During the "Sixties," I was not particularly a fan of Donovan. I thought he was a bit soft. But about three months ago, I heard him interviewed on the NPR program "Fresh Air." I was impressed by how intelligent and articulate he is, and the excertps from his songs stuck me as wonderfully fresh and engaging. So I bought "The Essential Donovan" and have been playing it continually, enjoying it more and more.
For Donovan to have moved from a ballad like "Colours" to "Sunshine Superman," with its surrealistic poetry and multi-colored orchestration, in only a few months, is a real artistic advance. At that time, 1966, Donovan was twenty, and he was consistently writing better songs -- with more imaginative lyrics and more sophisticated rhythms -- that did either The Beatles or Bob Dylan at the same age.
I've since explored more Donovan albums. I am increasingly impressed by the abundance of his imagination, and I find it dismaying that he is so little remembered, especially considering that he is one of the truly emblematic figures of the age and was, at the time, almost as famous as The Beatles.
I call this the best of Donovan anthologies because the versions of "Catch the Wind" and "Colours" are the clean and simple ones, without backup strings and vocals; because the version of "Sunshine Superman" is the long one; and, most importantly, because the songs are presented in chronological sequence.
The insert notes about original release dates and popular chart success are a welcome addition.