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.
“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.