Donovan


Band members                          Related acts

- Donovan Leitch -- vocals, guitar

 

  backing musicians (1967)

- Cliff Barton -- bass 

- Jack Bruce -- bass 

- Candy John Carr -- percussion 

- Mike Carr -- backing vocals 

- Eric Leese -- guitar 

- Harold McNair -- woodwinds 

- Mike O'Neil -- keyboards

- Keith Webb -- drums 

 

  backing musicians (1973)

- Clive Chaman -- bass

- Phil Chen -- bass

- Pat Halling -- violin

- Bobby Keys -- sax

- Cozy Powell -- drums
- Chris Spedding -- lead guitar

- Alan While -- drums

 

  backing musicians (1973)

Pete Carr -- lead guitar

Richie Zito -- lead guitar

Dave Mason -- guitar

Bob Glaub -- bass

Wilton Felder -- bass 

Lee Sklar -- bass 

Jim Strauss -- bass 

Rayford Griffin -- drums 

Jeff Porcaro -- drums 

James Gadson -- drums 

Mike 'Reedo' Reed -- percussion

Paulinho Da Costa -- percussion 

Barry Beckett -- keyboards 

Billy Payne -- keyboards 

Jai Winding -- keyboards 

William 'Smitty' Smith -- keyboards 

Bruce 'Fingers' Robb -- organ 

Jim Horn -- flute, horns and saxophone .

John Sebastian -- autoharp 

Graham Nash -- backing vocals 

Astrella C. Leitch -- backing vocals 

Bonnie Bramlett -- backing vocals 

Lezlee Pariser -- backing vocals 

 

 

 

Open Road (Donovan Leitch, John Carr and Mike O'Neil)

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Wear Your Love Like Heaven

Company: Epic

Catalog: BR-26634

Year: 1967

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: French pressing; minor ring wear on back cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4129

Price: $8.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Donovan's always been an acquired taste for us; his relentlessly upbeat, hippy-dippy worldview frequently clashing with out own darker and more cynical personalities.

 

That said, 1967's "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" is actually quite pleasant.  Interestingly, these ten songs were originally part of Donovan's two record "A Gift from a Flower To a Garden" set.  Apparently concerned that American audiences weren't ready for such an opus, Epic decided to release the album as two standalone LPs (the second half entitled "For the Little Ones").   Musically the set seems to capture Donovan in a transitional phase, distancing himself from producer Mickie Most's commercial orientation in favor of a more personal sound.  While tracks such as "Mad John's Escape", "Skip-a-Long Sam" and "Sun" underscore all of our earlier issues with Donovan, he's seldom sounded as comfortable and confident, infusing the set with genuine charm and warmth.  The collection finds Donovan at his most varied and tuneful, with the added benefit of the fact that it's one of his shortest efforts - clocking in at 2:34 "Little Boy In Corderoy" is the longest song here. In spite of the fact the album spun off a top-40 single with the title track b/w "Oh Gosh" (Epic catalog 6-10253), commercially the set proved somewhat of a disappointment, peaking at #  60 on the US charts.

  

"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Wear Your Love Like Heaven   (Donovan) - 2:26

2.) Mad John's Escape   (Donovan) - 2:16

3.) Skip-a-Long Sam   (Donovan) - 2:23

4.) Sun   (Donovan) - 3:14

5.) There was a Time   (Donovan) - 1:59

 

(side 2)

1.) Oh Gosh   (Donovan) - 1:52

2.) Little Boy In Corduroy   (Donovan) - 2:34

3.) Under the Greenwood Tree   (William Shakespeare - Donovan) - 1:55

4.) The Land of Doesn't Have To Be   (Donovan) - 2:23

5.) Someone Singing   (Donovan) - 2:44

 

 

 

 


Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Hurdy Gurdy Man

Company: Epic

Catalog: BN-26420

Year: 1968

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: faint name on front cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4491

Price: $8.00

Cost: $1.00

 

