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Season of the Witch - Missing Donovan - Pulling Out The Savoy Truffle

Date: 2007-06-27 21:15
Subject: Season of the Witch - Missing Donovan
Security: Public
Music:Donovan, "Season of the Witch"
I had to drive down to NC today on business and I was listening to XM as I always do when I'm in the car. XM's "Deep Tracks" channel played "Atlantis" by Donovan. I've often wondered why Donovan fell so far out of favor. He was a folkie, and folk did go into eclipse for awhile, but Bob Dylan, another folkie, is revered as one of the seminal figures in rock history.

It'd probably be silly to give Donovan Leitch those kind of props, but he wrote wonderful folk-pop material and a lot of bands and solo artists  - especially in the last 15 years or so - (Belle and Sebastian leap to mind, as do John Mayer, David Gray, and a host of others) owe a considerable debt to the expanding Donovan did within the folk and pop genres.

But we don't hear Donovan much anymore - he's been relegated to "pleasant relic" status - like the Nehru jackets and love beads he often wore. That's a shame - his songwriting is first rate and he played with some remarkable musicians - as I'll note later.

Besides "Atlantis," a magnificent story song with pretensions to the epic, there's a whole slew of Donovan tunes that wear their airiness beautifully and that wear in the memory well, too. Here's a partial list:

1) "Sunshine Superman"
2) "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"
3) "There is a Mountain"
4) "Colours"
5) "Hurdy Gurdy Man"
6) "Mellow Yellow"
7) "Catch the Wind"
8) "Epistle to Dippy"
9) "Rikki Tiki Tavi"

And then there's "Season of the Witch." 

It's an electric instrument song, unusual for Donovan. The song also has an edge one doesn't look for from Donovan - none of that hippie dippy sunniness that one usually expects from a Donovan psychedelic folk-pop tune. This song is all about shadows and what we can't make out clearly - it's headlights on the highway in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in the middle of November. The cynicism of the lyric is matched by terrific instrumental performances by the guitarist and bass player/organist/musical director for the tune - guys by the names of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. You might know them better from the band they formed a couple of years later - Led Zeppelin.   Donovan half talks half sings the song - a style he initiated and that an admirer of his picked up - a guy by the name of Jimi Hendrix....

Listen to Led Zeppelin III, especially to "Tangerine" and "That's the Way"  - Donovan's influence is there. Listen to Axis: Bold as Love, especially "Castle Made of Sand" and "Bold as Love" - Hendrix's vocal style owes its debt to Donovan....

 "Season of the Witch" is as good as rock gets. Go listen to it here.

There are a couple of great covers - Al Kooper and Stephen Stills do a killer version on Super Sessions and there's a great cover by Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll, too. My own band covered the song - always to warm acclaim.

All I'm saying is - Donovan's cool. I mean, who are you to argue with Page, Jones, and Hendrix...? ;-)
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User: sirpaulsbuddy
Date: 2007-06-28 15:55 (UTC)
Subject: Doh!
Yeah, well, there's that little ditty by the Allmans, of course.. And about eleventeen jams by the Dead - a couple based on "There is a Mountain."

So, yeah, Donovan is a folkie who contributed to rock significantly. Wonder if he's in the Hall? I'll check...nope.

This is another example of WHY the Hall has no credibility, especially with musicians....
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