Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan
Remastered, Box Set
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Donovan Leitch, at his most memorable, reflected and connected the folky beginnings of Bob Dylan with the pop instincts of the Beatles, and counted both among his friends. The singer-songwriter's airy voice and whimsical songs were malleable enough to encompass wildly diverse styles, including the sparse protest-folk of "Universal Soldier," the smoky cabaret jazz of "Sunny Goodge Street," and the harder psychedelia of "Hurdy Gurdy Man," as well as the easygoing sunshine sound of "Mellow Yellow" and the plush, orchestral "Lalena." Add some whimsical fairy tales, darker blues, and bouncy Caribbean rhythms, and you have an artist whose enormous swath is difficult to absorb, let alone anthologize.
This three-CD-plus-one-DVD set covers Donovan's work from 1964 to 2004 and is the most ambitious attempt yet to organize his extensive career. It includes 60 tracks, 15 of them previously unreleased or hard to find (many of these live and acoustic). The remastered sound is so clear it often seems Donovan is whispering into your ear. Try for the Sun is geared toward the hardcore fan, as those just wanting a taste can make do with Donovan's Greatest Hits or Troubadour: The Definitive Collection, 1964-1976. But for those with the time, interest, and patience, this nearly four-hour set, with its sumptuous packaging, extensive liner notes, and rare video footage, is a journey of its own that presents the most complete portrait available of this enigmatic and legendary artist. --Hal Horowitz
Donovan's Greatest Hits
Troubadour: The Definitive Collection, 1964-1976
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In terms of the past, though, this is an exceedingly well assembled collection. There are plenty of alternate takes and live versions of familiar parts of the catalog, but the re-mastering is a wonder to hear. That very particular character of early-ish analog recording, seemingly eccentric decisions about the stereo mix, early amplification and electric instrument design which many now strive to recreate in the digital domain is on display in remarkable detail and feel on every track. The presence, especially voice, is often startling in detail and power.
And in addition to demonstrating Donovan's talent, this collection does us the important service of demonstrating that not every example of popular musical forms are intrinsically transient and, as is so important to maintaining sales today, ultimately and rapidly disposable. Certainly much of the music here, and many of the ideas within and behind it, deserve and seem to be achieving sustained interest and longevity.
This is a great set, a perfect complement for his recent book, "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" and the equally recent and excellent EMI remasters of his early lps. You'll even get a sampling from "Sutras" which, it's hard to believe, somehow finds itself out of print...