July 06, 2010

For Little Ones - Donovan

The Ur-text for a generation acid folkies is Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day. For the more lysergically disposed the touchstone is ISB's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Pre-dating both of these essential releases is Donovan's two LP box set A Gift From a Flower to a Garden. Released as two separate albums in the US, there is a strong case to be made in favour of the second disc, For Little Ones, as the earliest archetypal wyrd folk outing. All the familiar tropes are present and correct: low fi acoustics; homespun feel; Carrollian whimsy & childhood nostalgia; back to simple country life; washed out morning after drowsy. After all, Vashti Bunyan's mythical caravan journey North was bound for Donovan's Scottish commune.

Donovan is a pretty unique 60s icon: absolutely huge in his day - up there with The Beatles and Dylan, no joke; a rack of top twenty singles - yet whose reputation never really recovered after the end of the 60s dream. Unlike other names wrapped up with the era, such as ISB and a host of lesser talents, Donovan has never been rehabilitated or "rediscovered". Shaun Ryder's brief attempt in the early 90s - bless - doesn't count. This is probably owing to the fact that he never actually went away or stopped recording. If he had upped sticks in the early 70s and gone off to a mountain top somewhere, there's no doubt he would now be a very hip name to drop and his music reckoned for what it is: unique and irresistible. Cast away doubt and preconceptions and tuck in to some Starfish On Toast.

Oddi wrth y brawd
hail atlantis


Anonymous said...

well so much of donovan's music is simply delightful to listen to. the lyrics are lightweight and fluffy, almost nothing more than a soufflé of words, none of the heavy verbal cut-outs of a dylan or the self-important triteness of a jim morrison, not much of the beatles or stoneses effort to achieve some unique expression. and yet, he is totally his own man, and his songs HALF THE TIME are totally wonderful. half the time too they are pretty inane. his 70s output is great -- if you toss some of the stuff to one side. but then even the great dylan produced a score of LPs with nary a single listenable song on each one of them. donovan i never tire of, he is the one true master of british psychedelia along with the beatles, the one whose plagiarism was always eclectic and selective, never just a plain steal. no, a grand master of the art, even if his own opinion of himself appears a little inflated. but he's quite wonderful, really.

Y Brawd said...

agreed. must investigate his 70s stuff...kind of lose track after HMS Donovan.