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Oldies 09/03/2012

The Essential Donovan Explores Newly-inducted Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer's Seminal Years

The Essential Donovan Explores Newly-inducted Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer's Seminal Years

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts / Legacy Recordings) There can be no better way to honor the April 14, 2012, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction of perennially young British folk-pop troubadour Donovan than with the release of THE ESSENTIAL DONOVAN. This 36-song, double-CD collection of his seminal recordings from 1965 to 1973 on the Hickory and Epic Records labels, includes four tracks previously unissued on CD in the U.S. With liner notes written by Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Anthony DeCurtis, THE ESSENTIAL DONOVAN will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting April 17th through Epic/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. Still actively recording and performing concerts around the world, Donovan will turn 66 on May 10th.

On March 28th, Donovan is slated to perform in Los Angeles on TBS' Conan with Conan O'Brien, followed the next night by a performance at the Grammy Museum. (Please go to for details.) Most recently, at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Donovan headlined the 10th annual "Snowball" concert, co-starring Dawes, Zach Heckendorf, and Rodriguez. Donovan's songs, administered by BMI, have been used in countless films and tv shows over the years.

THE ESSENTIAL DONOVAN lives up to its title as a comprehensive survey of that first crucial (near-)decade of his career, when his name first began to be spoken in the same breath as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Beatles, and the emerging psychedelic movement. The new collection contains every one of Donovan's 18 songs that entered the Billboard Hot 100 and UK national chart between 1965 and 1973, and another 14 carefully chosen album tracks. More than half of the tracks on Disc One are heard in their mono (monaural) mix, including all of Donovan's acoustic-based folk-rock tracks recorded for UK label Pye Records (released on Hickory in the U.S.) in late-1964 and '65, and a number of Epic sides in 1966.

The four tracks previously unissued on CD in the U.S. will be essential for every Donovan fan to add to their personal collection:

"The Land Of Doesn't Have To Be," previously unissued in the U.S.: an early mono version, from 1966, of the song that would appear on his 1967 LP, Wear Your Love Like Heaven;

"Sunny Goodge Street" (an early song first heard on his second LP, Fairytale) and "Sand And Foam" (from the Mellow Yellow repertoire), both previously unissued on CD in the U.S., recorded November 17, 1967 at the Anaheim Convention Center; and

"Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)," previously unissued in the U.S., the song he first wrote with his ramblin' friend Gypsy Dave in 1965, updated eight years later on the CBS/Japan-only release, Live In Japan - Spring Tour 1973.

THE ESSENTIAL DONOVAN is a reminder that he virtually single-handedly ushered psychedelia into American Top 40 radio in the summer/fall of 1966, with his first two back-to-back smash hit singles on Epic Records, "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow." "Sunshine Superman," famously featuring seasoned 22-year old studio session ace (and future Yardbird and Led Zeppelin great) Jimmy Page on guitar, went to #1 and was inducted decades later into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. "Mellow Yellow," arranged by another future Zep, John Paul Jones, rose to #2 and earned Donovan an RIAA gold award.

Just two years before that, in 1964, 18-year old Donovan Leitch, an art school drop-out who was born in Glasgow and raised in Hertford, was rambling and busking with his lifelong friend and confidante Gypsy Dave, mastering intricate guitar-picking styles and refining his songwriting. Influenced by Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Donovan was dogged by comparisons to Bob Dylan who, of course, was also influenced by the same giants.

At the height of Beatlemania, Donovan's denimed visual appearance captured the imagination of his first fans on the BBC's Ready Steady Go!. He recorded his first demos for Pye Records, his longtime UK record label, and signed a prestigious music publishing contract with Peer Southern Music in the U.S. By early 1965, at the first blush of the oncoming folk-rock boom, Donovan was on the charts in the UK and the U.S. with his debut single, "Catch the Wind," from his debut LP of the same title (which also included "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond").

By the end of 1965, a second LP was released, Fairytale, containing Donovan's next three singles, "Colours," "Universal Soldier," and "Summer Day Reflection Song." In the UK, "Turquoise" became a chart single for Donovan, and the lynchpin (first track) for his third U.S. album, The Real Donovan, a combination of earlier released songs and UK tracks appearing for the first time in America on LP.

Donovan's fortunes took a quantum turn in 1966 as a result of A) hooking up with hitmaking UK producer Mickie Most (known for his success with the Animals and Herman's Hermits), and B) becoming the first artist signed to Epic Records by Clive Davis, the new head of CBS Records. The summer of '66 belonged to Donovan with the "Sunshine Superman" single and album of the same name, which also included "The Trip," "Legend Of A Girl Child Linda" (one of many songs inspired by and written to his wife, Linda Lawrence), "Season Of The Witch" (covered by many artists, from the Mike Bloomfield-Al Kooper-Stephen Stills Super Session LP, to Hole's 1997 version), and "Ferris Wheel."

The momentum continued through the end of 1966 and well into 1967 with the "Mellow Yellow" single and album of the same name, which also included "Young Girl Blues," "Museum," "Hampstead Incident" (the latter three all heard in their original mono mix), and "Sunny South Kensington." For most of 1967, Donovan busied himself with an ambitious double-LP project, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, a double-LP box set (a format previously reserved for classical music) comprised of two distinct albums: Wear Your Love Like Heaven and For Little Ones, the former generally aimed at adults, and the latter intended for younger ears. Interestingly, contrary to everyone's predictions, the box set reached #19 on the Billboard200 album chart, far outselling the volumes that were sold separately.

