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Beat Cafe CD
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A willingness to experiment is something which has always come easy to Donovan ever since he shook off the Bob Dylan comparisons which dogged his early career. As he says in his sleeve notes to this album, it's an attempt at redefining acoustic instruments for trio performance. So, in place of the expected folkie strumming, the album is dominated by soft jazzy shuffles, underpinned by the superlative bass playing of Danny Thompson and Jim Keltner's deft drumming.
It's all perfectly in keeping with the album's beatnik atmosphere, harking back to the coffee houses and jazz clubs in which Donovan learned his trade. The lyrics zing with Ginsberg word play, offering Buddhist meditations on love and life all delivered with Donovan's precise and occasionally arch phrasing.
The playing throughout is a joy, with Thompson's bass well to the fore and Donovan's guitar a subtle presence in the background. Highlights include the slinky title track and the chant driven "The Question", which barrels along on a delightfully funky little groove while Donovan sings of silent forests and secret goddesses. It's just what we've come to expect from the Glaswegian hippy icon and no less welcome for it.
Less successful is the attempt to transform Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" into some kind of Kerouac hipster jazz workout, the stark formalism of Thomas' verse ill suited to the improvisatory backing. Likewise, a cover of traditional standard "The Cuckoo" comes across as vaguely perfunctory. Overall, however, this is a warm, intimate collection of jazz/folk numbers from a highly underrated and idiosyncratic artist which should reward repeated plays. --Mick Fitzsimmons
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Top Customer Reviews
Beat Cafe returns Donovan to the jazzy-beat poet smoke filled clubs of the 60's but with a contemporary edge.This time Donovan has teamed up with producer John Chelew (also on keyboards)with the wonderful Double Bass of Danny Thompson and the expert touch of Jim Keltner on percussion-drums.
As mellow sounding as ever Donovan delivers an interesting mix of songs.Love Floats and Whirlwind have a Buddhist feel to the lyrics which fits in nicely with the Beat-Jazz style of the music.
Other notable tracks include Beatnik Cafe which describes the feel of those 60's hang outs in typical Donovan style . The double Bass of Thompson makes Poor Man's Sunshine a real toe tapper.
Lord Of The Universe is a fun bluesy number,The Cuckoo cover is a catchy version of this traditonal track taught to Don by his old mate Mac MacLeod (who also covered the song on his anthology). The Question has a hypnotic and spooky Donovan in full flow.Two Lovers and Shambala have a return to the Buddhist theme's of love and Utopia,the later sounding like a track from 'Sutras'.Lover O Lover is a erotic mantra like song.
Donovan's real master stroke is his cover of Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle which is simply superb and has a sound of a David Lynch movie soundtrack.Donovan is back!
The playing is magnificent, from Donovan's husky delivery to Jim Keltner's tight drumming to Danny Thompson's (frankly amazing) bass playing.
Welcome to the Beat Cafe. Have a seat, pour some coffee. You may never want to leave...
The complete content is listenable because every song is different from the other, so boredom is not an issue, I can't honestly say this CD has much to show any great steps forward in the music world, but it is new for this particular artist, and for me breaths new life into him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Released in 2004, just one year short of Donovan's fortieth year in the music business, the versatile poet, a real survivor of the 1960s, treated his loyal fan base to this... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Brit Boy
Nothing like the Donovan of old. No passion just a load of mumbo jumbo. I wish I had not bought it and just remembered the Donovan of the early 70's. Read morePublished on 2 July 2014 by james thornberry