"Donovan is an artist of great individuality. His work is superbly imaginative, and I rank him among my favorite artists of all time--any genre. While "progressive" is a word often flippantly tossed about today--describing seemingly anything but the ultra-mundane--Donovan's music has always seemed truly progressive and original to me. He understood the tasteful use of color, and its effect, in both his music and his lyrics. His albums from '66 through '68 are monuments of the psychedelic era--mystical, enchanting...irresistible. There are two that stand out in my mind as being absolutely essential, masterpieces in every respect and worthy of being heralded along with the greatest albums rock has ever produced: SUNSHINE SUPERMAN and this glorious one. (I hope that got your attention.)We begin with the title cut--hushed at first, but when that lead guitar strikes and bends, the drums kick in, and (look out!) Donovan gets heavy. It was a big hit in '68. Then the mystical melody of "Peregrine" floats about the clippety-clop of hand percussion, while a harmonium hums along, carefree, almost oblivious to the fact that the vocal line is doing the same. At once it is as earthy and as ethereal as you could ever ask for. "The Entertaining Of A Shy Girl" offers a calming effect that dazzles, much the way sunlight would, partially blocked by leaves, creating a pleasing sparkle that dances on our senses. "As I Recall It" is a jazzy little ditty that gets us bopping and dancing to this lighthearted tune, while Donovan ironically sings sad lyrics of a disappointing affair. The mysticism returns with "Get Thy Bearings," a moody, but strongly rhythmic tune with an evocatively bluesy sax line. "Hi It's Been A Long Time" is a delicate and flowery gem decked out with ornate (but not overly done) orchestration.Next comes the tropic delight of "West Indian Lady." Conga and guiro lay down an infectious beat, while the flute adds a certain ecstasy. Who can resist this? The subtle use of strings and woodwinds is divine in "Jennifer Juniper," one of the most delightful little ditties ever. Dreamy, blissful...Donovan falls in love. The understated percussion is ever so charming. "The River Song" is yet another meditative wonder. The acoustic guitar and the distant bongo hypnotize as Donovan's vocals carry us away. The effect of "Tangier" is like riding on a train, looking out at the despair as we pass by. The rattling percussion keeps the train moving right along. The indigenous guitar work assists in the pictures we are seeing, while the slightly off-tempo vocals speak as if they are our thoughts. "A Sunny Day" cheers us up, but ever so lazily. The song is punctuated by a brief business that picks us up for an instant, only to return to the skip-along laziness. "The Sun Is A Very Magic Fellow" is as tuneful a song as any I know. This magical, sunny wonder will stick with you long after it ends. A song that smiles this much almost makes us feel guilty for feeling carefree in a world with so many major problems; but then maybe that's how songs like this best serve us. We conclude with "Teas," another dreamy song of uncommon character. It's amazing what this guy can create with such spare accompaniment. The horns at the end brilliantly close this thoroughly entrancing album.Strongest recommendations, folks. This isn't music, it's magic.Cheers,
The anti-greatest hits
email@example.com | Vail, CA | 12/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If your only exposure to this magical artist is his greatest hits, you are indeed missing out. His innovative style produces an ethereal sound that is as visual as it is moody-- far more psychedelic than the greatest hits. I recommend putting your speakers on opposite sides of you, facing you, before you press play. If you like Beck's Mutations, you'll love the Hurdy Gurdy Man."
Gazing With Tranquility
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 10/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back in my counter-culture days it seemed like Donovan was always playing on someone's stereo during our regular Hajira's into psychodelia. And yet, if you asked anyone who their favorite performers were, Donovan never made the list. A genuine case of an music becoming popular for being a 'good trip' rather than great art. Of course, that wasn't important then, and it isn't particularly meaningful know. Donovan's work went through several phases, depending on what was popular at the time. So he started out as a Bob Dylan sound-alike, and then did a Beatles psychodelic phase before settling into what became a trademerk remaking that seemed to freely mix oriental rhythms with pre-war jazz/pop stylings. With a regular slap of psychedelic to keep things on an even keel. 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' would probably be considered the apex of that period, coming just before his breakup with Most. It is worth noting that this album, featuring Jeff Beck on lead guitar, was nearly his last - followed by a reunion album ('Cosmic Wheels') several years later, and then a long wait until the arrival of 'Sutras.'The album forshadows the coming discontent which eventually drove Donovan out of the music business. The title song, 'Hurdy Gurdy Man,' combines what are upbeat lyrics with a very dark performance. This ambivalence continues in a set of songs with a very bitter edge - "Teas," "Tangier," and "Hi It's Been a Long Time." Yet "Jennifer Juniper" and "Peregrine," among others, stand in stark contrast. The thinly concealed conflicts that the album captures will eventually drive Donovan into retreat in the U.S.While I will never see Donovan as one of that era's greatest musicians, he is often underrated because of the apparent simplicity of his delivery. This is unfair, since, while often imitative, he usually takes the familiar someplace where it didn't expect to go. I still enjoy his music, and believe that most listeners will find the experience worthwhile."