1968's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" found Donovan continuing his partnership with producer Mickie Most.  Musically the set's quite varied and experimental, with Donovan continuing to explore a unique blend of acid-folk (geez, everyone uses that term today).  That said, at least to my ears, the set's kind of a mixed blessing.  The title track's one of the heaviest and best psych tracks he ever released and backed with 'Teen Angel' made for a dandy hit single (Epic catalog number 5-10345).  Similar success include the Eastern-influenced acoustic drone 'Peregrine' (shades of George Harrison), the groovy shuffle 'Get Thy Bearings' and the lilting Caribbean-flavored 'West Indian Lady'.  If he'd been able to come up with a couple more rockers, this would have been a dynamite album, but the rest of the set is sunk by a combination of fey ballads ('The Entertaining of a Shy Girl' and 'A Sunny Day') and music hall/show tunes ('As I Recall It').  Elsewhere 'Jennifer Juniper' b/w 'Poor Cow' (Epic catalog number 5-10300) provided Donovan with another top-10 hit.  Hey, does 'Teas' sound like it ripped off the start of The Beatles' 'Blue Jay Way'?

 

"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Hurdy Gurdy Man   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:18

2.) Peregrine   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:36

3.) The Entertaining of a Shy Girl   (Donovan Leitch) - 1:40

4.) As I Recall It   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:07

5.) Get Thy Bearings   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:51

6.) Hi It's Been a Long Time   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:36

7.) West Indian Lady   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:17

 

(side 2)

1.) Jennifer Juniper   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:40

2.) The River Song   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:14

3.) Tangier   (Donovan Leitch) - 4:10

4.) A Sunny Day   (Donovan Leitch) - 1:55

5.) The Sun Is a Very Magic Fellow   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:45

6.) Teas   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:33

 

 


Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Barabajagal

Company: Epic

Catalog: BN-26481

Year: 1969

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4805

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Donovan albums can be a challenge to get though, but here's one that stands the test of time.  Produced by Mickie Most, while 1969's "Barabajagal" doesn't exactly abandon Donovan's prototype hippy-dippy sound and image,  it aptly displays his willingness to experiment with different sounds and the fact he could churn out real rock.  Musically the set's quite diverse with the title track and 'Superlungs My Supergirl' showcasing a pair of true rock songs.  The former features backing from the Jeff Beck Group and is simply a killer track (which Marc Bolan ripped off for his own career).  The second Jeff Beck collaboration, the country-ish 'Trudi' isn't nearly as impressive. 'To Susan On The West Coast Waiting' is kind of interesting in that it shows Donovan making a rather straightforward political statement - one of the era's better anti-Vietnam songs.  Underscoring his patented sensitive singer/songwriter side, tracks such as 'Where Is She', 'Happiness Runs' and 'Pamela Jo' are all pretty and likeable, though they're nowhere near as good as the rockers.  Showcasing the fact the man had a sense of humor, one of the highlights is the goofy 'I Love My Shirt' (surprising that The Gap or some other store hasn't grabbed it for an advertising campaign).  It's such a 1960s cliche that I almost hate to mention it, but the album also includes one of Donovan's biggest hits - 'Atlantis'.  

 

Epic also released a pair of 45s from the LP:

 

1969's "Atlantic' b/w 'To Susan On The West Coast Waiting' (Epic catalog number 5-10434)

1969's 'Barabajagal' b/w 'Trudi' (Epic catalog number 5-10510)

 

 "Bararajangal" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Barabajagal   (Donovan) - 
2.) Superlungs My Supergirl   (Donovan) - 
3.) Where Is She   (Donovan) - 
4.) Happiness Runs   (Donovan) - 
5.) I Love My Shirt   (Donovan) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) The Love Song   (Donovan) - 
2.) To Susan On The West Coast Waiting   (Donovan) - 
3.) Atlantis   (Donovan) - 
4.) Trudi   (Donovan) - 
5.) Pamela Jo   (Donovan) - 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Early Treasures

Company: Bell

Catalog: 1135

Year: 1973

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Country/State: UK

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4416

Price: $10.00

 

