Posts Tagged ‘Donovan’

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

We celebrated the New Year last night with our customary zeal: We watched television and puttered on Facebook until just near midnight, when we flipped channels until we found a celebration going on in Chicago with the band Chicago playing “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

Well, the band evidently knew, because they closed the song while the year-end countdown had about five seconds to go. The crowd in Chicago went nuts, and here in St. Cloud, we clinked glasses and toasted the New Year with some sparkling grape juice (the Texas Gal does not like champagne) and just a bit of gelato (mine with sea salt, caramel and peanuts; hers a double chocolate). And then, old folks that we are, we headed to bed.

Our tepid celebration masks the fact that we’re hoping very much that the New Year brings better things with it than did the year just past. I don’t think I’ve indicated it here much, if at all, but 2015 was a difficult year in many ways here under the oaks, and it does seem as we start 2016 that most of the difficulties that made it so have been resolved.

So we are hoping for better days, not only for us but for all our family and friends, and that includes anyone who stops by this little corner of the Interwebs these days.

And we’ll ring in the New Year, of course, with music. In the closing track of his 1970 album Open Road, Donovan said it pretty well with “New Year’s Resolution.”

Do what you’ve never done before
See what you’ve never seen
Feel what you’ve never felt before
Go where you’ve never been

Sing what you’ve never sung before
Say what you’ve never said
Bear what you’ve never borne before
Hear what you’ve never heard

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings
So I say:

Do what you’ve never done before
For fear of losing face
You’ve got nothing to defend now
In your state of grace

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
(What you’ve never done before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must see what you have never seen)
Get on your back and do what you like
(Feel what you have never felt before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must go where you have never been)

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings, clipped my wings,
clipped my wings, clipped my wings

Love is the gift of man which he will not receive
Within is the judge of man yet he cannot perceive
Without is the realm of man he yet cannot perceive
Wealth is the plague of man but he will not believe
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I

‘Fill Me With Song . . .’

Friday, July 4th, 2014

A little more than four years ago, I wrote, “Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are.”

Clearly, Donovan is not a favorite here. I’ve got a few of his albums on LP, but it’s instructive that I’ve never bought a CD of the Scottish performer’s work. So why in the world am I stretching a look at one Donovan tune over more than a week? Schedule, mostly. Due to garden duties, a baseball game, the Texas Gal’s travel schedule and some minor stuff, I’ve had less time this week than I would like to spend here in the EITW studios. But here we are on an Independence Day morning, all gathered around the campfire, so to speak, to listen to a few versions of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.”

First, here’s Donovan’s original. A single release went to No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 during a seven-week run that bridged the end of 1967 and the beginning of 1968. The track showed up on two albums that were part of a confusing album release strategy in December 1967. The album Wear Your Love Like Heaven went to No. 60, the album For Little Ones went to No. 185, and A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, a box set combining those two albums, went to No. 19.

I don’t know that I remember the single from its 1967-68 chart days, but it’s not all that different from a lot of Donovan’s work: light and airy with some odd diction provoked by the melody (“Prussian blue” in the first verse is a good example), and a general world view of peaceful bliss. It’s not a song that I would have thought would inspire many covers. Well, except in the realm of easy listening. The song was recorded by the Johnny Arthey Orchestra for the 1969 album The Golden Songs Of Donovan, and David Rose (who hit No. 1 with “The Stripper” in 1962), recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for his 1970 album Happy Heart.

Another instrumental version I found was from saxophonist Steve Douglas, one of Phil Spector’s go-to players during the years of the Wall of Sound. Douglas recorded the song for his 1969 album Reflections In A Golden Horn. It’s a light and jazzy take on the tune, and if you want to call it easy listening, I won’t cringe. And, along with the Cal Tjader version posted here last Saturday, I know there are other instrumental versions out there. One that interests me but that I have not yet heard is the 1992 version by pianist Richard Dworsky.

All of this started last week with Peggy Lipton’s cover of the tune. Other singers took on the song, too. We shared Richie Havens’ 1969 version here earlier this week, and another cover that caught my ear was the quirky 1970 take on the tune by Eartha Kitt, who included the song on her album Sentimental Eartha.

A more recent version of the song that I have not yet spent the coin to hear is from the group My Morning Jacket, which recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for the 2002 album Gift From a Garden to a Flower: A Tribute to Donovan. Beyond that, the most recent version that I enjoy is the cover that Sarah McLachlan recorded for her 1991 album Solace. As for versions I don’t enjoy (but others might), an Italian group called Edible Woman, about which I know nothing, has a lumbering, thrumming, heavy version of the tune posted this year on YouTube, which presumably is available somewhere for those who want to hear it again.

