on 29 January 2009
This review is mainly for Donovan fans.
The first CD release of this was by BGO back in 1993 and it was mono, although the remastering was great. BGO realised their mistake and quickly issued a stereo version. Unfortunately they did a crap job 'remastering' (for want of a better word) and the result was that it stayed in the CD drawer and was rarely played.
I was apprehensive when I saw the upcoming release of this by EMI using THAT word 'Remastered' again, but ordered it none the less. 4 days after release date it turns up on my doorstep on the other side of the world for less than a local release (including postage). Great job Amazon U.K..
The verdict: SOUND IS SUPERB. Don't hesitate getting this one.
The only down side is EMI couldn't use the Karl Ferris cover shots, but they do have most of the Mick Taylor and Sheens McCall artwork and the presentaion is top class.
on 4 May 2006
I still have my original boxed set of this double album, complete with all it's beautifully presented sheets of lyrics. It was always a favourite of mine, not just because I like folk music, but because it lacks the pop music bias of much of Donovan's otherwise excellent work. In these tracks he isn't trying to appeal to just those people who liked his top 10 music, he's out to create beautiful and etheral soundscapes which arise naturally from the long legacy of British folk music. There are mystical images, romanticism and impressions of idyllic landscapes .... yet underneath many songs there is also a subtle darkness that gives his music great depth.
Without wanting to sound grandiose or precocious, this album strikes me as being the musical equivalent of 'art nouveau' .... beautiful in the way it is designed and presented; inherently associated with an individual's view of the natural and mythical world; and timeless.
Having said all that, there are subtle influences of jazz and modern rhythms which prevent 'Gift' from being a reworking of stale ideas. Even so long after it's initial release, the whole thing remains fresh and will repay you handsomely the more times you listen to it.
on 15 February 2006
A Gift From A Flower To A Garden sees the fruition of many of the themes and ideas hinted at in Donovan’s two earlier ‘electric’ records. Here, there is a unity of musical purpose and vision, and a richness of textures, which only surfaced at times on Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. As you may know, the project was sumptuously packaged in its original form: a double album with a folio of lyrics and drawings, all presented in a box with the famous Donovan –in-robes photo on the front. Wonderful. And as for the music, well this is something else…
The first half, for grown-ups, is characterised by a richness and depth of musical performance, and by a coherent ‘sound’ which fits perfectly with the lyrical content. Bass, drums, organ, guitars and jazz inflections provided by vibes, create a wonderfully deep and rich soundscape. Wear Your Love Like Heaven is probably the best known of these compositions, and that sound is reproduced on other songs such as Mad John’s Escape, Skip Along Sam, Someone Singing and The Land of Doesn’t Have To Be, to simply gorgeous effect. This deep and rich sound is complimented by lyrics which perfectly capture the optimism of the times and Donovan’s poetic sensibility. From Mad John in his transport café, to the terrific adaptation of Under The Greenwood Tree, this is music which just makes sense. And everything is enveloped in melodies to just die for. If you think All You Need Is Love is the pinnacle of flower power sentiments, listen again to this perfect pop psychedelia.
The second half, For Little Ones, compliments the first half perfectly. Its always confused me this. Many of the songs just do not reflect child-like concerns: Widow With A Shawl is a case in point. This is a terrific song of lamentation, a real nod by Donovan to his earlier folk-period and the themes present in some of the old folk songs, but hardly a theme for children. The Enchanted Gypsy is similar. A song steeped in folk tradition, but entirely original and also a bit mysterious, not child-like at all (an aside: why hasn’t this song been around for a hundred years? It sounds as if it should have been. Like Colours. Donovan didn’t write these, he just wrote them down!). The same with Lullaby Of Spring and Isle Of Islay. No, these are not child concerns. For Little Ones might refer to some of the material here, but not all. It may well refer to the sounds, the music. The accompaniment is much sparser than the first half. Gone are the rich and deep orchestrations, instead replaced by a lightness of touch: acoustic guitars, flutes, light percussion…a simplicity which it is tempting to describe as a throwback to his earlier folk days. But it isn’t really. In its own way, its as far removed from Catch The Wind as Sunshine Superman. A more sophisticated Donovan is playing here. It may be the same acoustic guitar, but that’s where the similarity begins and ends.
