The Essential Donovan
There are millions of reasons why Grandmaster Flash and Madonna shouldn't be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but there's absolutely no excuse why it has taken so long to induct Donovan. Often cited as the U.K.'s answer to Bob Dylan, the Scottish singer-songwriter burst onto the scene in 1965 and soon developed a unique style all his own. Chummy with the Beatles (he suggested the line "sky of blue and sea of green" for "Yellow Submarine") and having Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and John Paul Jones on his records, Donovan is now finally getting the recognition he deserves with his recent entry in Rock And Roll Of Fame and the release of the double-CD retrospective, The Essential Donovan.
This 36-song set features the best of the best from 1965 to 1973, plus four tracks previously unreleased on CD in the U.S. — "The Land Of Doesn't Have To Be," "Sunny Goodge Street," "Sand And Foam" and "Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)," a song Donovan wrote with his friend Gypsy Dave in 1965. All 18 of Donovan's Billboard Hot 100 and UK national chart singles, plus another 14 deeper album cuts truly make this one set to have if you are remotely interested in one of the true treasures of the psychedelic era.
The Dylan comparisons are valid on the first few songs of the first disc, especially the single "Catch the Wind." But then the bluesy "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond" inches forward before "Sunshine Superman," featuring Page on guitar and hitting the top of the Billboard charts, changes the game entirely. Suddenly Donovan was the golden boy of 1966, singing whimsical fare like "Legend Of A Girl Child Linda," "Season Of The Witch" and "Mellow Yellow," Donovan's second highest charting single in the States that featured the enchanted whispers of Paul McCartney.
The second disc finds Donovan expanding his reach and diversifying his sound. "There Is A Mountain" would inspire a 30-minute vamp by the Allman Brothers Band, while "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" wears the singer's romanticism on his crushed velvet sleeve. The real excitement starts brewing on the ever-enchanting "Jennifer Juniper" and the equally alluring "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Donovan taps into his funk on "Get Thy Bearings" and meanders through the morose "Lalena" — and then goes big on the mythological epic, "Atlantis." Following that with "Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)," Donovan's last top 40 single, with the Jeff Beck Group along for the ride, truly reveals the singer's edgier side.
Just turning 66, Donovan is undoubtedly enjoying a renaissance of sorts, revisiting his classic tunes with different and younger musicians during concerts and charity events. An excellent guitar picker, a magical songwriter, an eloquent singer, a spiritual soul and a true Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer — this is Donovan and the best way to get to know him is to listen to the songs on The Essential Donovan. The rest will come easy.
~ Shawn Perry