I don't have a clue what the business arrangements were that allowed Bell Records to reissue a selection of Donovan's mid-1960s tracks from his Hickory Records catalog.  Regardless, 1973's "Donovan Early Treasures" stands as one of the year's more accurate titles - well 'treasures' may be somewhat of an exaggeration.  Hardcore fans probably won't find much of interest here, though it's a pretty good place for newbees, or the curious to start exploring Donovan's early career.  Tracks such as 'Catch the Wind', 'Colours' and 'Universal Soldier' provided a pretty good overview of the man's Dyaln wannabe roots with 'Candy Man' (geez, how original - a song about your local drug dealer) and 'Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)' providing a couple of early excursions into rock and psych.  Great looking bag you're wearing on the cover guy ...

"Donovan Early Treasures" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Catch the Wind   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:18

2.) Colours   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:42

3.) Sunny Goodge Street   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:34

4.) Ballad of a Crystal Man   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:17

5.) Jersey Thursday   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:15

6.) Candy Man   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:27

 

(side 2)

1.) Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:14

2.) Universal Soldier   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:11

3.) The Summer Days Reflection Song   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:14

4.) Turquoise    (Donovan Leitch) - 3:32

5.) To Try for the Sun   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:41

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Cosmic Wheels

Company: Epic

Catalog: KE 32156

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5586

Price: $15.00

 

The early 1970s saw Donovan step back from the album-a-year cycle.  He became a father in 1971 and indulged in some non-traditional activities including recording what could be described as a children's album (1971's "H.M.S. Donovan").  He recorded a film score for Franco Zefferelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon, released an album under the name Open Road, and even found time to tour with the folk group Planxty.  With those outside interests out of his system, he returned to the commercial mainstream with the release of 1973's "Cosmic Wheels".

 

Reunited with former producer Mickie Most, the album also saw Donovan return to Epic Records.  Backed by an all star cast including guitarist Chris Spedding and drummer Alan White.   Musically the album offered up a weird mixture of Donovan's patented hippy dippy mystical lyrics with a tougher glam-rock sound.  In theory it should have been a pretty good combination, but the results seldom lived up to the promise.  Part of the problem was the simple fact that most of these ten tracks weren't particularly memorable - Donovan's longstanding knack for simply, but catchy melodies seemingly having abandoned him for this outing.  The other problem was that he seemed to be trying too hard.  Those comments aside, this wasn't nearly as bad as critics would have you believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I always liked the inner sleeve which was clearly inspired by a 19th century C. Flammarion woodcut.

 

 

"Cosmic Wheels" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Cosmic Wheels   (Donovan Leitch) - 4:00   rating: *** stars

The title track served as a perfect example of Donovan's efforts to update his sound.  Interesting and heavier than his normal output, if not entirely successful.

2.) Earth Sign Man   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:55   rating: *** stars

'Earth Sign Man' found Donovan taking a stab at a blues number.  The fact his voice wasn't particularly well suited to the genre and some unexpectedly sexist lyrics ('I like my trees and books, I like my women to cook') made the song surprisingly funny.  To its credit the song showcased a tasty Chris Spedding lead guitar solo.  

3.) Sleep   (Donovan Leitch) - 4:45    rating: **** stars

Propelled by Spedding's guitar, 'Sleep' was the most glam-ish song on the album.  With the exception of Donovan's wolf howls, the results were actually quite likeable.  

4.) Maria Magenta   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:10  rating: ** stars  

With typical train-of-thought lyrics the bouncy 'Maria Magenta' sounded something from his mid-1960s catalog.  As such it was one of those songs you either loved, or hated with a passion.  

5.) Wild Witch Lady   (Donovan Leitch) - 4:20  rating: ** stars  

Hum, if you ever wanted to hear Donovan really trying to sound heavy, then 'Wild Witch Lady' was the song for you.  Personally I wouldn't recommend you make the effort.  Imagine Tony Joe White had he been an overly sensitive English singer/songwriter and you'll get a feel for this one.  I have to admit that hearing Donovan screech was actually pretty funny.   

