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Folk/Americana - Released July 1, 1966 | Epic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Paced by the title track, one of Donovan's best singles, 1966's Sunshine Superman heralded the coming psychedelic age with a new world/old world bent: several ambitious psychedelic productions and a raft of wistful folk songs. Producer Mickie Most fashioned a new sound for the Scottish folksinger, a sparse, swinging, bass-heavy style perfectly complementing Donovan's enigmatic lyrics and delightfully skewed, beatnik delivery. The two side-openers, "Sunshine Superman" and "Season of the Witch," are easily the highlights of the album; the first is the quintessential bright summer sing-along, the second a chugging eve-of-destruction tale. The rest of Sunshine Superman is filled with lengthy, abstract, repetitive folk jams, perfect for lazy summer afternoons, but more problematic when close attention is paid. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and a chamber quartet, the second track, "Legend of a Girl Child Linda," plods on for nearly seven minutes, Donovan's hippie-dippie delivery rendering "lace" into "layyyzzz." After that notable low point, he performs much better, tingling a few spines with his enunciation on the ancient-sounding folksongs "Guinevere," "Three King Fishers," and "Ferris Wheel." Elsewhere, he salutes the Jefferson Airplane on "The Fat Angel" and fellow British folkie Bert Jansch on "Bert's Blues." Donovan's songs are quite solid, but Mickie Most's insistence on extroverted productions (it would grow even more pronounced with time) resulted in a collection of songs that sound good on their own but aren't very comfortable in context. © John Bush /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released March 12, 1965 | Sanctuary Records

While this album is not to be confused with Donovan's debut album (which was released under two different titles, Catch the Wind and What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid), this particular collection is devoted to material from the same period in the singer/songwriter's career, his early years recording for Pye Records when his work was most strongly influenced by Bob Dylan's days as the king of poetic protest music. The tracks on Catch the Wind are a good bit different than the sunny pop-psychedelic sides Donovan would make his trademark a few years down the line, but one can hear glimmers of this style in the playful "Sunny Goodge Street" and the possible double meanings of "Candy Man." Otherwise, this is a solid (if not quite definitive) study of Donovan the Folkie, and if this work is less resonant than his subsequent pop recordings, it shows he was already a fine vocalist and a promising songwriter, as well as a keen judge of the work of others (his cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier" was a well-deserved hit). Catch the Wind [Castle 2003 Collection] overlaps with a number of other collections of Donovan's early sides, but the track selection and audio are good enough that it would be a fine purchase for fans who are lacking the artist's formative works. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 24, 1966 | Epic

Mellow Yellow is actually more diverse in its sounds than Sunshine Superman, drawing on some of the same era's better follow-up material but also reaching back somewhat further for repertory. It was, as one could rightly guess, a by-product of the late-1966 hit title track, but the songs dated back in some instances as much as a year, to a point prior to Donovan's having made the leap from folk to pop artist. "Mellow Yellow" itself was cut after "Sunshine Superman" and boasted one of the earliest arrangements by John Paul Jones to achieve international recognition (although not without some resistance from Donovan himself), with its broad, biting brass sound. The next two tracks, however, reached back to the singer-songwriter's earlier acoustic/folk songbag, and a very different point in his career -- the reflective, somber "Writer in the Sun" was written in Greece during the spring of 1966, when it looked as though Donovan's career was in danger of ending due to legal problems. By contrast, the hauntingly beautiful "Sand and Foam" dated from a somewhat happier visit to Mexico. "The Observation" manages to quote the album's title tune obliquely in its bass-line, even as the singer veers close to a beat-style poetry recital. "Museum," which sounds at times almost like an artier sequel to "Sunshine Superman" and a precursor to "There Is a Mountain" in its word pattern, breaks up the succession of blues settings on the album's second side, as does the jazz-flavored "Hampstead Incident." The album ends with "Sunny South Kensington," an upbeat number driven by radiant (albeit name-dropping) lyrics, Eric Ford's crunchy guitar (emulating his contribution to "Sunshine Superman"), Shawn Phillips' sitar, and an economical arrangement by John Cameron (who also plays the harpsichord). © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released December 1, 1967 | Legacy Recordings

