Top Artists – Donovan

Donovan / A Gift From a Flower To a Garden – And Old Copy with Some Good Points and Some Bad Points

More Donovan

xxxxx

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”

More Donovan

xxxxx

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.

(more…)

Donovan – A Gift From a Flower To a Garden

More Donovan

xxxxx

  • 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

More Donovan

xxxxx

  • 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.”

*NOTE On side two, a mark makes 3 loud pops halfway through Track 1, Jennifer Juniper.

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 – Wear Your Love Like Heaven

More Donovan

xxxxx

  • Donovan’s superb 1967 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the Epic vinyl is also about as quiet as any original pressing can offer
  • 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…”

(more…)

Donovan – Storyteller on SACD – Reviewed in 2003

xxxxx

This is a Factory Sealed 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…)

Donovan – Sunshine Superman – Painting with Too Broad a Brush

xxxxx

Back in 2009 we wrote: “Donovan’s albums are never well recorded so if you’re looking for audiophile sound this is not the record for you. Although the sound varies here from track to track, some tracks do sound quite nice.” 

Although we have yet to play a copy of this particular album that sounds any good to us, we couldn’t have been more Wrong about the rest of his catalog. Since 2009 we have found a number of superb sounding Donovan records, the best of which to date is The Hurdy Gurdy Man, surely the man’s masterpiece. (more…)

Donovan – The Real Donovan in Mono – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Donovan

More The Real Donovan in Mono

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Now here’s a mono record we can get behind! If more mono records sounded big and open the way this one does we would totally be on board with the current movement towards One Channel. (As that has not been our experience we remain skeptical.)

This is by far the best sounding, quietest pressing we have ever played. It boasts Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, backed with even better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) on side two, and it’s pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl (for Hickory anyway).  

Mono is in fact the secret to getting these early Hickory records to sound their best. The recordings are mono; the stereo pressings are simply electronically reprocessed. Now, that’s not always the kiss of death, but as a rule it doesn’t help the sound much and has the potential to cause tonality and imaging issues.

The Real Donovan is a compilation of singles, along with some tracks which have been sourced from the first two albums, and an EP, as well as a couple of b-sides. (Hickory seems to have taken a page from Capitol here, as that’s exactly what The Beatles Second Album is. As I recall that album sold quite well in the states.) (more…)

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

More Donovan

xxxxx

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…)