 

(side 2)

1.) The Music Makers   (Donovan Leitch) - 4:25    rating: **** stars

Donovan's celebration of music festivals, 'The Music Makers' started side two with one of the album's more successful blends of old and new Donovan.  The song wasn't hurt by the fact it sported one of the album's stronger melodies.   

2.) The Intergalactic Laxative   (Donovan Leitch) - 2:50   rating: ** stars  

I'm not even going to speculate about 'The Intergalactic Laxative'.  Sounding like a raw demo (just Donovan and guitar), this could have been a Monty Python ditty.  Truly weird, though if you were interested in learning how astronauts relieved themselves in space this was your tune.   

3.) I Like You   (Donovan Leitch) - 5:10   rating: ** stars  

Starting off as a stark ballad, 'I Like You' then bounced back and forth between ballad and an upbeat chorus.  A nice nod to the old Donovan this one was tapped as a US single.  

- 1973's 'I Like You' b/w 'Earth Sign Man' (Epic catalog number 5-10983) # 66 pop

4.) Only the Blues   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:10  rating: * star

'Only the Blues' found Donovan taking a shot at a country number.  Next song please. 

5.) Appearances   (Donovan Leitch) - 3:36    rating: **** stars

'Appearances' was another stark ballad, but had a decent melody that let you overlook the sophomoric lyrics.    

 

With the single providing Donovan with his final US hit, the parent LP proved a minor US seller peaking at # 66 pop. 

 

The results weren't entirely convincing, but in hindsight the album's better than critics would have you believe a couple of tracks like 'Sleep' and 'The Music Makers' worth multiple spins.

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Lady of the Stars

Company: Allegiance

Catalog: AV 437

Year: 1984

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 142

Price: $10.00

 

I've always been skeptical of Donovan's trippy-hippy vibe, but will readily admit that the thought of him teaming with producer Jerry Wexler caught my curiosity and attention.  While Wexler only handled eight of the tn tracks, such an unlikely collaboration would seem to have held some promise ...  If nothing else, it should have been strange and that's a good way to describe the overall vibe.

 

Aware that his commercial base had all but vanished and with no major US label willing to sign him (the small Allegiance imprint ultimately released the album in the States), Donovan settled on an odd marketing strategy that saw him mixing previously shelved studio tracks ('Bye, Bye Girl'), with a couple of new efforts ('I Love You Baby'), and an odd assortment of updated remakes, including a couple of hits and a couple of lesser known numbers.  While it gave 1984' "Lady of the Stars" and odd pedigree and a slightly desperate feel, there wasn't anything particularly wrong with the five remakes.  Nothing here would make you forget the original hits, but the updated title track and his soul-tinged version of 'Season of the Witch' were quite enjoyable.  Curiously, in the vocal department Donovan actually sounded better than every - his voice seemingly having gained a bit of depth and edge over the ensuing years.  The album was also interesting for the all-star cats of friends and supporters, including cameos from the likes of Bonnie Bramlett, Wilton Felder, Dave Mason, Graham Nash, and John Sebastian.  As for producer Wexler's imprint - well, other than 'Boy for Every Girl' and the closer 'Till I See You Again' which had a modest blue-eyed soul vibe and benefited from a bunch of Muscle Shoals studio musicians (Barry Beckett, Pete Carr. and William Smith), he just didn't seem to have a major impact on the collection.

 

Summary - Better than you would have expected, but probably not something a casual fan will want to invest in.  Greeted with critical and commercial indifference, the album saw Donovan go into semi-retirement for most of the next decade.

 

"Lady of the Stars" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Lady of the Stars   (Donovan) - 4:33     rating: *** stars

Opening up with one of the five remakes, 'Lady of the Stars' was originally recorded for 1977's "Donovan".   One of Donovan's prettier melodies, the remake was actually quite good, benefiting from some dazzling Pete Carr lead guitar.  That said, you were then confronted with the Donovan dichotomy ...  Nice tune, but those dorky lyrics ...   In this case, since two thirds of the song was just Donovan endlessly chanting the title, I guess it didn't really matter.   And yes, the attractive woman on the front cover pictured in the middle of the universe was Donovan's wife Linda Lawrence who  was also reportedly the inspiration for the song.    

