on 18 February 2006
This record continues to astonish. If A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (Donovan’s Songs Of Innocence And Experience?) mixed simpler instruments alongside lush and textured orchestrations, The Hurdy Gurdy Man created a tapestry of delights from more diverse sources. The influence of eastern music was more apparent here than on any of Donovan’s music since some of the songs on Sunshine Superman, and on this record it soaked into the very fibres of the sound. Here, Donovan develops eastern tones most clearly and obviously in Tangier (words by Gypsy Dave) and, surprisingly, Peregrine (a song also influenced by the atonal drones of the pipes and strings of Donovan’s Scottish roots;) songs which are quite unlike anything he had previously recorded. These experimental musings are gloriously successful, creating a mood which perfectly fits with the other, more familiar sounding, songs on this collection.
The Entertaining Of A Shy Girl and The Sun Is A Very Magic Fellow return Donovan to the sounds created on For Little Ones: acoustic guitar, flute, and percussion so light it could float away. Vignettes of life were always a real source for Donovan the storyteller, and Shy Girl captures its scene brilliantly. McNair’s flute playing simply soars away on so many of these performances. Just exquisite.
Elsewhere, Donovan’s jazz influences are allowed full reign, with the uptempo As I Recall It, the majestic Get Thy Bearings and the knowing Teas all doffing their cap to the Jazz tones and textures Donovan had decided to foreground. The Jazz influence was completed by the stunning Hi Its Been A Long Time, a brilliantly fused mix of Jazz, pop and pyschedelia which ranks along Donovan’s finest work of this period.
That this collection also includes the achingly beautiful melodies of Jennifer Juniper and The Hurdy Gurdy Man speaks volumes for Donovan’s creativity during this period. Jennifer Juniper is a wonderful arrangement, with John Cameron excelling himself in surrounding the melody with a chamber music style which leans heavily on English romanticism.
The Hurdy Gurdy Man song itself is an outrageous slice of pop perfection. Never mind the stories about who did or did not play on it, the point is that everyone who did played brilliantly. The guitar solo tears into the melody, the rhythm section powers everything along like a hurricane, and Donovan’s ‘simple’ lyrics, like on There Is A Mountain, betray a complexity of vision that is just mesmerising. Donovan may have opened his eyes ‘to take a peep’, but the wonder is that a little of what he saw was not just remembered but translated into a brilliant three minute piece which fused melody and lyric in some style.
The bonus material is interesting, but reveals little in the way of the creative process. Fans of his Greatest Hits will be familiar with most of this material. The treasures are Lalena and Poor Cow. The latter is a wonderful melody and lyric used to good effect in Ken Loach’s Poor Cow film, while Lalena is a haunting song dealing with similar themes as Young Girl Blues, to which it really should be seen as a companion piece. The string arrangement here is beautiful. The re-recorded Colours and Catch The Wind are interesting variations, while What A Beautiful Creature You Are signals Donovan’s continuing attempts to create throwaway singalongs.
The Hurdy Gurdy Man is terrific Donovan. This was a time when Donovan was performing regularly with a core group of master musicians, and the influence of these should not be underestimated. Take a bow Harold McNair, Tony Carr and Danny Thompson…rarely has a performer been blessed with such sympathetic players. The combination of Donovan, Mickie Most and John Cameron once again revealed itself as being at the vanguard of musical achievements. For a several years these guys were just peerless. Thank goodness we can again revel in their creativity and musical wit.
on 8 October 2006
"Hurdy Gurdy Man" was Donovan's 1968 album, built up around the strong singles "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Jennifer Juniper". Like Donovan's other Micky Most produced albums this one touches upon a great varity of musical styles and instrumentations, with tasteful and original arrangements by John Cameron. Some of the more rocking tunes were arranged by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin - e.g. the stunningly build-up title track, starting with Donovan's silent humming joined by his acoustic guitar and building up towords its climax with electric guitars and drums. The overall sound-quality of this re-mastered version is great!
"Jennifer Juniper" is a beautifully arranged pop-ballad featuring both oboe and harp.
The album features a handful catchy free and easy tunes among which "The Entertaining of a Shy Girl"and "The Sun is a very Magic Fellow" stand out!
A couple of the droning tunes, combing traditional Eastern sounds with Celtic sounds, may sound a little dated.
"West Indian Lady" revives memories of the Caribbean feel of Donovan's earlier single "There is a Mountain".
A few tracks like "As I Recall it" and "Get Thy Bearings" are quite jazzy, and "Hi, It's Been a Long Time" is a great pop-tune, beautifully instrumentated.