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Folk/Americana - Released September 1, 1968 | Epic

Having Mickie Most as producer could be a double-edged sword. On The Hurdy Gurdy Man, his over-ambitious nature and scattershot production sense occasionally sabotaged Donovan's songs rather than emphasizing their strengths. (The credits shamelessly list "Produced by Mickie Most" and "A Mickie Most Production," right next to each other.) As with the last few LPs, the program began with the hit title track (one of Donovan's best singles), a dim, dark song balancing psychedelia with the heavier, earthier rock championed during 1968 by Dylan and the Beatles. Though the next two tracks -- an eerie, trance-like "Peregrine" and the endearing acoustic number "The Entertaining of a Shy Girl" -- are excellent performances, any sense of mood is soon shattered by a hopelessly overblown music-hall showtune, "As I Recall It." This terrible problem of pacing and song placement continually afflicts The Hurdy Gurdy Man, rendering ineffective many solid songs. As for the writing, Donovan certainly wasn't expanding his songbase; as usual, the album overflowed with playful songs on girls ("West Indian Lady," "Jennifer Juniper") and pastoral themes ("The River Song," "A Sunny Day," "The Sun Is a Very Magic Fellow"). Most of these featured more inventive, sympathetic accompaniment, combined with Donovan's usual spot-on delivery. Despite the great songs and (usually) solid performances, though, The Hurdy Gurdy Man is a very difficult listen. © John Bush /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released September 29, 2014 | Sanctuary Records

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Folk/Americana - Released October 22, 1965 | Transatlantic

Donovan's second album found the Scottish folkie in possession of his own voice, a style of earnest, occasionally mystical musings indebted neither to Woody Guthrie nor Bob Dylan. True, Fairytale's highlights -- "Sunny Goodge Street," "Jersey Thursday," and "The Summer Day Reflection Song" -- use a sense of impressionism pioneered by Dylan, but Donovan flipped Dylan's weariness on its head. His persona is the wistful hippie poet, continually moving on down the road, but never bitter about the past. The folkie "Colours," already a hit before the album's release, is also here (though without Donovan's harmonica). A few of his songs are inconsequential and tossed-off ("Oh Deed I Do," "Circus of Sour"), but a few of these ("Candy Man" especially) succeed too, thanks to Donovan's effervescent delivery. © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 17, 2012 | Epic - Legacy

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Folk/Americana - Released March 30, 1999 | Epic - Legacy

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Folk/Americana - Released August 11, 1969 | Epic

Donovan was in a tremendously creative phase during the latter part of 1968, owing to both a tour of the United States (which yielded a live album) and the chemical and social stimulation of his surroundings. Amid all of that activity and his subsequent recordings, his European performances, and the slightly late catch-up of his British career to his American success, Donovan's work blossomed in several different directions on the resulting album, Barabajagal. He still sounded like a folkie, but on the title track as well as "Superlungs My Supergirl," he was backed by the Jeff Beck Group and an outfit that included Big Jim Sullivan and John Paul Jones, respectively. With Barabajagal, Donovan intermingled soft, lyrical, spaced-out folk, hard psychedelia, children's songs, anthems to free love (along with a lusty appreciation of the fairer sex that runs throughout the album), and even antiwar sentiments ("To Susan on the West Coast Waiting"). The result was the most challenging album then issued by Donovan, but also one of his most successful, with album sales driven by the presence of the U.S. hit "Atlantis." © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 14, 1965 | Sanctuary Records

