Sunshine Superman by Donovan

October 11, 2019

If there is such a musical category as psychedelic folk, “Sunshine Superman” would be the poster song.

Donovan Phillip Leitch produced a dozed hit singles in the late 1960’s. His “Mellow Yellow” just missed the number one spot.

His early hits “Colours,” “Catch The Wind,” and “Universal Soldier” were straight folk but with “Sunshine Superman,” he changed his style, which hit a commercial chord. It entered the Top 100, July 30 at number 90. On September 3, 1966, it reached the top of the charts for one week.

While his career would slow down in the 1970’s, his unique brand of music would lead to his induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

The Essential Donovan by Donovan

May 2, 2012

At one time Donovan was mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan. While those comparisons have long since ceased, his catalogue of releases, especially his body of work from the 1960s, remains some of the best and more creative music of the era. He was a 2012 inductee into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

In conjunction with his latest honor, the Legacy/Epic label has released a two-CD, 36 song collection titled The Essential Donovan. It features every one of his songs to chart on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart in the United States and the U.K. National Singles Chart. Also included are 14 additional album tracks, which delve a little deeper into his legacy. Remaining true to the original intent of the music, many of the songs are presented in mono.

The early part of Donovan’s career found him as a fairly traditional folk artist. Gentle songs such as “Catch The Wind,” “Colours,” and “Summer Day Reflection Song” presented the gentle side of the 1960s folk revival movement. While his cover of “Universal Soldier” was a biting criticism of war in general, his early music was more peaceful than a lot of the folk music being issued at the time.

Donovan’s fortunes, both artistically and commercially, changed when he formed a relationship with legendary British producer Mickie Most. Together they would produce some of the more memorable and better psychedelic pop of the 1960s. While psychedelic music is usually associated with rock, no one was better at defining its sound than Donovan. Songs such as “Sunshine Superman,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Jennifer Juniper,” “Atlantis,” and “Mellow Yellow” continue to be a reminder of 1960s culture. Slower and reflective material such as “Wear Your Hair Like Heaven,” “To Susan On The West Coast Waiting,” and “Lalena” continued to show his softer side.

As the 1970s dawned, Donovan was in transition again. His music was more eclectic and less commercially successful. Some British rock and classical poetry combined with one last reunion album with Most, 1973’s Cosmic Wheels, made for an interesting, if inconsistent musical journey.

The Essential Donovan captures him not only at his best but also the essence of an era. For any fan of Donovan, or if you just want to explore the 1960s psychedelic era from a different perspective, this release is indeed essential.

Article first published as Music Review: Donovan – The Essential Donovan on Blogcritics.

Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan (DVD) by Donovan

May 11, 2009

I have just finished watching a three hour documentary film plus a little over two hours of bonus material about Donovan. If you are not close fifty years old, a 60’s aficionado or a Donovan fan, you should probably stop reading right here as five hours is a lot of time and material.

In the 1960’s Donovan was a respected folk/pop artist who for a short time was compared to Bob Dylan. Some of his early career hits such as “Colours,” “Catch The Wind,” and “Universal Soldier” were excellent straight folk. By the mid 1960’s his sound had moved to what can be best called psychedelic folk. He had huge hits with the likes of “Sunshine Superman,” “Wear Your Hair Like Heaven,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Atlantis,” and “Mellow Yellow” which made him a star in The United States and his native England.

SPV has released an exhaustive two disc DVD set titled, Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan. The first disc is a three hour documentary film that follows Donovan’s career from its beginnings down to the present day. The second disc consists of two hours of rare bonus footage which includes concerts, unreleased songs, TV appearances, and some private film.

The first half of the documentary film is interesting in that it pastes Donovan’s career against the background of the 1960s. The archival footage of Donovan and the time in which he lived really is historic and goes beyond just his story. The film of his time with the Beatles and the Maharishi in India portray a time long gone.

The second half of his career is not as interesting. His best work was a product of the 1960s and he will always be remembered in that context. However his did keep active and moves through history gracefully.

Donovan’s recollections and stories are an asset to the DVD. At times in his career he has had a tendency to overestimate his influence in music history and over indulge when speaking about his past. Here he sticks to the truth and is humble, entertaining, and ultimately interesting.

The bonus footage is more hit and miss. The TV appearances are very dated as are many of the music videos. The short film, Wear Your Hair Like Heaven, is a wonderful look at 60’s psychedelic music and imagery. The changing colors and shifting moods are a wonderful journey down memory lane. Two unreleased songs, “Refugee Of Love” and “The Olive Tree” are some of the best music Donovan has created in years as they are a return to his folk roots. There is a surprisingly good modern, electric performance of his “Season Of The Witch.”

I am a product of the 60’s and I found this project interesting. Ultimately it all comes back to the fact that five hours is a lot of Donovan and for many people it is just too much. However, if you are so inclined and have the time, it can be a worthwhile journey.