on 17 May 2007
"Mellow Yellow" was Donovans's second electric album, and his second produced by Micky Most. To call the album electric is probably a little misguiding, as many tracks are almost pure acoustic recordings; but compared to Donovan first two albums these songs are arranged with a great variety of instruments. Though Donovan is covering quite many different styles ( blues, jazz, folk, classical and pop ) the album works very well as a whole; a fact that arranger John Cameron deserves credit for. His arrangements are both tasteful and varied, creating the atmosphere that makes an album.
The list of guest musician features both classical players and well-known studio musicians like John Paul Jones, Harold McNair and Phil Seamen.
The extremely catchy title-track is well-known to everybody who was there in the sixties, and it still has the charm, so no wonder it made it to number one in the charts back then.
Other highlights are the moving "Young Girl Blues", the catchy "Museum" and the complex "Hampstead Incident".
The charming "Sunny South Kensington" works as a reminder of Donovan's first electic hit "Sunshine Superman" and has some amusing Dylan inspired lyrics.
No less than 10 bonus-track, make the CD-reissue quite a scoop. The two single hits "Epistle to Dippy" and "There is a Mountain" would be stand-out on any Donovan album, and here in particular they work extremely well, being recording during some of the same sessions. I always thought that "There is a Mountain" had the same optimistic feel as Traffic's "You Can All Join In"; both quite typical of the hippie way of thinking in the late 1960's.
The demos are mostly Donovan alone with his guitar, before the final arrangements. The swinging jazzy B-side "Preachin` Love" is another gem.
A CD that can only be highly recommended!
on 13 February 2006
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.
on 16 February 2006
I'm a french customer and I must say this album is one of the best that Donovan has ever made ! This re-mastered CD brings a lot of bonus tracks never released before. If you don't know this major poet, buy it without delay (You have the opportunity to hear the mega international hit : Mellow Yellow); For those who already have this stuff, buy it for the bonus (as well as HURDY GURDY MAN - BARABAJAGAL & SUNSHINE SUPERMAN all re-mastered). People, come, from miles around and abroad to hear this music maker : He is simply wonderful !
Just as Sunshine Superman was named after Donovan's big hit single, so Mellow Yellow took its name from the follow-up single recorded in August 1966, and which similarly was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, tuning in and turning on to the flowery drug-hazed zeitgeist of 1966 and 1967. Released in America a mere five months after the album Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow is of quite remarkably consistently high quality, with some beautifully realized songs and arrangements. I have always felt that the endlessly comparing of Donovan and Bob Dylan were far wide of the mark, and the jazz influences throughout most of Mellow Yellow surely give the lie to any such comparison, though I suppose a Venn diagram would intersect at Mellow Yellow and Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35.
Unlike Sunshine Superman, which was partly recorded in Los Angeles and featured sitars and other exotic instruments, the Mellow Yellow sessions were exclusively cast in London and were all arranged by John Cameron (apart from John Paul Jones for the single Mellow Yellow). They have a distinctly British feel to them, and are none the worse for that. Two of the tracks are purely unaccompanied Donovan on vocal and guitar, Young Girl Blues and Sand And Foam, and both are exquisite songs. Young Girl Blues dates from January 1966 and is of low-fi quality, though its atmospheric performance compensates for its technical shortcomings. It was probably originally a demo as the song was also recorded about that time by both Marianne Faithfull and Julie Felix. Sand And Foam was inspired by a holiday in Mexico around May-June 1966 and is wonderfully evocative.
The rest of the album was recorded in November 1966, with the John Cameron Quartet and other jazz musicians, apart from Sunny South Kensington. This had been recorded on the same day as Sunshine Superman, on 19 December 1965, and had been intended to be its B-side. For some reason it ended up instead as the B-side in the US to Mellow Yellow, and closed the Mellow Yellow album.
This album was not released in the UK. Six of the tracks turned up on the delayed British version of Sunshine Superman (The Observation, Writer In The Sun, Hampstead Incident, Sand And Foam, Young Girl Blues). Sand And Foam later doubled as the B-side to There Is A Mountain, the rest appear to have remained unheard by his native audience until a 1993 CD release.
