Donovan – A Gift From a Flower To a Garden

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  • An outstanding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side three mated with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to in for sides one, two, and four
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • Wear Your Love Like Heaven is superb here – rich, natural and relaxed
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… stands out as a prime artifact of the flower-power era that produced it… the sheer range of subjects and influences make this a surprisingly rewarding work.”

*NOTE: On side three, Track 5, The Mandolin Man And His Secret, plays closer to EX++.

This is a longtime Better Records favorite for both music and sound. It may not be one of the more popular titles we do our unique shootouts for, but for those of you who love folky, acoustic guitar pop — we often call it Hippie Folk Rock — you should find a lot to like about this album.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

Natural vocal reproduction is absolutely key for this album. Many copies had “hyped-up” phony sound — fine for the old consoles and radios of the day (1967) but not too enjoyable on the modern, much more revealing rigs we use today. The tonality of the midrange — where the guitars and vocals are found of course — must be correct for this music to work. This copy really gets it right!

These vintage Epic pressings have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of A Gift From A Flower To A Garden have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on A Gift From A Flower To A Garden

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Wear Your Love Like Heaven 
Mad John’s Escape 
Skip-A-Long Sam 
Sun 
There Was a Time

Side Two

Oh Gosh 
Little Boy in Corduroy 
Under the Greenwood Tree 
The Land of Doesn’t Have to Be 
Someone Singing

Side Three

Song of the Naturalist’s Wife 
The Enchanted Gypsy 
Voyage into the Golden Screen 
Isle of Islay 
The Mandolin Man and His Secret
Lay of the Last Tinker

Side Four

The Tinker and the Crab 
Widow With Shawl (A Portrait) 
The Lullaby of Spring 
The Magpie 
Starfish-On-The-Toast 
Epistle to Derroll 

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Rock music’s first two-LP box set, A Gift from a Flower to a Garden overcomes its original shortcomings and stands out as a prime artifact of the flower-power era that produced it. The music still seems a bit fey, and overall more spacy than the average Moody Blues album of this era, but the sheer range of subjects and influences make this a surprisingly rewarding work.

Essentially two albums recorded simultaneously in the summer of 1967, the electric tracks include Jack Bruce among the session players. The acoustic tracks represent an attempt by Donovan to get back to his old sound and depart from the heavily electric singles (“Sunshine Superman,” etc.) and albums he’d been doing — it is folkier and bluesier (in an English folk sense) than much of his recent work.

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