1968, Music

The Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) by Donovan

Donovan put out so many damn albums in the late ’60s that I have a hard time believing it sometimes. So I stupidly assumed Mellow Yellow was the last one and was going to compare this to it. But no, there was a double album in between – which was confusingly released as two albums in the US, under completely different names. (That is to say, it looks like three albums in between this one and Mellow Yellow.)

The various sides of Donovan are pretty evident on this record – the folky/poppy psychedelic rock, the psychedelic folk, the jazz pop. But I feel like the songs are more consistent here than on some of his other records, at least fewer of them feel like throwaways to me, even when they are indeed such things. I still don’t love his lyrics, but I can usually ignore them or pay attention only occasionally.

Part of the appeal with Donovan’s LPs is that he’s more than just his sings, and it’s a pleasure when he does it well. Though this record still has a lot in common with the psychedelic music of the era, it does feel like, on some tracks, he’s leaning into folk tradition more than he was just a couple albums ago, and that gives the record another dimension that I wasn’t really expecting. (There’s a lot of silliness about how the sessions helped created Led Zeppelin. I doubt that’s true, but folkiest music here and the folkiest music Zeppelin made definitely lie on the same spectrum.)

Though he jumps around systemically, he does so in his own way, with the record feeling coherent to me, even though there are a fair number of different genres. Maybe this has something to do with his band, a pretty good one.

If you’re going to pick a mostly forgotten hippy singer songwriter to listen to, you could do a lot worse than this one.

8/10

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