This expanded re-issue presents the original Mellow Yellow album in mono, and a further 10 bonus tracks. These feature the US-only single, Epistle To Dippy (plus an alternative version); its B-side Preachin' Love (also the UK B-side of Mellow Yellow); the hit single There Is A Mountain; and two outtakes, Good Time and a second unreleased attempt at Superlungs. These are all stereo apart from Preachin' Love. The album closes with the original unaccompanied mono demos for four of the songs on the album. These show that the jazz inflections on some of the songs were there from the outset.
Released at the peak of Donovan Leitch's powers in 1967, 'Mellow Yellow' was the Glasgow born troubadour's second studio album with hit maker Mickie Most as producer. Like it's predecessor 'Sunshine Superman', it wasn't initially released in the UK due to what would become a long- running contractual dispute, but over in America, it peaked at a highly respectable no.14 in their Top 100 albums chart.
The record from the ambassador of 'flower power' marked a mature step-up in Donovan's song writing, which was now peppered with world-weary observations. The light, sing-along title track remains one of Donovan's most popular, memorable songs, which, when issued as a single, shot to no.2 in the US, and back home in Britain, peaked at no.7. Hidden gems such as 'Writer In The Sun', and 'Young Girl Blues', the latter of which conveys a haunting atmosphere, compensate for the lack of other hits on here.
The subtle drug references in Donovan's poetic music endeared him to the hippie movement at the time, and his fairy tale imagery, witty, insightful lyrics, and distinctive, perfect vocals have all made him one of my all-time favourite artists, almost fifty years after the release of 'Mellow Yellow'. This is essentially an acoustic folk-rock album, but the man was, at this stage of his already amazing career, also dipping his toes into jazz (as evidenced in the ballad 'Hampstead Incident'), blues, and classical music, making this a thing of real diversity.
In 2005, EMI decided to re-issue this classic album with an informative booklet, and a generous ten bonus tracks, including the US hits 'Epistle to Dippy', and 'There Is a Mountain' (which gave him yet another top ten in Britain), and a nice batch of collectables including the demos to some of the songs on the original release. Anyone who enjoys Donovan's music from when he moved away from the simple, Bob Dylan-isque folk of his early records, and began to experiment as an interesting, versatile artist, will really enjoy 'Mellow Yellow', which remains a masterpiece of it's kind.
on 3 January 2012
As explained in the very informative booklet this CD came out in England years after it was originally released in the USA. What a great pity this was as if the album had have been released when it was recorded it would be rated a classic of its era. The first ten tracks constitute the original album and what a package! Listening now after so many years the songs stand out as wonderful timeless songs. Mickie Most produced the album and the songs were arranged by John Cameron, but it is Donovan's beautiful voice that is the highlight. He paints lovely pictures with his lyrics and his ever-so-delicate guitar work. The album visits folk, jazz and chamber music and introduces what later pundits would term psychedelia. The album is a real delight. The ten bonus tracks expand one's understanding of the songs with demos and alternate versions as well as a couple of gems from this "Peter Pan" of song. It gets five stars from me!
on 2 March 2012
I was so pleased I bought this album. Various haunting songs had been circling round my brain for years, especially Retired Writer and Young Girl Blues. Now I can hear what they should really sound like. Don't be misled by the simplicity of the headline song (Mellow Yellow). This is Donovan at his creative best. Neil
on 27 December 2012
Nothing is truly memorable apart from the title track. However as a writer Donovan is quite unique often classed as the British Dylan. His acoustic style of songwriting is very good as is his use of lyrics and composition. My okay rating is a bit hard but only Mellow Yellow stands the test in the memory.
on 23 May 2014
having inky ever known his bigger hits I took a punt on this album and was not disappointed, quite a hippyish set of songs and very of its time. Bonus tracks alone make this worth the money.
on 15 August 2013
Excellent album, containing most of his major hits. Would recommend this album to anyone. Just a couple of tracks missing, which if included, would have made this an even better buy.