HURDY GURDY SONGS-WORDS AND MUSIC BY DONOVAN 1965-1971.


Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Having signed to Pye Records in 1965, nineteen year old singer-songwriter Donovan began working with the producers Terry Kennedy, Peter Eden and Geoff Stephens on his debut single Catch The Wind. When the single was released on the ‘12th’ of March 1965, it reached number four in the UK and twenty-three in the US Billboard 100. This was the start of the rise and rise of one most influential singer-songwriters of his generation. 

Donovan’s music played an important part in the soundtrack to the second half of the sixties on both sides of the Atlantic. By then, many artists and bands were keen to cover his songs. This includes those on Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971 which was recently released by Ace Records and is part of their long-running and successful Songwriter Series.

The compilation features twenty-four tracks and includes contributions from Herman’s Hermits, Terry Reid, Bridget St John, Marianne Faithfull, Paul Jones, Big Jim Sullivan, Dana Gillespie, Sandie Shaw, The Gosdin Brothers and Deep Purple. They’re just some of the artists on Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971 who cover songs written by the Sunshine Superman and psychedelic minstrel from Maryhill.

Opening Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971 is Museum which is psych-tinged track from Herman’s Hermits’ album Blaze which was released on Columbia in 1967. The album was produced by Mickie Most who was Donovan’s producer and at the time, was the man with the Midas touch who also produced The Animals. It’s fitting that a track produced by the man who transformed Donovan’s career opens the compilation.

In 1969, Mickie Most produced Terry Reid’s eponymous sophomore album which was released by Columbia. The highlight of the album was the of Superlungs which was released as the lead single. This slice of psychedelic rock features a vocal powerhouse from the man who Jimmy Page wanted to become the lead vocalist of The New Yarbirds which later became Led Zeppelin.

The Pebble And The Man was covered by English singer-songwriter Bridget St John for her 1971 sophomore album Songs For The Gentle Man. Her tender, heartfelt vocal is accompanied by a complicated choral arrangement on this beautiful baroque folk track which was produced by Ron Geesin. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the compilation.

Sunshine Superman was covered by LA-based garage rockers The Standells on their album The Hot Ones, which was released by Tower in 1967. It’s very different to the original and is best described as a slice of lysergic 12-bar-folk-blues that certainly leaves a lasting impression.

By 1967, Marianne Faithfull’s time at Decca was almost at an end. Her swansong for the label was her fourth album Love In A Mist which featured a cover of Young Girl Blues. It features a soul-baring vocal as Marianne Faithfull lives the lyrics which are delivered against cascading stings that are part of an understated arrangement. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success and nowadays is regarded as an oft-overlooked hidden gem. One of the many highlights is Young Girl Blues which is much more powerful and poignant than Donavan’s version which was released later in 1967.

Paul Jones covered Celeste for his album Come Into My Music Box which was released by Columbia in 1969. The song was arranged and directed by John Cameron with Paul Burgess taking charge of production. The song features a melody full of longing and an eclectic selection of modern and traditional instruments that provide a backdrop for a heartfelt and emotive vocal.

British session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan recorded Translove Airways (Fat Angel) for his album Sitar A Gogo. It was released in 1967 on the Mercury label. The track combines blues, jazz, psychedelic rock and Eastern sounds on this timeless genre-melting jam.

Dana Gillespie started off as a folk singer, but by the time she released her debut album Foolish Seasons on London Records in 1968, her music was evolving. The album featured elements of folk, pop and psychedelic rock. One of the highlights is a hook-laden and poppy  cover of Donovan’s You Just Gotta Know My Mind. 

Oh Gosh originally featured on Donovan’s double album A Gift From A Flower To A Garden which was released in 1967. Two years later, in 1969, Sandie Shaw covered Oh Gosh on her album The Situation which was released by Pye. By then, she wanted to release an album that featured her taste in music. This was the case with this quite beautiful  dreamy and lysergic cover which shows another side to Sandie Shaw.

Try And Catch The Wind was the song that launched Donovan’s career in 1965. It was then covered by many other artists including The Gosdin Brothers on their Sounds Of Goodbye album which was released by Capitol in 1968. It’s a beautiful cover with heartfelt vocals that are accompanied by a spartan folk rock arrangement.

Vocal trio The Sandpipers covered Jennifer Juniper and gave the song an AOR makeover for their fourth album, Softly, which was released by A&M Records in 1968. One of the highlights of the album was their reinvention of a Donovan classic.

Closing Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971 is Deep Purple’s cover of the ballad Laleña which featured on their 1969 eponymous album. It features a spartan but atmospheric arrangement and a heartfelt and soul-baring and is a a quite beautiful way to close the compilation.

On the ‘10th’ of May 2021 Donovan celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday, but still he’s no intention of retiring. He’s been a professional musician since 1964, and a year later in 1965 he signed to Pye Records. 

Later that year, he began working with producer Mickie Most who was the man with the Midas touch and produced a string of hit singles for Donovan. Soon, he was enjoying hits in Britain, America, Australia and countless other countries. These hits were written by the Sunshine Superman and psychedelic minstrel who became one of the most important and influential singer-songwriters of his generation. 

That’s why so many artists and bands on both sides of the Atlantic wanted to work cover songs written by Donovan. Some songs that Donovan wrote were better suited to other artists, and they recorded the definitive version. Sometimes, he wrote a song and allowed another artist to record it before he did. This includes Marianne Faithfull’s version of Young Girl Blues which she made her own. It’s one of the many highlights of Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971. 

This lovingly curated compilation also includes covers of Donovan classics including Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Jennifer Juniper which are joined by Catch The Wind, Colours and Atlantis. The twenty-four covers on Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971 are a reminder of the Sunshine Superman and psychedelic minstrel from Maryhill who became one of the most important and influential singer-songwriters of his generation and who went on to inspire several generations of musicians including those on the latest instalment in Ace Records’ long-running and successful Songwriter Series.

Hurdy Gurdy Songs-Words and Music By Donovan 1965-1971.

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