Expanded definitive release of US album
Laurence Upton | Wilts, UK | 05/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just as Sunshine Superman was named after Donovan's big hit single, so Mellow Yellow took its name from the follow-up single recorded in August 1966, and which similarly was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, tuning in and turning on to the flowery drug-hazed zeitgeist of 1966 and 1967. Released in America a mere five months after the album Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow is of quite remarkably consistently high quality, with some beautifully realized songs and arrangements. I have always felt that the endlessly comparing of Donovan and Bob Dylan were far wide of the mark, and the jazz influences throughout most of Mellow Yellow surely give the lie to any such comparison, though I suppose a Venn diagram would intersect at Mellow Yellow and Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35.
Unlike Sunshine Superman, which was partly recorded in Los Angeles and featured sitars and other exotic instruments, the Mellow Yellow sessions were exclusively cast in London and were all arranged by John Cameron (apart from John Paul Jones for the single Mellow Yellow). They have a distinctly British feel to them, and are none the worse for that. Two of the tracks are purely unaccompanied Donovan on vocal and guitar, Young Girl Blues and Sand And Foam, and both are exquisite songs. Young Girl Blues dates from January 1966 and is of low-fi quality, though its atmospheric performance compensates for its technical shortcomings. It was probably originally a demo as the song was also recorded about that time by both Marianne Faithfull and Julie Felix. Sand And Foam was inspired by a holiday in Mexico around May-June 1966 and is wonderfully evocative.
The rest of the album was recorded in November 1966, with the John Cameron Quartet and other jazz musicians, apart from Sunny South Kensington. This had been recorded on the same day as Sunshine Superman, on 19 December 1965, and had been intended to be its B-side. For some reason it ended up instead as the B-side in the US to Mellow Yellow, and closed the Mellow Yellow album.
This album was not released in the UK. Six of the tracks turned up on the delayed British version of Sunshine Superman (The Observation, Writer In The Sun, Hampstead Incident, Sand And Foam, Young Girl Blues). Sand And Foam later doubled as the B-side to There Is A Mountain, the rest appear to have remained unheard by his native audience until a 1993 CD release.
This expanded re-issue presents the original Mellow Yellow album in mono, and a further 10 bonus tracks. These feature the US-only single, Epistle To Dippy (plus an alternative version); its B-side Preachin' Love (also the UK B-side of Mellow Yellow); the hit single There Is A Mountain; and two outtakes, Good Time and a second unreleased attempt at Superlungs. These are all stereo apart from Preachin' Love. The album closes with the original unaccompanied mono demos for four of the songs on the album. These show that the jazz inflections on some of the songs were there from the outset."