I’m just mad about Donovan, and while I don’t know whether Donovan’s mad about me, you just might be mad about The Essential Donovan! Though a single-disc compilation of that name arrived from Epic Records and Legacy Recordings in 2004, the 2012 edition does it one (or a few, actually) better. Slated for April 17, the new Essential Donovan coincides with Donovan Leitch’s long-overdue induction next month into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It features 36 songs on two discs, including every one of the 18 songs Donovan brought to the Billboard Hot 100 and U.K. national chart between 1965 and 1973. In addition to those 18 core hits, 14 deep album cuts have been selected as well as four rare tracks making their very first domestic appearance on CD. More than half of the tracks on Disc One are heard in their original mono mixes, including all of Donovan’s acoustic-based tracks recorded for the U.K.’s Pye label (and released in the U.S. on the Hickory imprint) in late 1964 and 1965, as well as a number of Epic sides from 1966.
Donovan Philips Leitch didn’t have an easy time shaking off the early accusation that he was merely a Scottish-born clone of Bob Dylan. Indeed, the opening track on The Essential Donovan, the 1965 hit “Catch the Wind,” wouldn’t dissuade one from that opinion. Dylan himself took potshots at the singer in the documentary Don’t Look Back, snidely remarking, “Donovan who?” on camera and promptly upstaging him during a hotel visit. Donovan himself didn’t deny the debt owed to Dylan, and in 2001, confessed, “I sounded like him for five minutes.” Those five minutes were certainly up by 1966 when the Scottish troubadour released “Sunshine Superman,” one of the first truly psychedelic pop singles and certainly the first to reach No. 1 on the American charts.
Hit the jump and it’s 1966 all over again! You’ll also find a complete track listing with discographical annotation!
The success of Donovan’s earliest folk-leaning LPs, Catch the Wind, Fairytale and the American hodgepodge The Real Donovan, couldn’t have prepared listeners for the lysergic sounds of Sunshine Superman, the album and the single. And despite Donovan’s European origins, American audiences were actually ahead of the curve in savoring its far-out delights. It was late in 1965 when Donovan split with his original management team and signed with Ashley Kozak of Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises. Kozak introduced the singer to the notorious American impresario Allen Klein, who recommended Mickie Most as a producer. In December of that year, Billboard reported that a deal between Donovan, Klein and Most was in the offing, as was an American signing to Epic Records. But Donovan was apparently still signed to Pye in the U.K. (home to Petula Clark, The Kinks and others) and Pye’s American licensee wasn’t Epic, but Warner Bros. Records!
The ensuing legal dispute was a lengthy one, and as a result, Donovan’s American and British releases differed significantly. Sunshine Superman saw its first issue on the Epic label in America in September 1966, and the U.K. release didn’t arrive until June 1967, by which time Donovan had already released its follow-up, Mellow Yellow, on Epic in March. (The British edition drew on both albums’ material.) To make the most of the available material, this Sunshine Superman was an entirely different album created for the U.K. market, drawing on both the original LP and Mellow Yellow. Donovan’s contractual problems also prevented Mellow Yellow, The Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) and Barabajagal (1969) from receiving U.K. issue.
And that was truly the United Kingdom’s loss. With Sunshine Superman, Donovan embarked on a dazzlingly creative journey, introducing quintessential songs like “Season of the Witch,” “The Trip” and “Legend of a Girl Child Linda.” Mellow Yellow added another hit title song (No. 2!) as well as “Sunny South Kensington” to the list of perennials, while the ambitious double-LP A Gift from a Flower to a Garden introduced the sunny “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.” The Hurdy Gurdy Man took on a more ominous note with its eponymous track, though the album also included the bright “Jennifer Juniper.” By the decade’s end, Donovan was riding high, collaborating with the Jeff Beck Group (Beck, Ron Wood, Nicky Hopkins and Mickey Waller) on the Barabajagal LP.
By 1970, the musical landscape had irrevocably changed, with psychedelia ceding chart space to twin poles of hard rock and bubblegum pop. Donovan carved out his own niche by staying true to his restless musical spirit, and the album Open Road saw him exploring a Celtic-influenced folk rock sound. H.M.S. Donovan wasn’t a Gilbert and Sullivan tribute, but rather another sprawling double-LP set combining both song and spoken word. It was so outré that Epic declined to release it in the U.S., though one single from the album was released, “Celia of the Seals.” It’s, of course, included on The Essential Donovan, as is the artist’s final hit to date, “I Like You,” from 1973’s Cosmic Wheels.