2.) I Love You Baby   (Donovan) - 3:28     rating: *** stars

A nice slice of top-40 pop, 'I Love You Baby' actually sounded like Al Stewart, sans the high school history class based themes.   Mindless fun that will leave you humming the song during your morning commute.  

3.) Bye, Bye Girl   (Donovan) - 3:55    rating: **** stars

Folks forget that Donovan could actually write and sing rock songs.  True, he didn't do it very often, but as reflected by 'Bye, Bye Girl', the genre was part of his repertoire.  Maybe because it was such a different sound for the man, this one really stood out.  Again, lyrically it wasn't going to win a Pulitzer, but kicked along by Carr's roaring guitar and the nifty chorus, this was another fun one.  Shame it faded out just as Carr was allowed to cut loose.  

4.) Every Season   (Donovan) - 3:10   rating: *** stars

'Every Season' was another rocker' this one built on a classic '50s-styled feel.  Normally a track like this one wouldn't have made much of an impression on me, but Donovan actually seemed to be having fun with this outing.  

5.) Season of the Witch   (Donovan) - 5:28   rating: **** stars

The second remake (I think it was originally recorded on 1966's "Sunshine Superman"), 'Season of the Witch' was given a surprisingly enjoyable funky edge ...   Who would have thought Muscle Shoals-meets-British psych-folk could sound as intriguing.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Boy for Every Girl   (Donovan) - 4:40   rating: *** stars

'Boy for Every Girl' was originally featured on the 1973 "Essence To Essence" LP.  The update sticks pretty close to the original, but cloaks it in a slicker, '80s arrangement.  Would loved to see Bonnie Bramlett trying to figure out what she'd gotten herself into during this session.   Pleasant and harmless.  

2.) Local Boy Chips Wood   (Donovan) - 3:30   rating: **** stars

Another track originally recorded for 1977's "Donovan" and supposedly inspired by the Brian Jones, 'Local Boy Chips Wood' was one of the album highlights.  With a funky, almost reggae-ish rhythm and another tasty Pete Carr guitar solo, it was a fun number from start to finish 

3.) Sunshine Superman   (Donovan) - 4:03   rating: ** stars

 I'll question the marketing strategy behind the remake of 'Sunshine Superman' - it seems dubious to me that this effort was going to bring in legions of new fans, let alone help older fans rediscover Donovan's charm.  As with the other remakes, this one didn't stray too far from the original, but packaged it in a more updated mid-'80s arrangement that actually threatened to shove it into adult contemporary play lists.  

4.) Living for the Love Light   (Donovan) - 3:48   rating: ** stars

Recalling Donovan's folk singer catalog, 'Living for the Love Light' was a pretty, but forgettable ballad that benefited from Bill Payne's light touch on keyboards.  

5.) Till I See You Again   (Donovan) - 3:19   rating: ** stars

With it's mid-1980s arrangement and vibe, I'm guessing 'Till I See You Again' was envisioned as the radio it, though it apparently never saw a released as a 45.   A smooth, mid-tempo, radio-friendly number, the song had a bright melody, nice hook, and little or no originality.  This could have easily been a Pablo Cruise song.  Music as a product ...     

 

One word of warning, this album's been repackaged multiple times; seemingly with the same track listing, though different running orders.   As far as I can tell, those reissues include:

 

 

1991's "Till I See You Again" (Object Enterprises catalog number OR 0155), 1994's "Sunshine Superman" (Charly catalog CD 1206). 1996's "Golden Hits" (Masters Music catalog number MACD 61075-2), and 2000's "Forever Gold" (St. Clair catalog number 5818).  I'm sure there are even more variants.  Buyer beware ...

 

 

 

 

 

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