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60s eco-troubadour retrospective has all the hits and considerably more
on 31 August 2007
Glasgow-born Donovan Leitch had his best success in the 60s with a string of Mickie Most-produced pop singles which combined catchiness with an unthreatening eco-hippy sensibility. Songs like Mellow Yellow, Jennifer Juniper, Wear Your Love Like Heaven and the eponymous Sunshine Superman were arch, memorable, sometimes twee and very, very English. It was a style that had evolved out of his earlier, Dylan-inspired acoustic folk songs like Catch the Wind and Colours, both also represented here.
These weren't your average bubblegum throwaways, though. Moving in the rock aristocracy circles that also embraced the Beatles and the Stones (Paul McCartney sang backup on Mellow Yellow and Donovan's long-time partner Linda had previously had a child by Brian Jones) Donovan had access to the best of London's sessioneer talent. Jeff Beck, Jack Bruce and Jimmy Page played on his songs; John Paul Jones arranged many of them, including the darkly haunted Hurdy Gurdy Man.
He often recruited jazzers, too, and celebrated flautist Harold McNair helped make There Is A Mountain a memorably oddball hit in '67. Jazz influence also touches lesser-known songs like Sunny Goodge Street, one of the highest musical points on this collection, and the finger-clicking swing number Preachin' Love, which would give Jamie Cullum a fair old run for his money today.
Other gems abound; the eerie, Doors-like Season Of the Witch (later to be covered by Brian Auger) the mind-altering four-voice round Happiness Runs (sung with Graham Nash, Leslie Duncan and Paul McCartney's brother Mike) and the string-laden oddity Lalena. Perhaps the track that's dated best, though, is the sinister funk of Goo Goo Barabajagal, recorded with Jeff Beck, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins as the sixties drooped and soured towards their inevitable end.
first published at subba-cultcha.com