Back with Mickie Most for his next album, Donovan's The Hurdy Gurdy Man was a sly reference to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the harmonium-playing Indian guru who had captivated the world (not to mention a quorum of celebrities). History cites Donovan as a key figure at the Beatles' fabled pilgrimage (with Mia Farrow and others) to the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh, India, in early 1968 (where, it is said, Donovan taught folk guitar finger-picking techniques to John and Paul). The album, containing the "Jennifer Juniper" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man" hit singles, reached #20 in late 1968.

After two and a half years at Epic, a half-dozen albums and as many single hits, it was time for Donovan's Greatest Hits in early 1969, which included a new single to boost LP sales, "Lalena." Greatest Hits climbed to #4 and earned Donovan an RIAA platinum award. Producer Mickie Most's streak continued with the radio DJ-driven double-A sided single, "To Susan On The West Coast Waiting" b/w "Atlantis," the prelude to the upcoming album that summer. "Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)" utilized Most's newest stars as Donovan's backup: The Jeff Beck Group with Beck on fearsome lead guitar, bassist Ron Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins, and drummer Mickey Waller. The Barabajagal LP (which also included "Happiness Runs") exploded out of the gate at the end of the summer and hit #23.

Into 1970, the ever restless Donovan debuted a new band and a new style of 'Celtic rock' that could be heard on "Riki Tiki Tavi" and the album Open Road. His eclectic nature nudged him even further afield on H.M.S. Donovan, an ambitious double-LP project he worked on from 1968 to 1971. The UK-only album release interspersed Donovan songs with classical poetry and verse for children (from Lear, Lewis Carroll, Yeats and others) set to music. Although Epic declined to issue the album in the U.S., the label did release one single, "Celia Of The Seals." Donovan reunited with Mickie Most one more time for Cosmic Wheels, which reached #25, his last major Epic chart LP, containing his final chart single, "I Like You."

Into the 1970s and 1980s, it was noted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame voter booklet, "Donovan continued to tour and record, including songs for Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon (finally issued in 2004). During the 1990s, Rick Rubin (after working with Johnny Cash) produced Donovan's Sutras. The 2008 documentary film, Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan is the essential career overview of an artist who has stayed true to his uncompromising folk roots."

(Epic/Legacy 88691 95868 2 4)
1. Catch The Wind (mono single version, 1965, Hickory) Hot 100 #23 (A)
2. Colours (mono single, 1965) Hot 100 #61 (B)
3. Summer Day Reflection Song (mono single, 1965) (B)
4. Universal Soldier (mono single, 1965) Hot 100 #53 (B)
5. You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond (mono single, 1965) (A)
6. Turquoise (mono single, 1965, Hickory) (C)
7. Sunshine Superman (extended version, 1966) Hot 100 #1 (D)
8. The Trip (single version, 1966) (D)
9. Legend Of A Girl Child Linda (D)
10. Season Of The Witch (D)
11. Ferris Wheel (D)
12. Mellow Yellow (mono single, 1966) Hot 100 #2 (E)
13. Young Girl Blues (mono) (E)
14. Museum (mono) (E)
15. Hampstead Incident (mono) (E)
16. Sunny South Kensington (mono single, 1966) (E)
17. The Land Of Doesn't Have To Be (early version, mono, 1966) previously unissued in the U.S.
18. Epistle To Dippy (single, 1967) Hot 100 #19 (J)

1. There Is A Mountain (single, 1967) Hot 100 #11
2. Wear Your Love Like Heaven (single, 1967) Hot 100 #23 (F) and (H)
3. Sun (F) and (H)
4. Isle Of Islay (G) and (H)
5. Sunny Goodge Street (recorded: November 17, 1967 at the Anaheim Convention Center, previously unissued on CD in the U.S.)
6. Sand And Foam (recorded: November 17, 1967 at the Anaheim Convention Center, previously unissued on CD in the U.S.)
7. Jennifer Juniper (single, 1968) Hot 100 #26 (I)
8. Hurdy Gurdy Man (single, 1968) Hot 100 #5 (I)
9. Get Thy Bearings (I)
10. Lalena (single, 1968) Hot 100 #33 (J)
11. To Susan On The West Coast Waiting (single, 1969) Hot 100 #35 (K)
12. Atlantis (single, 1969) Hot 100 #7 (K)
13. Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot) [with the Jeff Beck Group] (single, 1969) Hot 100 #36 (K)
14. Happiness Runs (K)
15. Riki Tiki Tavi (single, 1970) Hot 100 #55 (L)
16. Celia Of The Seals (single, 1971) Hot 100 #84 (M)
17. I Like You (single, 1973) Hot 100 #66 (N)
18. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) (O) previously unissued in the U.S.

Album index:
(A) - from album Catch The Wind (Hickory LPM 123, released 1965)
(B) - from album Fairytale (Hickory LPM 127, released 1965)
(C) - from album The Real Donovan (Hickory LPM 135, released 1966)
(D) - from Sunshine Superman (Epic BN 26217, released 1966)
(E) - from Mellow Yellow (Epic LN 24239, released 1966)
(F) - from Wear Your Love Like Heaven (Epic BN 26349, released 1967)
(G) - from For Little Ones (Epic BN 26350, released 1967)
(H) - from A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (Epic B2N 171, released 1967)
(I) - from The Hurdy Gurdy Man (Epic BN 26420, released 1968)
(J) - from Donovan's Greatest Hits (Epic BN 26439, released 1969)
(K) - from Barabajagal (Epic BN 26481, released 1969)
(L) - from Open Road (Epic E 30125, released 1970)
(M) - from H.M.S. Donovan (Dawn 3009, released 1971)
(N) - from Cosmic Wheels (Epic KE 32156, released 1973)
(O) - from Live In Japan - Spring Tour 1973 (Epic Japan ECPM 25, released 1973)

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