Shirts & Skins

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

As I kept an eye on the first games of the World Cup in Brazil this week, I was reminded of the only time I ever played soccer (the game that the rest of the world calls football).

It was in late May or early June 1971, right around the time of my graduation from St. Cloud Tech High School. Someone had organized a graduation picnic for the Tech seniors, and I suppose about 150 of us showed up, gathering at a park in the nearby burg of Sauk Rapids to munch on – if I recall things correctly – Kentucky Fried Chicken and its fixings.

After the meal, we sat around the park, breaking down into the same clusters that had defined our class pretty much through high school. Thinking back to the group I was hanging out with that afternoon, it was mostly the kids who’d taken college prep courses: some jocks, some musicians, the debate and forensics kids, the theater kids, and so on. After a while, just sitting around talking got a little limited; it was a sunny day, the park was pleasant and we wanted to be doing something.

There were ball diamonds in the park, but it seems that no one had thought to bring balls, bats or gloves. Someone, however, did have a soccer ball. We looked around, found a relatively open space maybe thirty yards wide and fifty yards long, and we improvised goals at each end of the space by setting pairs of picnic tables on their ends about ten feet apart. The goal width was a guess, I’m sure, based on what felt right on our improvised field. Soccer was something we occasionally played in phy ed, but it was not a sport we knew well. There might have been an intramural league, I suppose, but there was no varsity soccer team at the time.

After we placed the tables into position, we boys counted off by twos. Half of us stripped off our shirts, and we got set for a game of shirts vs. skins. I was a skin. As we headed out onto the field – or pitch, as they say in places where soccer is football – one of the girls piped up: “Can we play?”

This startled us for a moment. Girls playing sports? But then, we boys were creatures of our times. This was just a few years before girls began playing varsity sports in Minnesota. According to Wikipedia, the earliest sport for girls in Minnesota post-Title IX was track and field a year later, in 1972. Volleyball, gymnastics and basketball followed during the fall of 1974.

We boys looked around at each other and shrugged. Sure, we said. Why not? And then we realized that shirts and skins would not work for the girls. After an awkward moment of hesitation by girls and boys alike, someone said, “The girls with white shirts can play with the skins.” We all nodded. That would work. And we headed out to play.

It was, of course, ragged and disorganized. But we were young and healthy, and we had fun. I don’t recall what the shirts/colors team did, but we skins/whites rotated our lineup, shifting the folks on defense to offense and vice-versa a couple of times during the hour or so we played. And during one of my shifts on offense, as I stood near the opposing goal, a shot from the near the sideline (yes, the touch line for purists) ricocheted into the air and flew toward me.

I was not athletically gifted. I wasn’t certain that I could corral the ball when it got to me and then kick it into the goal. But I could tell as the ball approached that it would be too far off the ground to be able to do that anyway. So I tried to do what I had seen some players do during the few times I had watched soccer on television. I jumped and directed the ball goalward with my head.

Amazingly, I did not break either my nose or my glasses. The ball glanced off the side of my head. It was not, as they say, well-struck. But it did fly past the goaltender and between the tables for a goal. I accepted my teammates’ congratulations with a grin, trying not to make too big a deal of it. But I saw the goaltender roll his eyes in chagrin and disbelief, and I was pretty damned pleased.

And here are two somewhat related tunes: “I Love My Shirt” by Donovan from his 1969 album, Barabajagal, and “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” by the Temptations, which went to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 1, R&B) in 1966.

‘Three’

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

There aren’t a lot of threes out there. When I sort the 65,000 or so mp3s on the RealPlayer for the word “three,” I get 302 tunes. But – as in the recent cases of “One” and “Two” – I have to winnow out some chaff. And in the case of “Three,” there’s a lot of chaff.

For example, I have to ignore numerous albums by Three Dog Night and a few by the Three Degrees. I haven’t yet finished sorting and tagging a multi-disc anthology of R&B saxophone, so the twenty-seven tracks on Disc Three of that collection go by the wayside. The same with a nice 1963 album of Brazilian jazz by the Bossa Three and country singer Pat Green’s 2001 album Three Days.

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to explore this morning; certainly six of them should be worth a listen. We’ll travel in generally chronological order.