Among the 7 bonus-tracks several stand out. The B-side "Teen Angel" is an early Donovan composition; a fine melody and a great addition.
The album out-take "What a Beautiful Creature You Are" is a fun track with a very catchy melody. The song features singer Lulu. The song ought have been included on the original album.
The two re-recordings of "Catch the Wind" and Colours" done for a for a best of album, are both fine, though they lack the charm of the original versions.
All in all another fine Donovan reissue!
on 12 May 2005
This EMI remastered version of the album "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" is a great buy for Donovan novices and collectors alike. For novices because it will buy them a great Donovan album of deeply meditative and highly playful songs, which all lovers of music deserve to hear.
For collectors of Donovan this release is also a great buy because it contains "Aye my love" and "What a Beautiful Creature You Are". The song "Aye my love" has not, as far as I know, been released since back in 1968 where it came out in the US on a single together with "Lalena". The atmosphere of "Aye my love" is alike to that of "Poor Cow", so if you liked that song you need to hear "Aye my love".
"What a Beautiful Creature You Are" has never been released before, which is a pity since it is catchy earful for sure! It is a highly humorous tune, which if anything reminds me of "The Intergalactic Laxative" from Donovan's "Cosmic Wheels" album. Yes, it is that good.
The idea that Donovan Leitch was to Britain what Bob Dylan was to America was always an unfair comparison to make and you have to think if Scottish folk-pop singer's first name had started with any letter other than "D" he might have been saved the analysis. Then again, anybody who cannot listen to the music these two were putting out in the 1960s and not be able to see their music as being opposites is simply not paying attention. Donovan was always the cheerful optimist, while Dylan on a good day was merely being realistic instead of pessimistic. That was just in terms of their lyrics, because once you got to the music Dylan was defined by stark guitar playing sometimes augmented by a harmonica in the style of Woody Guthrie while Donovan was helping to define the psychedelic sound.
In 1965 Donovan was a regular on the television music show "Ready, Steady, Go!" and then had his début single, the folk song "Catch the Wind." That was followed by the hit single "Colours," and then "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow." In 1967 he traveled to India with the Beatles to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, after which he renounced drugs and turned on to meditation. Musically these profound changes manifested themselves in the ambitious double-album "A Gift from a Flower to a Garden" and then this 1968 album, "The Hurdy Gurdy Man." The scope of the album is covered in the two hits. The title cut (on which future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham were playing) is a mixture of Indian music with hard-rock, tinged with hallucinatory elements that made it to #5 on the charts. On the other extreme is the more ethereal "Jennifer Juniper," written for Jenny Boyd, the sister of George Harrison's wife, which climbed to #26. If you want to point to a Donovan song as epitomizing his sense of youthful innocence, this would be it.
The only real problem with this album is that producer Mickie Most lays it on a bit too thick in several of the tracks. I like the first two tracks after the title cut, with "Peregrine," a song about friendship that has some Scottish elements in it, and the excellent acoustic song "The Entertaining of a Shy Girl," which offers some nice guitar playing and a touch of woodwinds. But then "As I Recall It" spoils the mood by overdoing the jazz bit. By the time you get to the rest of the album there is a real sense that Donovan has abandoned the stage set by the opening track. In addition to "Jennifer Juniper" there is another odd to the ladies in "West Indian Lady." Then there is an emphasis on nature elements at the end with "The River Song," "A Sunny Day," and "The Sun Is a Very Magic Fellow," which helps the album end on more familiar ground than on which it began.
I was trying to decide if how good the best tracks on this album overcame the lesser efforts, and decided to round up because of "Get Thy Bearings" as the song that is not on the standard Donovan hits collection that would justify having this one as well. Telling this to a Donovan fan would be preaching to the choir and I am not arguing that "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" constitutes the one regular album you would want to have or first pick up when you moved beyond the hits collection. But this song has some of Donovan's better lyrics and if the sound had been catchier it would have made an interesting single. It has psychedelic elements, but there is also some jazz and blues, and some people might mistake it for a Stevie Windwood song, that is, until they listen to the lyrics, which is pure Donovan.
on 14 February 2010
Donovan is often a little twee for my tastes, but he has produced some sterling work along the way, and Hurdy Gurdy Man is a pure psychedelic classic by any standards, so this reasonably priced set is worth owning if only for that track - but there is much more here and if you are in the right frame of mind for extended exposure to this great survivor then you may well re-evaluate the quality of his early output.
Donovan was nothing if not productive in the sixties. Between his first single, Catch The Wind in 1965, and Hurdy Gurdy Man, his biggest 1968 hit, Donovan had released eight albums, containing around eighty different songs across a variety of styles, from simple acoustic folk songs to sophisticated jazz stylings; always pioneering, always shrewdly of the moment.
