There's a classic scene in the Pennebraker documentary Don't Look Back: Donovan sings a pretty folk song in a pretty voice; he smiles like he's just won a grade-school spelling bee. Dylan strokes him with sly approval, the... more »n lays it on him: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Donovan's face falls and he looks about to disappear into the wallpaper. Dylan's genius made life hard for this Scot-born folkie, and with Sunshine Superman, he tried to find the bold imagination that eluded him. He's nearly successful, and the record, filled with hippy-trippy lyrics, occasionally reaches pop sublimity, thanks to guitar work by Jimmy Page, and evocative Eastern instrumentation drifting in and out. The final cut, "Till I See You Again" remains irresistible, and the entire album is a high point in Donovan's career. --Roy Francis Kasten« less
There's a classic scene in the Pennebraker documentary Don't Look Back: Donovan sings a pretty folk song in a pretty voice; he smiles like he's just won a grade-school spelling bee. Dylan strokes him with sly approval, then lays it on him: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Donovan's face falls and he looks about to disappear into the wallpaper. Dylan's genius made life hard for this Scot-born folkie, and with Sunshine Superman, he tried to find the bold imagination that eluded him. He's nearly successful, and the record, filled with hippy-trippy lyrics, occasionally reaches pop sublimity, thanks to guitar work by Jimmy Page, and evocative Eastern instrumentation drifting in and out. The final cut, "Till I See You Again" remains irresistible, and the entire album is a high point in Donovan's career. --Roy Francis Kasten
"Like many releases by British artists in the 60s, there were two versions of this: one UK and one US. The information I could gather on this is a bit confusing and conflicting. Piecing together what I found, I offer this to help alleviate (and hopefully not compound) the confusion: I believe that the version with the song sequence listed on this page is the original US version, released September 1966. Very early in 1967, shortly before the release of the US "Mellow Yellow" album, a UK album entitled "Sunshine Superman" was issued that combined songs from both of these US records. This UK release omitted "Ferris Wheel" and "Fat Angel" and included five songs from the "Mellow Yellow" LP: "The Observation," "Writer In The Sun," "Hampstead Incident," "Sand And Foam" and "Young Girl Blues." In any event, the album listed on this page is the one I've had for years, and it's the one I'll review. (Issued much later were a couple of compilations also called "Sunshine Superman." Don't bother with those.) We begin with "Sunshine Superman," which smiles in blurry, dreamy, tropical-beach sunlight while beneath, exotic undercurrents pulsate and groove. It was released as a single and became the first of many hits. Next, a fairy tale called "Legend Of A Girl Child Linda" is presented, complete with a princess. It teeters for a bit between minor chords before moving to major, giving it sparkle, only to resolve back to minor again. This progression gives this song the most magical and wistful of moods. No words can describe how gorgeous it is (nor how enchanting). The song structure is somewhat unique: there is no chorus or bridge and the verses are separated by short instrumental interludes of tasteful imagination and delicacy. The percussion here is quite understated, true for the majority of the album. (This magical album doesn't "rock," it meditates.) Hand drums are used...I believe they're bongos, not tablas. "Legend" seemingly lasts forever, but that's not nearly long enough. As it ends, I sigh.... On to "Three King Fishers" - another trance-inducing marvel. The rhythm ceases on the chorus and Donovan's voice, matched by the sitar, embraces an exotic Middle Eastern scale. (Perhaps the first rock tune ever with this scale?) Hypnotic. The sitar twangs gently and beautifully; one of the most peaceful songs I've ever heard. We've been in a state of nirvana for two songs now, and "Ferris Wheel" keeps us there. Then comes the cosmically jazzy "Burt's Blues," the mystically groovy "Seasons Of The Witch" and the grooviest of all, "The Trip," which shu-shu-shuffles along while Donovan colorfully paints his uniquely psychedelic imagery. When I haven't listened to this album for a while, I sometimes forget how gorgeous "Guinevere" is: pensive, dark...haunting beyond belief. "Fat Angel" and "Celeste" are also meditative wonders. These songs offered the essence of `67 in 1966.Here is an album that fits the bill as one of my favorites, a record that easily falls within my top five of all time. Donovan, the ever-youthful romantic, was indeed prophetic. This album, filled with enigmatic innocence, is definitively psychedelic. And considering that the title track was recorded as early as 1965, we have much to ponder in terms of who really ushered in the psychedelic movement.In light of the wonderful reviews on this page, it should be obvious that the album at hand means a great deal to us. But through the years, Donovan has been unjustly served by the so-called music critics (the pros who have consistently failed us). Had these self-professed authorities done their job, there'd be no reason for these customer-review pages other than self-expression. Donovan was a much-loved artist in the 60s. In those days, he was respected by oodles of recording artists. In 1965, Donovan won a Beat Instrumental's Gold Star Award for Best Folk Guitarist, beating out such artists as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. There are many people who still love the fabulous and inimitable Donovan. If you love the music of the 60s (a time when people weren't ashamed of nonviolent emotions), please...please do yourself a favor and get this magical treasure piece. Its inherent spells will never wear off!
Donovan's magic lives on.
