This release of Mellow Yellow finally makes available all of Donovan's Mickie Most-produced albums from the 1960's-- the material for which he is best known-- and it took four record labels to do it! Mellow Yellow was a US-only album pieced together from singles, bits and pieces, and songs left off the US version of Sunshine Superman, but the songs are remarkably cohesive- aside from the title track, which is Donovan as his most bubblegummish and which contributed to his largely undeserved reputation as a callow flyweight. Aside from that, we have a couple of those achingly pretty ballads that Donovan seemed to be able to write so easily and a series of snapshots of the strange, fascinating people to be found at coffee shops and wild parties in swinging London. Donovan presents a fusion of jazzy, folky music, the sort of swinging blend that Pentangle- who were just getting started as this album was being recorded- would go on to perfect. And most of the bass here is played by Pentangle's Danny Thompson, to my mind one of the greatest bass players in the history of rock. Jimmy Page also pops up in these sessions- unfortunately, musician credits are not given- and it's worth noting that the introduction to "Hampstead Incident" sounds remarkably like a slowed-down version of the introduction to "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," recorded by Led Zeppelin the following year. This is a smart, sophisticated album- it's for the hipsters, not the hippies.
Sound quality is problematic. Donovan's voice and guitar, as well as many other instruments, are sharp and clear, while other instruments- particularly the brass and, where it appears, the electric bass- are muddy-sounding. It's my guess that Most patched overdubs of inferior quality onto the main performances and turned in the whole thing as a package, making the term "original master tapes" less than meaningful. This is the best-sounding version of this material that I've heard, beating the reproduction in both the Troubador box and the songs shared in common with BGO's version of Sunshine Superman, and I suspect it's the best we're going to get.
With Wear Your Love Like Heaven, flower power is in full blossom. As most of you must know, this album was half of a two-record set, A Gift From a Flower to a Garden, and that full collection has been reissued both by BGO in the UK and Collector's Choice in the US. That considered, I was expecting the pairing of Wear Your Love with Mellow Yellow to be an act of pointless redundancy. However, the sound quality here is absolutely super. I was perfectly happy with BGO's sound in the past (I haven't heard the Collector's Choice recording, but all of their releases that I have heard have been uniformly undistinguished), but from now on whenever I play this album I'll be playing this version- it has a much fuller dimension. There is no credit for the remastering and that's a pity, as the person responsible deserves to take a bow.
The Collectables label has greatly improved the quality of their packaging since their early years- they don't obscure a quarter of the cover art with their ugly logo anymore!- but the packaging in this case leaves much to be desired. The front cover art from the two albums is reduced to the size of postage stamps, and the black & white photo from the back cover of Mellow Yellow, with Donovan wearing that natty white suit, has been colorized and tinted yellow instead of brown. The lyrics and musician credits from Wear Your Love are reproduced inside, along with a brief overview of Donovan's career.