The Essential Donovan premieres four songs on American compact discs. “The Land of Doesn’t Have to Be” appeared in 1967 on Wear Your Love Like Heaven and is heard here in a 1966 mono version. “Sunny Goodge Street” (a song also covered by Tom Northcott) and “Sand and Foam” are heard in renditions from a November 17, 1967 concert at the Anaheim Convention Center, while “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)” arrives via the CBS/Japan-only LP Live in Japan – Spring Tour 1973. Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone) contributes liner notes for the set.
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in the mystique of Donovan, you’ll find the track listing for The Essential Donovan and a pre-order link below. You may not be able to catch the wind, but you can catch this compilation when it streets from Epic and Legacy on April 17!
Donovan, The Essential Donovan (Epic/Legacy 88691 95868 2 4)
- Catch The Wind (mono single version, 1965, Hickory) Hot 100 #23
- Colours (mono single, 1965) Hot 100 #61
- Summer Day Reflection Song (mono single, 1965)
- Universal Soldier (mono single, 1965) Hot 100 #53
- You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond (mono single, 1965)
- Turquoise (mono single, 1965, Hickory)
- Sunshine Superman (extended version, 1966) Hot 100 #1
- The Trip (single version, 1966)
- Legend Of A Girl Child Linda
- Season Of The Witch
- Ferris Wheel
- Mellow Yellow (mono single, 1966) Hot 100 #2
- Young Girl Blues (mono)
- Museum (mono)
- Hampstead Incident (mono)
- Sunny South Kensington (mono single, 1966)
- The Land Of Doesn’t Have To Be (early version, mono, 1966) previously unissued in the U.S.
- Epistle To Dippy (single, 1967) Hot 100 #19
- There Is A Mountain (single, 1967) Hot 100 #11
- Wear Your Love Like Heaven (single, 1967) Hot 100 #23
- Isle Of Islay
- Sunny Goodge Street (recorded: November 17, 1967 at the Anaheim Convention Center, previously unissued on CD in the U.S.)
- Sand And Foam (recorded: November 17, 1967 at the Anaheim Convention Center, previously unissued on CD in the U.S.)
- Jennifer Juniper (single, 1968) Hot 100 #26
- Hurdy Gurdy Man (single, 1968) Hot 100 #5
- Get Thy Bearings
- Lalena (single, 1968) Hot 100 #33
- To Susan On The West Coast Waiting (single, 1969) Hot 100 #35
- Atlantis (single, 1969) Hot 100 #7
- Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot) [with the Jeff Beck Group] (single, 1969) Hot 100 #36
- Happiness Runs
- Riki Tiki Tavi (single, 1970) Hot 100 #55
- Celia Of The Seals (single, 1971) Hot 100 #84
- I Like You (single, 1973) Hot 100 #66
- Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) previously unissued in the U.S.
CD 1, Tracks 1 & 5 from Catch The Wind (Hickory LPM 123, 1965)
CD 1, Tracks 2-4 from Fairytale (Hickory LPM 127, 1965)
CD 1, Track 6 from The Real Donovan (Hickory LPM 135, 1966)
CD 1, Tracks 7-11 from Sunshine Superman (Epic BN 26217, 1966)
CD 1, Tracks 12-16 from Mellow Yellow (Epic LN 24239, released 1966)
CD 1, Track 17 & CD 2, Tracks 5-6 previously unissued in the U.S.
CD 1, Track 18 & CD 2, Track 10 from Donovan’s Greatest Hits (Epic BN 26439, 1969)
CD 2, Track 1 from Epic single 5-10212, 1967
CD 2, Tracks 2-3 from Wear Your Love Like Heaven (Epic BN 26349, 1967)
CD 2, Track 4 from For Little Ones (Epic BN 26350, 1967)
CD 2, Tracks 7-9 from The Hurdy Gurdy Man (Epic BN 26420, 1968)
CD 2, Tracks 11-14 from Barabajagal (Epic BN 26481, 1969)
CD 2, Track 15 from Open Road (Epic E 30125, 1970)
CD 2, Track 16 from H.M.S. Donovan (Dawn 3009, 1971)
CD 2, Track 17 from Cosmic Wheels (Epic KE 32156, 1973)
CD 2, Track 18 from Live In Japan - Spring Tour 1973 (Epic Japan ECPM 25, 1973 – previously unreleased in U.S.)
CD 2, Tracks 2-4 also included on A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (Epic B2N 171, 1967)