If Sunshine Superman signalled a revolutionary leap forward from the 'folk' style associated with Donovan, Mellow Yellow showed a real flowering of lyrical maturity. Writer In The Sun, Young Girl Blues and Hampstead Incident are wonderful vignettes of life, as are many of the other songs on this wonderful collection. Its a pity really that the single Mellow Yellow was the hit it was, as it tended to blind everyone to the rest of these songs. A great singalong, but nowhere near the lyrical sophistication of much else on this record.
And the great John Cameron provided some terrific arrangements. Listen to the demos collected on the bonus tracks, and then listen to the great jazzy orchestrations...nuff said. This revealed a Jazz sensibility to Donovan which would return at different times throughout his career, right up to the recent Beat Cafe.
This is a great slice of London life in the 1960s, when Donovan looked around and captured what was happening and who was making it happen: great namechecks on some of these songs! This is the swinging London of models, beats, photographers and bohemians, and Don was able to turn this into some real cool and groovy songs. Its appropriate that one of the songs is called The Observation, because that is a terrific description of much of what this record is all about.
The bonus tracks DO make sense. The demos to some of the songs are a fascinating insight into the transition from idea to tune to final arrangement. The bonus tracks also include the breathtaking Epistle To Dippy, one of Donovan's great 'hidden gems', a roller-coaster of a song with an arrangement to die for and lyrics which tumble like a stream of consciousness to form a whirlpool of images and ideas, all held together by musical figures and textures of real originality. Listen to the single version, and then to the 'alternative': whoever made the decision to re-record and re-arrange got it absolutely right!
Like the Sunshine Superman LP, contractual issues kept this record unreleased in the UK for many years; we had to make do with a record which included selections from both and which did justice to neither.
So, from the wasted world-weariness of Writer In The Sun and the delicate Sand And Foam, to the snappy Sunny South Kensington, let Donovan show you a long-forgotten world of hipsters, tripsters and scene-makers. You won't be disappointed, and you just might be enchanted, like those mist covered magic glades of Hampstead Heath.