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Tapestry of Delights:
Donovan was born in Glasgow on 10 May 1946. He was hanging around the South with a guitar when he was discovered in early 1965 and given a residency on ITV's brand new rock programme, 'Ready Steady Go'. In these early days he played a form of gentle, melodic folk and was inevitably dismissed as a poor man's Dylan. He also carved a distinctive image with his blue denim cap. Without the exposure on 'Ready Steady Go' it's doubtful if his career would have gone anywhere, but with TV exposure Catch The Wind and Colours were both catapulted high up the Charts as was his first EP, which also included Buffy Sainte-Marie's Universal Soldier. However, by the Autumn of 1965 there were signs that the frequent and unfavourable comparisons with Dylan were beginning to harm him. His first folkie album had sold well but the more reflective Fairytale only peaked at No 20 and his third single, Turquoise, peaked at No 30. These factors led the singer to change musical direction and to this end he enlisted the assistance of producer Mickie Most and musical director John Cameron. However, a legal battle between his new management and his previous management agency froze his progress initially. To maintain public interest in him, Josie from his first album was issued as a 45 in February 1966 but it made little impression. Another EP was put out, too, and Remember The Alamo was released and then withdrawn.
The legal battle delayed the release of Sunshine Superman in Britain from January 1966 until December of that year. Along with Eight Miles High by The Byrds it was one of the first psychedelic singles to be recorded and when it was released in America in July 1966 it climbed to No 1 in a few weeks. It's reference to 'blowing your mind' was ideally suited to those heady days. It was a classic 45 with its distinctive guitar work, whilst the flip was more uptempo R
The legal disputes also delayed the release of the Sunshine Superman album, which had climbed to No 11 in the US after its release in July 1966 in the US. It's certainly well worth checking out. Highlights included Seasons Of The Witch, a chilling song with a sparse arrangement later covered by Vanilla Fudge; Fat Angel, which became a big favourite for Jefferson Airplane and was covered by them on their Bless It's Pointed Little Head live album (Donovan referred to the band in the lyrics 'fly Jefferson Airplane, getcha there on time'); Legend Of A Girl Child Linda, a fairytale set to a string backing with lots of harpsichord and woodwind; Bert's Blues, a jazzy song which acknowledged his influence on Donovan's music and the beautiful finale Celeste.
His follow-up 45, Mellow Yellow, came out in November 1966 in the US and was almost as good as Sunshine Superman. It again had a very catchy intro tapped out on drums but was essentially a jazzy sorta pop song, with lots of brass and percussion. The flip side, Sunny South Kensington, was similar in style to The Trip. A sorta R&B style description of swinging London with references to Mary Quant. In the US it climbed to No 2. In the UK it was not released (because of the legal wrangle) until February 1967 and came with a different flip side, Preachin' Love, a jazzy number which was also used to back Donovan's next US single, Epistle To Dippy, which featured trippy lyrics but was weaker than its two predecessors. It was not released in the UK presumably because of its lyrics.
His Mellow Yellow album (a US-only release) came out in March 1967 and climbed to No 14 in the US Charts. Aside from the title track other highlights were Sunny Goodge Street (later covered by Marianne Faithful on her Country Maid album); Hampstead Incident, Sand And Foam (about smugglers in Mexico); Young Girl Blues (a song about bedsitter living) and Museum, which had an unusual string accompaniment and was later covered by Herman's Hermits and Beverly (Martyn).
When the Sunshine Superman album was eventually released in the UK in May 1967 it comprised a selection of tracks from Donovan's US Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow albums. Inevitably much good material was omitted, including The Trip and Fat Angel (from the US Sunshine Superman) and Museum, Sunny South Kensington and the title track (from Mellow Yellow) and readers are recommended to buy the two US releases.
Donovan's next 45 was the calypso-style There Is A Mountain, which marked a further change in musical direction away from his early more psychedelic sound. It peaked at No 11 in the US and No 8 in the UK. This was unusual for he was far more popular in the States than in his homeland. Indeed, he toured the States regularly in this era and his next Donovan In Concert album used material from a performance at the Anaheim Convention Centre in LA.
In December 1967 Donovan provided three songs for the Soundtrack of the film 'Poor Cow':- Colours, Be Not Too Hard and the title cut itself.
His next album, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, was a double package which was also available separately (each album had its own title). The first, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, was named after his next US-only single. It tended to consist of fairly simple rock numbers and the better tracks included There Was A Time; the organ-driven The Land Of Doesn't Have To Be and Someone Singing, which featured some nice horns, strings and harp and Jack Bruce on bass. The second disc, For Little Ones, contained twelve charming songs including The Tinker And The Crab and Epistle To Derroll, a lengthy nursery tale. Lavishly packaged, this double set is generally regarded as an essential item of the flower power era. In the UK it was preceded by the lovely love song Jennifer Juniper, which climbed to No 5 in the Charts. The 'B' side, Poor Cow, was a folk-influenced song. ...
(Vernon Joynson / Ronald Halmen)
"Mellow Yellow" – 3:47
"Writer in the Sun" – 4:33
"Sand and Foam" – 3:19
"The Observation" – 2:23
"Bleak City Woman" – 2:24
"House of Jansch" – 2:43
"Young Girl Blues" – 3:45
"Museum" – 2:54
"Hampstead Incident" – 4:41
"Sunny South Kensington" – 3:48
"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" – 2:27
"Mad John's Escape" – 2:20
"Skip-a-long Sam" – 2:26
"Sun" – 3:17
"There Was a Time" – 2:02
"Oh Gosh" – 1:48
"Little Boy in Corduroy" – 2:34
"Under the Greenwood Tree" (words by William Shakespeare, music by Donovan Leitch) – 1:58
"The Land of Doesn't Have to Be" – 2:30
"Someone Singing" – 3:07
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