Phil Rogers | 07/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's put an end to all the chatter. Despite what "knowledgeable" reviewers and so-called "music" critics have to say, Donovan was as important an artist to us as the Beatles, Dylan, or anyone else. I speak as one who experienced the era. Those who call his style "hippy trippy pop" know nothing. Truth is, Donovan wrote some great rock songs as well as his much-loved folk songs. His rock style was fresh and innovative and unique (Hurdy Gurdy Man, with Jimmy Page; or Sunshine Superman). He wasn't afraid to experiment, or cross over into other styles such as jazz. (He was one of the first to blend jazz and rock- Mellow Yellow, The Observation, Barabajagal- with Jeff Beck). Donovan's voice and poetic lyrical phrasing were the key ingredients whatever style he chose. But most importantly, Donovan made us feel, and sense, and wonder- the true measure of the man. And for everyone looking for "Mellow Yellow" on cd, look closer. The album is not out, but you can find most, if not all, of the songs. On "Troubador" there's Mellow Yellow, Writer in the Sun, Sand and Foam. On "Sunshine Superman"- the Import- you'll find Young Girl Blues, The Observation, and perhaps Donovan's greatest, yet unheralded and largely unknown work- Hampstead Incident. Those critical of Donovan undoubtedly never heard these selections, or any of his other great writings. Instead, they've based their opinion on the few "pop" records he did make. In summary, I say that Donovan was one of the few inspirational, innovative, and influential singer-songwriters of any era."
One of the greatest from the year 1966.
Phil Rogers | Ann Arbor, Michigan | 03/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Sunshine Superman' came out around the beginning of one of the most experimental periods in rock history, a period that also spawned (right around the same time) the Beatles' 'Revolver', Dylan's 'Blonde On Blonde', Simon & Garfunkle's 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme', the Byrds' '5D', and the Stones' 'Aftermath'.
Jagger and Richards' "Lady Jane" could have fit very nicely on Donovan's album if a few words were changed here or there.Donovan's contribution was right up there with the best of them. He utilized the combination of sitar and tablas more extensively than the rest of these groups/artists, and also included on several of his numbers a generous helping of medieval-renaissance sound, as well as seamless fusions of these with each other and with more customary blues, folk, and soft rock. It's pretty much all very sophisticated, tuneful, and deeply inspiring.I won't dwell on "Sunshine Superman" the single, or on "Season of the Witch", as both have received more than their fair share of airplay over the years. Here are evaluations of the best of the others."Legend of the Girl Child Linda": I had a friend who during our high school years used to listen to this song every night before he went to sleep. It's a fairy tale, or a collection of them, made into a medieval/renaissance sounding song, with acoustic guitar, string quartet, harpsichord, clarinet (also oboe?) and bells providing the accompaniment."Three King Fishers": cosmic romanticism, with distinctly eastern flavors, and smacking of tales of the Arabian Nights as well, using acoustic guitar, sitar and tablas in a minor mode to achieve its air of mystery. "Oh, I dreamed you were a jewel, sitting in golden crown on my head." The title may be a play of words on the Fisher King [from the Grail legends]."Ferris Wheel" is somewhat similar, but in a major mode (uplifting, not as dark); using sitar, tablas and electric bass. This one tends to fly me to North Africa.'Bert's Blues', starts out as rather traditional, jazzy-sounding blues (acoustic guitar and acoustic bass with little harpsichord licks) with lyrics to match. But half way through, things flip into a long 'b' section that at first seems like it's only a bridge. This is highly unusual as it's still using kind of a blues scale, and blues rhythm, but harmonically goes into a space-time zone that's very much like the "Girl Child Linda", only much darker (this, after all, being the 'blues'). Check out some of the lyrics:
"Fairy castles, stark and black in the moonlight-
The jingle jangle jester rides his stallion.
Seagull rides across my eyes forever-
Sadly goes on his way to Hades."
"Lucifer calls his legions from the hillside . . ."
The instrumental accompaniment during this during this long section is all string quartet. The breaks are solo harpsichord, then string quartet with clarinet playing the lead. The song ends up back on the 'a' section [the blues] again."Guinevere": more medieval-renaissance soft rock; but with tasteful fusion provided by sitar and tablas; lyrics are Donovan's imaginative take on the Arthurian legends. "The Fat Angel": more raga rock from its true master (here, using tablas, sitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass). The line "fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time", provided a name for one of the many budding San Francisco bands. I wonder if Trans-Love Energies, which later evolved into the White Panther Party, also took their name from the line "fly Trans-Love Airways, gets you there on time"? I guess I'll have to ask John Sinclair sometime."Celeste": A very stirring song, which in some kind of circuitous, subconscious way reminds me of Joni Mitchell's "Cactus Tree". Strings, organ, drums (played very softly) bass, sitar, harpsichord. This has always been one of my sixties emotional anthems."
Rod Parkes | Taipo, Hong Kong | 03/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just thought I'd mention that the Bert of "Bert's Blues" is Bert Jansch, who was a big influence on just about all British guitarists of the period.
Donovan's gentle 60s lyricism may be out of fashion in this age of plastic disposable pop and gangsta rap, but all his early albums are still worth listening to if you like real music.
PS There is now (2005) a new remastered and expanded version of this album available. Get that instead."
In a word-celeste
Rod Parkes | 10/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Donovan album is his "white album". Its the defining album of Donovans career and Celeste is the greatest song I have ever heard. It is a pure gem both lyrically and instrumentally. Its a shame no sample of the song is given here. If it were it would be enough for you to buy the album without a seconds thought. It's pure art in music. If you ever get the chance to see Donovan its well worth the ticket price. I'm in my twenties and I love his music. I grew up with my father playing this album all of the time. I have great memories of this album and I hope you get it so Donovan's art can touch you and your children as it has touched me."