Category Archives: Reviews

Review: The Essential Donovan – Donovan

There are many of you who can warmly remember when you heard (for the first time) the opening of “Sunshine Superman”, leading into the vocals of the man who would go on and leave us even warmer memories.  Donovan, who’s career began in the UK, adopted the psychedelic period to gain a foothold into the American consciousness.  After leaving a grand string of hits that include “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, ” Season of the Witch”, the incredibly fantastic “Mellow Yellow”, “Atlantis”, and a few lesser known tracks, Donovan left behind fewer songs that captured Top 40 imagination.  But then, music was changing so rapidly.

In 1978, Donovan released a self-titled album on Arista (US), and RAK Records in the UK.  That album was an excellent collection of music but yet, the mystique of Donovan had run its course for the current audience, which was more than ten years of age removed from Donovan’s most fruitful period.  However, this diminishing of one of the ’60s most talented singer/songwriters did not in any way reduce the charm of the early material that brought fame to Donovan.

This recent release of collected music from Donovan on Legacy’s noted Essential series heralds not only the singer’s earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it also brings a few previously unreleased on CD (in the US) tracks to light.  Those include an early mono version of “The Land Of Doesn’t Have To Be”, two live tracks (” Sunny Goodge Street”, “Sand And Foam”), and a previously unreleased in the US song, “Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)”.  It further explores Donovan from the earlier single CD release collection of the same name.

Much of the music found on The Essential Donovan, of course, can be found elsewhere in many forms.  This reasonably priced, Anesini-remastered, 36-track, 2CD set is a nice collection of Donovan music that delves fearlessly into his most accessible period with a little extra.

The included booklet contains a personal note by the singer himself, a four-page essay by Anthony DeCurtis, in-depth credits for each song, as well as dialogue from various artists on Donovan’s music and influence.  With a gathering of some nice photos, this booklet adds more value to The Essential Donovan.

For me, The Essential Donovan brings back not only great memories of that magical time, it also reconnects me to the singer that left behind an indelible mark on all our Rock and Roll hearts in a way that isn’t being done much these days.

Release Date: April 17, 2010

–Matt Rowe 

Review: Live Dates II – Wishbone Ash

One of the great Live moments in Rock and Roll history is the release of Live Dates, the double LP issued back in 1973 from UK band, Wishbone Ash.  That album is not only a great collection of songs in a live setting by one of Rock’s most overlooked bands, it is also proof of the consummate musicianship capably played by these four men (Martin, Andy, Steve, Ted).  Live Dates impressively (and warmly) stands the test of time with its generous selection of Wishbone Ash classics.  But while it is the most impressive live document of the band, it was not the only well-received one.

The band followed up Live Dates with Live Dates II.  Originally released in the UK as a Limited Edition, twelve track set with only 25,000 copies made, the album, once sold through, pared down to a truncated eight-track collection.  In the US, that release was named Hot Ash.  Like the legendary status of the band’s promo live set, Live In Memphis, Live Dates II in its full glory is also legendary, and, until now, largely unattainable.

Live Dates II showcases the band’s music released after Argus, and with the Mark II lineup that included Laurie Wisefield (Home) on guitar.  The Live selections found on this revered set include “Doctor”, and “No Easy Road” from their unheralded Wishbone Four; “Lorelei”, “Runaway”, “(In All My Dreams) You Rescue Me” from New England; “Living Proof”, and “Helpless” from Just Testing; “F.U.B.B.”, and “Persephone” from There’s The Rub; “The Way Of The World” from No Smoke Without Fire; “Goodbye Baby, Hello Friend” from Front Page News; and a cherry-picked blessing from Argus in “Time Was”.  Without question, these songs well represent the band from the second line-up phase.

Real Gone Music, a varied reissue label, has saw fit to revisit the Live Dates II in its original release state.  And happy we are.  As a collector, the complete 2LP Limited Edition set eludes all but the most richest of collectors.  But with Real Gone on the fans’ side, April 4 brought a single-disc CD (in a digipak casing) into availability once again.  We couldn’t be happier as we can now slot another classic on the shelves.

The CD (with all that glorious Wishbone Ash music in a live setting) is joined by a folded six-page booklet that lists song credits, adds a photo of the band, and includes a new (2012) essay from Scott Schindler.  If you’re a fan of the band, then Live Dates II needs to be in your library, no questions asked.  Soon enough, it too, will be as rare as the original.