The previous year Donovan had released a lavishly boxed double album with one disc containing songs for young adults, and the other songs ostensibly for children, though they contained some of his most charming work, suitable for all ages, and in 1968 he had already released a live album, presenting his music in a range of settings to showcase his versatility. The album The Hurdy Gurdy Man is similarly wide-ranging, reprising the styles of his recent work but also showing new influences: some more rock-oriented material, notably Hurdy Gurdy Man, and several calypso-style numbers, some more successful than others, and including another hit single, Jennifer Juniper. In just one or two of the songs there is a sense that overbearing tweeness will suffocate the enterprise, but on most, such as the charming Teas, he lands solidly on the right side of such excesses and exudes quality and confidence. Whilst of their time, they are not dated; it's just that no-one is working in the area that he was so successfully exploring at the time.
This edition contains seven bonus tracks: three B-sides, including Poor Cow from the soundtrack of the film; the non-album single Lalena; the re-recordings of Catch The Wind and Colours that first appeared on Donovan's Greatest Hits; and one outtake that has a guest appearance from Lulu (Donovan and Lulu shared a producer in Mickie Most). Apart from the three B-sides that are mono, the entire CD is in stereo.
The Hurdy Gurdy Man is one of the albums that Pye did not release in the UK. It finally made an appearance on CD in 1990. It is regrettable that the material on this album remained largely unheard in his home territory for 32 years and missed its intended audience, but perhaps this release will reach a fraction of them as well as some younger admirers of music from the sixties such as this.
Donovan's seventh studio album is one of the best. Hurdy Gurdy Man has some brilliant songs and creative production. The psychedelic elements are still there and there are touches of Jazz, rock and pop. The album had its biggest success in America due to the continuing contractual dispute in the UK that had prevented the correct version of Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow from being released.
The majority of the album was written after visiting Rishikesh in India to study under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi along with The Beatles.
For a great example of good sixties pop creativity you cannot go wrong with this album.
This CD issue is just great with good remastered sound and bonus tracks.
Like all of the other re-issues of Donovan's albums that were released in 2005 to celebrate his 40 year anniversary, 'The Hurdy Gurdy Man' is given a great justice.
The sound quality is quite simply superb, the seven bonus tracks, including the interesting 1968 re-recorded versions of the hits 'Colours' and 'Catch the Wind', and the previously unreleased sexy duet with fellow scot Lulu (who was another recording artist who was being watched by Mickie Most at the time) 'What A Beautiful Creature You Are' complement the original track listing. The excellent booklet contains an in-depth essay by Lorne Murdoch, rare pictures, and memorabilia, and just by owning this superb edition of a classic album, produced by the legendary hit maker Mickie Most, makes you feel like a real collector.
The album contains much folk-pop treasure, including it's majestic opener 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', one of the Scottish troubadour's greatest songs with it's harder rock edge, and the enchanting 'Jennifer Juniper', both of which were wisely issued as singles. The jazzy 'As I Recall It', and the beautiful 'Hi It's Been A Long Time' have always been among my favourites which weren't released as singles.
'The Hurdy Gurdy Man' was the latest in what was a trio of seemingly endless classics from Donovan, released in 1968, following the excellent 'A Gift from a Flower to a Garden', 'Mellow Yellow', and 'Sunshine Superman'. Although his subsequent releases were good, I do think that this one marked his final 'essential' album.
Donovan, the King of Flower Power gave us all some of the most superbly imaginative, highly influential, and timeless music of the '60s generation. Any self-respecting fan of the psychedelic-folk-rock scene needs a little bit of this man in their collection, and 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' is one of his essentials.
on 26 July 2007
of course this is a fantastic record. my only comment concerns the bonus track "aye my love". you hear the first verse twice and the second verse is missing! compare this with the original b-side of "lalena". donovan deserves a better treatment and it's the only reason i don't give this disc 5 stars! i hope someone from the record company reads this and puts the real version of "aye my love" on a renewed version of this cd!
on 3 January 2012
This genre-bending album is a treat for Donovan fans as it weaves its way through folk, rock, calypso, blues, "Eastern" exotica and psychedelia! Donovan's voice is the star however as he holds our hands as he guides us on the musical journey. The stereo mix suits the songs well as on some of the songs the lead vocals travel across the stereo spectrum. It is so delicious! The seven bonus songs expand on the journey with a couple of rerecordings of earlier material included. Another delight from this "Peter Pan" of rock!