different. Donovan, in particular, was at the centre of the English (Scottish) psychedelia movement with songs that reflected the prevailing mood such as Mellow Yellow and Sunshine Superman.

Donovan's earlier songs such as London Town and Codine are clearly in the folk tradition. Catch the Wind is arguably the most Dylan-esque although Donovan's voice does not have the harshness of Bob Dylan. Both Catch the Wind  and Colours benefited from exposure on the TV show Ready Steady Go where Donovan enjoyed a residency. The folk sound carried on until there was a shift in direction with Sunshine Superman. This was a taste of things to come with its lyrics and mood perfectly capturing the psychedelic spirit of the times. The previous album Fairytale and the single Turquoise had been less successful. Mickie Most started producing but there was a break due to legal action when the older tracks Josie and Remember the Alamo were issued although the latter was later withdrawn. After Sunshine Superman had started to return Donovan to his best, the following track Season of the Witch is the real highlight of the whole 2CD set. Although "folky" in that is is based on acoustic guitar, the songs builds with a full electric guitar and drums backing. This is song is so strong that Vanilla Fudge carried off an excellent cover version. The "psychedelia" was continued with Mellow Yellow, probably his best-known track today.

For a Scot there is a strong air of London. Apart from the opening track London Town, Donovan ventures to Sunny South Kensington although Sunny Goodge Street did not make it to this compilation. Again, this is a reflection of the times when everything seemed to be centred on London. The Trip is further evidence of this with its references to Mary Quant and "what goes on all around me."

References to drugs are commonplace. Superlungs is the obvious example. This track is driven by bass, drums and swirling organ, the latter providing a Ray Manzarak-style Doors sound. .

Other tracks on disc one are more on the whimsical side, even echoing Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd in place such as on Oh Gosh. There is even a calypso style for First There Is a Mountain and this style was repeated on the second disc on Riki Tiki Tavi.

The second disc starts with the hits Hurdy Gurdy Man and Jennifer Juniper. The other stand-out track on the second CD is Barabajagal (Love is Hot) which had been recorded with the Jeff Beck Group. This was more successful in the US than in the UK but gave him a different sound. Atlantis is unusual in that it has a long spoken introduction. Paul McCartney appeared on backing vocals on this track.

The double CD set is a good introduction to Donovan for anybody who has not heard much beyond the most famous singles.

CD Release Date: 1996

Essential Tracks:

  • Season of the Witch
  • Sunshine Superman
  • Hurdy Gurdy Man

Track Listing:

Disc One

  1. London Town
  2. Codine
  3. Catch the Wind
  4. Universal Soldier
  5. Colours
  6. Sunshine Superman
  7. Season of the Witch
  8. The Trip
  9. Guinevere
  10. Breezes of Patchulie
  11. Museum
  12. Superlungs My Supergirl
  13. Mellow Yellow
  14. Writer in the Sun
  15. Sand and Foam
  16. Sunny South Kensington
  17. Epistle to Dippy
  18. There is a Mountain
  19. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  20. Oh Gosh
  21. The Tinker and the Crab
  22. Poor Cow

Disc Two

  1. Hurdy Gurdy Man
  2. Jennifer Juniper
  3. Teen Angel
  4. Lalena
  5. To Susan on the West Coast Waiting
  6. Atlantis
  7. Barabajagal (Love is Hot)
  8. Happiness Runs
  9. Celia of the Sands
  10. Riki Tiki Tavi
  11. Cara Clairvoyant
  12. Roots of Oak
  13. Riki Tiki Tavi
  14. Maria Magenta
  15. Cosmic Wheels
  16. I Like You
  17. Yellow Star
  18. Rock & Roll Souljer
  19. Quest
  20. Age of Treason
  21. What the Soul Desires
  22. Dark-Eyed Blue Jean Angel

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