TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 May 2016
Sony Music released their Donovan entry in their 'Original Album Classics' series in 2010, which contained the three classic albums 'Mellow Yellow' (1967), 'The Hurdy Gurdy Man' (1968), and 'Barabajagal' (1969), which were all released when the Scottish bard was at the peak of his powers at the hand of visionary record producer, and proven hit maker Mickie Most. Though he had begun his recording career as a straight-folk singer-songwriter, he was now branching into all kinds of different musical styles, with his work incorporating an electric mix of folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music.
'Mellow Yellow', his second electric venture with Most, wasn't released initially in the UK due to what would become a running contractual dispute, but over in America, it peaked at a highly respectable no.14 in their Top 100 albums chart. The album marked a mature step-up in his song writing, peppered now with world-weary observations, and the sing-along title track remains one of Donovan's most popular songs. When it was issued as a single, it shot to no.2 in the US, and back home in Britain, peaked at no.7. Other gems include 'Writer In The Sun', and 'Young Girl Blues'.
'The Hurdy Gurdy Man', again, not released in the UK, contains further 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 top 5 UK hit '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 separate singles.
'Barabajagal' is an album which often divides the critics and fans alike, but I have always had a real soft spot it. This was the Scottish poet's final studio record of the 1960s, his most commercially successful decade as a recording artist, and once again, was only released in America, where it peaked in their charts at a respectable no. 23. The most famous song here is the title track, a relatively heavy rocker with backing duties to The Jeff Beck Group. This was to become Donovan's last top 40 hit single in any country. Other stand outs include the upbeat rocker 'Superlungs (My Supergirl)', which was originally recorded during the 'Sunshine Superman' sessions but neglected, with it's fabulous psychedelic effect, the gentle, laid-back 'Where Is She', the pure joy which is the sing-along track 'Happiness Runs', the sheer brilliance of the song writing of the atmospheric anti-war tune 'To Susan on the West Coast Waiting', and 'Atlantis', which had Paul McCartney on backing vocals, and is a folky song so good that it's even mentioned on the front cover. The others aren't quite as noteworthy, but I do enjoy the very silly but charming 'I Love My Shirt', which was aimed at children, and really is lovely in it's innocence.
Any self-respecting fan of the psychedelic-folk-rock scene needs a little bit of this man in their collection, and these three albums are among the crème of the crop in Donovan's rich catalogue of work. Each one is housed in mini replica sleeves inside a neat cardboard box. There are no great frills, and no booklet to accompany the albums. If you are a real fan of Donovan's music, then I suggest you buy the remastered editions separately, where you'll find a wealth of interesting bonus tracks on each, as well as an attractive, comprehensive booklet. If you really don't care fir such extras, then buy this excellent little box.