Scottish exotic folk music
Dan of Arlington | Arlington, VA United States | 01/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't remember how I came upon this album (as we used to say in the old days) as a teenager in Hopkins, Minnesota in the late 60s. Nonetheless I bought it, and it's been a world unto itself ever since. You have to allow for different musical styles, and be ready for introspective stuff; but all of it is of high quality.I loved "Hurdy Gurdy Man" with Jimmy Page. Maybe that's how I found it. If you haven't heard it, you should go into a dark room and listen to it lying on the floor (also as we used to do in the late 60s).But the whole thing is kind of a dreamy record where you are in different times, different places, different situations; all strong and not dull. I love this record. It's Scottish exotic folk music, with lots of talent infusing it. Donovan is a great artist.Besides, listening to "Jennifer Juniper," there was a very cute girl who lived by me named Jennifer that was pretty well described by that excellent song, who I couldn't stop thinking about at the time. Ah, came to nothing. Never mind."
Grade A British psychedalic-pop...
Clyde D. Hoops | Back where I started from in Oceanside California | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the mighty Donovan's sixth straight studio album within a 3 years time span and is a grade-A example of British Pschedelic-Pop of the late Sixties. During the first half of his career and at his commercial peak, Donovan had released two folk albums, changed management and musical direction in time to release two catchy and memorable pyschedelic-pop albums, a beautiful double album box set, and no less than six top ten singles which reached the Top Ten in both the US and UK charts.This collection of songs is somewhat looked at as a rung or two below, in quality, to some of his more commercially well known collections like 'Mellow Yellow' and Sunshine Superman' and unnecessarily so.Contained herein are some of the coolest songs Donovan ever put down in the studio. 'Hurdy Gurdy Man'- with its quiet hummed intro is the perfect of slice of cool along with the distortion fueled guitar lines interspersed throughout the song before Jimmy Page rips off a nice searing lead through the middle of the song.I can see the Ray-Bans. The segue from 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' to the second song 'Peregrine' is smart and in general the running order of the album was smartly thought out.'Peregrine'- the second number on the disc is smothered in raga inflected percusion and the drone of the hurdy-gurdy feed the atmosphere of gypsies out on a caravan, very celtic.'The Entertainment of a Shy girl'- is typical of the period for Donovan similar to 'West Indian Lady' also from this album or 'The Observation' or 'Berts Blues' from the 'Sunshine Superman' album of 1965/66.'Get Thy Bearings'- One of the jazziest and coolest forgotten gems of Donovans recorded career IMHO. A song that was even covered by King Crimson during thier original line-up back in 1969. The resonance of the Upright bass sets the tone and darkness of the song, while the sax playing of the very dearly missed 'Harold McNair' adds the swank of the dark smoke filled coffee house setting where this song would be at home. Very reminiscent for awhile of 'Traffic' during the same time period as it would be for the second self-titled album "Traffic".'Jennifer Juniper'- which started the second side of the vinyl album was also a moderate hit for Top 40 radio, adds the more pastoral songing that Donovan is well known for, a gem.'The River Song'- again with the celtic undertow could have easily been recorded during the 'Open Road' sessions, a hint of artistic pathways to come.'Tangier'- just plainly takes you there with the feel of the sweat and dirt running down your neck with the delivery, the droning music of the hurdy gurdy and the hot gritty atmosphere dished up by the plaintive acoustic guitar.The rest of the album settles into a mix of jazz inflected numbers, possibly the most jazz oriented album of his career, light hearted songs that could be found on all of Donovans releases, a kind of jazz-pop and because they were not named by title they should not be considered filler or padding.Also contained herein is the first hint of the music savvy of the legendary LZ as John Paul Jones, John Boham and Jimmy Page all guested on the session for 'Hurdy Gurdy Man'.This is really a good representation of where Donovan and music in general was at during the late sixties, unfortunately for Donovan his star would only shine incendiary bright for another year befor the start of his commercial decline set in. After his 'Mikie Most Productions' period- Donovan's 'Open Road' would fulfill his desire to have a "stripped down celtic-rock band". Unfortunately hassles within the industry prevented a very feesable excursion by a very talented musician.The only reason I cannot give this selection the six stars it deserves is that this album and many of Donovan's classics are not being Digitally remastered. This is a crime."