Donovan's album debut, What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid, presented his breakout British single "Catch the Wind" and added an assortment of pleasant folkie jams. Though he was often derided at the time as a pale imitation of Bob Dylan, there isn't a lot of evidence here; true, he does cover a Woody Guthrie song ("Car Car Riding in My Car") and gives it some twang worthy of the master, but his style is his own, slanted toward the mysticism of British folk less than the earthiness of its American cousin. Donovan summons the proper age-old weariness for "Goldwatch Blues," gets a bit bluesy for "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond," and lets it all hang out for "Keep on Truckin'." © John Bush /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released May 24, 2019 | Blue Lagoon

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Pop/Rock - Released August 24, 2004 | Appleseed

Beat Cafe is Donovan's first record in nine years. His last, the Rick Rubin-produced Sutras was issued in 1993 and was hopelessly misunderstood -- especially coming as it did on the heels of Rubin's first collaboration with Johnny Cash. This side, produced by the rootsy yet eclectic John Chelew who has worked with everyone from Richard Thompson to the Blind Boys of Alabama and John Hiatt goes right to the heart of Donovan's particular musical esthetic. The title on this set is significant. The instrumentation is spare, with drums by Jim Keltner, acoustic , upright bass by the legendary Danny Thompson, and keyboards by Chelew.Donovan handled the guitar chores. In other words, small combo, cafe style. . . Atmosphere is everything in these songs; they are intimate, rhythm-conscious, tuneful, and lyrically savvy. In addition, they're inspired by that eternally present, romantically eulogized generation of poets, dope fiends, midnight travelers, and coffeehouse sages, the Beats. The set features 12 new songs; ten of them are Donovan Leitch originals. The covers include a compelling read of the mysterious and traditional "The Cuckoo,"and a jazzy spoken word take on Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle." There are some flashes of the hippy mystic of old here, but mostly, this is a fingerpopping set by Donovan the enigma as well as Donovan the songwriter. Chelew and band do a wonderful job of illustrating this juxtaposition. With this band tight, deeply in the groove at all times, the tunes open up and out as if the group were on the barroom stage, and extended the dancefloor jumping and jiving into the street on a delirious, humid moonlit night of uncontainable joy. "Poorman's Sunshine," with its skittering brushed snare drums and a B3 tracking the melody with Thompson's bass pushing the rhythm, jumps out at the listener, as does the title track with Thompson driving the whole engine. "Yin My Yang" may have a seemingly ridiculous title, but it's not in the context of what this album tries to achieve. Donovan is celebrating the self-referential, "anything-is-possible" revelation that fuelled the language and spirit of his heroes of yore, and propelled his own romantic, "everything-is-love" aesthetic. The shimmering, dark, Eastern minor-key psychedelic spoken word/sung ditty of "Two Lovers" is one of those poems that makes Donovan so unique (think, "Atlantis" here). The organic jazzed-up funk of "The Question" is one of those crazy moments that makes the whole world open and the body twitch in time. The album ends with the whispering "Shambala," a tender, blissful dirge that is utterly moving and hauntingly beautiful in its optimism and hope. If anything, if albums are "needed" anymore, the spirit in this one is. Donovan reminds listeners that possibility and hope are not passé, but as full of chance and wild grace as ever. Welcome back, Donovan; you've been missed. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 6, 2010 | Epic - Legacy

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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1998 | Castle Communications

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Folk/Americana - Released March 6, 2012 | Dance Plant Records Inc

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Folk/Americana - Released March 25, 2016 | Westmill

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Folk/Americana - Released July 1, 1970 | Legacy Recordings

Although it was a disappointing seller and signaled the start of Donovan's commercial decline, Open Road could have been a new beginning for the singer. Stripping down to a Celtic rock format that managed to be hard and direct, yet still folkish, Donovan turned out a series of excellent songs, notably the minor hit "Riki Tiki Tavi," that seemed to show him moving toward a roots-oriented sound of considerable appeal. Unfortunately, he was derailed by record company hassles and perhaps his own burnout, and Open Road turned out to be a sidestep rather than a step forward. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released September 17, 2010 | Epic - Legacy

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Folk/Americana - Released March 21, 2019 | Empire of Sound