Top Artists – Donovan

Donovan / Catch The Wind – Superb in Mono (and Pretty Good in Reprocessed Stereo)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

The sound when summed to mono is natural, with a correct top end. This is some of the best of the early, folky Donovan from 1965.

We were less than impressed with the sound of this electronically reprocessed album in stereo, but were very pleasantly surprised when we hit the mono button on our EAR phono stage. The weird, phasey top end disappeared almost completely on side two, and Donovan’s voice and guitar sounded pretty darn right to us by the second track (the first track on side two is a mess).

If you do not have a mono switch on your phono stage or preamp, this is probably not the right record for you. (more…)

Donovan – In Concert

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More Hippie Folk Rock

  • With two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to sound far better than any copy you’ve ever heard; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A shockingly well recorded live set, so REAL and natural, with some of Donovan’s best songs played with real feeling
  • This early Epic stereo pressing is the only way to hear the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The only album that comes close to having the flow of this concert was the studio recording of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks … One of the great live albums of the ’60s.”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. You could certainly demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, even one that’s not nearly this good, because this one is superb.

But what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best excuse to show off your stereo.

Midrange presence and immediacy are key to the sound. Get the volume just right and Donovan himself will be standing between your speakers and putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early Epic stereo pressing is the only way to hear the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is dramatically more REAL sounding.

Donovan’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of artificiality you cannot help but find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

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Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven

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  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the brightest, most pleasant works Donovan ever recorded… Donovan’s voice is better than ever, playful and unassuming…”

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Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.

Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.

An outstanding pressing of what we consideDonovan’s best album, musically and sonically. The 1968 sound here is wonderful — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.

Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout. (We could find no Blue/ Black later labels to play.) Finding any pressing with clean surfaces was another matter, but we managed to have a pretty healthy group with which to do our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first-rate.

A Must Own Pop Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious audiophile Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

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The Donovan You Don’t Know – In Concert

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

More Hippie Folk Rock

We discovered a while back just what an excellent recording this is and now we know how magical the best copies can be. Only the very best copies delivered the kind of natural, immediate sound we were looking for.

There are a lot of Donovan records out there, but not a lot of them that sound like this! On top of that you get a great set of songs, including Mellow Yellow, Isle Of Islay, Celeste, and First There Is A Mountain (the song that became the main riff of the Allman Brothers’ famous Mountain Jam).|

Get in touch with your inner flower child and spin a copy of this album full of trippy hippie magic.

AMG Review

Flow in a Donovan concert is important, and here, presented as it occurred, listeners can drift right into the tidepool of magic. The band is a quintet with Harold McNair on flute and saxophones, Loren Newkirk on piano, Andy Tronosco on upright bass, Tony Carr on drums, and John Carr on bongos. Donovan plays acoustic guitar throughout.

The hippy mysticism and flower power poet is everywhere here. This isn’t rock star excess at all, but an organic, drenched-in-sunshine concert full of gentleness with a premium on good vibes… (more…)

Donovan – And Old Copy with Some Good Points and Some Bad Points

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

Side one of this two record box set has Wear Your Love Like Heaven in Super Hot stamper sound, with some of the most natural vocal reproduction we heard in our entire shootout. 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 does a very respectable job on three of the sides, and that’s not easy to do. 

Not to mention condition issues. When’s the last time you saw a clean yellow label Epic original Donovan record in the bins? It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout like this, and we are out beating the bushes every week in the record capital of the world.

That said, Epic ’60s vinyl is rarely of audiophile quality.

Side One

A++ sonics, the best of the four sides. More extension up top than most, and clear mids. The bottom could use a bit more weight, thus the Two Plus grade, not three. (more…)

Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man – “Donovan’s hardest-rocking hit”

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

The 1968 sound here is GLORIOUS — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Side one is where you will find The Hurdy Gurdy Man and it is crazy good sounding here. No wonder: Hurdy Gurdy was engineered by Eddie Kramer and produced by none other than John Paul Jones.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.  Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first rate.

Song Review

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” was undoubtedly Donovan’s hardest-rocking hit, though mystical folk-rock was still at the core of this 1968 number five hit single.

Certainly it started in as gentle a frame of mind as the typical Donovan song, with a hypnotic wordless vocal hum which reached back to the very roots of Celtic folk music, sounding like a prayer from a devotional ritual. The hum was then joined by a gentle acoustic guitar strum, and when Donovan began singing lyrics, set to one of his more beguiling tunes, some slight distortion made it sound as if his voice was traveling through time. When he got to the latter part of the verse, though, the hard rock bass, drums, and guitar piled on like gangbusters.

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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! (more…)

Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man

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  • The Hurdy Gurdy Man finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Shockingly rich, spacious and lively, in the best tradition of vintage analog – Donovan’s recordings are hit and miss, but with Eddie Kramer at the controls, this one is clearly a hit
  • Among the supporting musicians were three soon-to-be members of Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page (who had already contributed to Donovan sessions in the past), John Paul Jones (likewise a veteran of sessions for Donovan), and John Bonham”
  • “… uplifting, accessible, pop-rock numbers with a splash of jazz or Caribbean flavor, rounding out an excellent album of the highest musicianship, lyric writing, and songcraft from an era.”
  • Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound. This is one of them.
  • We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

An outstanding pressing of what we consideDonovan’s best album, musically and sonically. The 1968 sound here is wonderful — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.

Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout. (We could find no Blue/ Black later labels to play.) Finding any pressing with clean surfaces was another matter, but we managed to have a pretty healthy group with which to do our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first-rate.

(more…)

Donovan – Storyteller on SACD – Reviewed in 2003

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

This is an Audio Fidelity Dual Layer Hybrid SACD (playable on any CD player) with superb sound.

One of the best sounding CDs I’ve ever heard! I can’t play the SACD layer anymore — my SACD player broke and I decided the medium was not for me. I’m a record guy and don’t want to invest the time and money to find a player that gets the SACD layer right. My CD player tells me that this is some of the best digital around and that’s good enough for me.

This disc is so rich and sweet you would swear it was an LP. Hoffman did an AMAZINGLY good job with this title. Same with The Searchers. Both are highly recommended. (more…)