So, give A Gift From A Flower To A Garden a listen. Be transported to Donovan’s simply wonderful world, a garden not of earthly delights but a delightful place all the same. And those melodies, those textures, those trippy lyrics…Colour of sky Prussian Blue, scarlet fleece changes hue…Like Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, just extraordinary and quite beautiful. Miss this and you miss a once in a lifetime treat. Ethereal, but not ephemeral.
on 1 June 2005
Here we have another fine album from one of my now all-time favourite singer-songwriters. Be aware the two albums are distinctly different: the first is a collection of more upbeat and more commercial material (most of which was added as the record label felt the music of the second half of this album wasn't commercial enough but I'll come to that in a moment) and the second half is mainly folky, acoustic material, with 'songs for children' as Donovan himself put it.
For me, the first half of the album is good, but the second half is amazing. Check 'The Enchanted Gypsy', 'Isle Of Islay' and 'Lullaby Of Spring', wonderful songs about nature, enchanting tales and the passing of the seasons. It's perhaps not as surreal as the music on 'Sunshine Superman' but as the cover art suggests, Donovan's love of the seaside really shines through on this set.
Whilst I am quite a fan of music with the darker emotions I can't help but appreciate this guy's mastery of writing about all that is good and beutiful in this world. I wouldn't quite say it's 5 out of 5 for me because of how I feel about the first 10 songs overall but this CD is worth the last 12 alone. Highly recommended.
on 17 December 2004
Very rarely do albums such as ''A Gift from a Flower to a Garden'' come along. If ever you seek comfort, inspiration or wonderment from a musician then settle upon this record as your resting place.
For within each song is a magical (some would say twee) world where Donovan employs Jazz, Folk, Psychedelia, Shakespeare and Indian philosophy as his musical and lyrical templates of choice.
It is a testament to Donovan's white hot creativity of this period that he manages to cover so much ground just on a lyrical basis over so many songs.
Suffice to say, buy this album immediately and dig ''Skipalong Sam'', ''Sun'', ''Wear Your Love Like Heaven'' and best of all ''Mad John''.
on 15 July 2003
Master songwriter Donovan recaptures the pure innocence and unconditional love of youth in this vibrant collection of magical songs. If you want to unhook from the drab grind of life and shrug off the all too serious cloak of adulthood, plug yourself in to this Donovan masterpiece. Sing along, enjoy, be young and feel your 'joie de vivre' being restored. It is indeed a gift !
on 5 April 2006
The best of this double album undoubtedly shows Donovan at the height of his artistic powers: songs are poetic but succinct, with sensitive backing from Harold McNair and others when it's needed (Enchanted Gypsy; Tinker and the Crab) or his own acoustic guitar when it isn't (Isle of Islay; Epistle to Derroll).
If you are only familiar with the numerous permutations of the much-reissued early stuff then this is a clear development, though the songs retain Donovan's sense of seeing beauty and wonder in the simplest things, especially in Isle of Islay or a song like Starfish on the Toast: "Holding whelks and periwinkles tingling in his hand / Little does he know they hold him too."
I agree that the second album is better than the first, as others have said, but one of the beauties of Gift... as a whole is that several styles, including a relaxed, jazzy feel on some numbers like Sun, blend effortlessly together without feeling forced - indeed, ease and unselfconsciousness are the key words here. Other Donovan albums have their merits but in my view this record simply has the highest concentration of excellent songs.
on 7 November 2006
Donovan is simply one of those genius singer sonwriters who kept producing wonderful, evocotive and beautifully realised songs but was also a brilliant interpreter of other peoples songs. Here he is on top form. He took a step back from the mainstream pop oreientated music with which he had become associated. That is not the devalue any of that work, it is wonderful too, however, this is a perfectly realised Donovan album that exudes a towering writing and performing confidence. The songs here are as fresh as the day they were written.
For many people this is the peak of Donovans career, however, I believe that he went on to record many more wonderful albums. I would advise anyone who is at all interested in this great artist to check out any of his albums they are all head and shoulders above much of what you will find in the avaerage record collection
Although he became less commercially successful in the 1970s, to paraphrase Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, it was not Donovan that stopped being big but the music that got small.
on 31 August 2000
Released as a limited edition boxed double album when Donovan was at the height of his fame. Record 1 was infectious pop songs with lavish production. Record 2 was pure folk songs about gypsys, banjos and starfish. Just voice, guitar and a bit of pipe and maybe banjo.
If you like Donovan then you owe it to yourself to buy this. I can't praise it enough.
This is the pinnacle of Donovan's art