One of the first things I ever posted at Echoes In The Wind was the tale of my grandfather and the 45 rpm record he purchased for my sister’s birthday (her third, I believe). The record had “Little Red Riding Hood” on one side and “Three Little Pigs” on the other, as read by Al “Jazzbo” Collins. As I wrote in early 2007: “What Grandpa had found at the local record store was one of the great novelty records of the early 1950s, a record now fairly obscure. According to the Sept. 14, 1953, edition of Time magazine, Al ‘Jazzbo’ Collins, a Manhattan disk jockey, had found two hip reworkings of Grimm’s fairy tales in Down Beat magazine.” When Collins read and then recorded the tales – written by TV personality Steve Allen – they reached a wider audience than the hipsters who were Allen’s presumed audience, with the Brunswick recording that my grandfather purchased having sold 200,000 copies by mid-September 1953, according to that piece in Time magazine. The record’s no longer so obscure, perhaps, with numerous copies of it popping up on YouTube, but in any case, today seemed like a good day to revisit Jazzbo’s “Three Little Pigs.”

It’s startling to realize – as I did this morning – that in the five-plus years I’ve been blogging about music, I’ve written hardly anything about Donovan. I’ve mentioned him maybe twenty times and a couple of his tunes have showed up, one in an early mix and another as a Saturday Single. But I’ve never devoted a post to him or taken a close look at either his chart success or critical success. I know his work: Several of his LPs are in the stacks and more than eighty Donovan mp3s are in the player, but I guess that his music has never really meant that much to me, so I’ve never spent much time thinking about it. Will I now? I kind of doubt it. But one of his trippy tunes did show up this morning: “Three Kingfishers” from his 1966 album Sunshine Superman.

From trippy to trippier we go: The Incredible String Band, according to All Music Guide, was one “of the most engaging groups to emerge from the esoteric ’60s.” I’m not sure that “engaging” is the word I’d use; from this corner, “impenetrable” would be more accurate. AMG gives The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – the group’s third album, released in 1968 – five stars, noting that the album stands as the group’s “undisputed classic among critics and musicians alike.” And here’s what AMG had to say about the track that showed up in this morning’s search: “‘Three Is a Green Crown’ is a psychedelic folk song in all its hypnotic droning glory.” Classic? Glory? Well, okay.

And we may as well trip on. In 1968, as the blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s faded further into memory, Chess Records had an idea: Take the vocal tracks from some of Muddy Waters’ greatest performances and lay them over psychedelicized instrumental tracks. The result was Electric Mud, which was reviled by blues purists and either sold well or was generally ignored by its target audience of tripped-out hippies, depending on which source you read. In 1969, it was Howlin’ Wolf’s turn, with a record that proclaimed “This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either.” Here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” the way it sounded in 1963. And here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” as it showed up on that 1969 tripped-out album.

Mention the title “Three Little Birds” to a casual fan of reggae, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. I imagine that many folks would guess that the song by Bob Marley and the Wailers finds its title in its chorus of “Don’t worry ’bout a thing.” Released in 1977 on the album Exodus, the song is one of the sunniest in Marley’s catalog, and it’s a good place to find our stopping point this morning.

Saturday Single No. 178

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Well, as our Saturday list of things to do is lengthy – and that’s not all bad; one of the items on the list is “Go Out For Dinner” – I’m going to once more ramble through the library on random and see what we find at the end of a thirteen-step journey:

First off is “Where Do The Girls Of Summer Go,” a piece of confectioner’s sugar from Marc Eric’s 1969 album, Midsummer’s Day Dream. It’s light, bubbly and a little breathy, and very clearly influenced by the Beach Boys. It’s a good way to start the day.

Things get a little more determined if not exactly tougher: Tom Petty takes off “Running Down A Dream” from his 1989 album Full Moon Fever. Until recently, I’ve never dug too deeply into Petty’s catalog, which is surprising, considering his links to Bob Dylan and George Harrison through the Traveling Wilburys. I like what I’m hearing as I explore Petty’s work, but I have a ways to go.

Third stop this morning is a Turkish tune called “Buda” by a vocalist named Sertab; I found it on one of the Putumayo collections, this one from 2006 entitled Turkish Groove. Both the Texas Gal and I enjoy – as a change of pace – much of the music of the eastern Mediterranean.

“Dancin’ with you, baby, really turns the soul shake on,” sing Delaney and Bonnie. “Groovin’ with you, baby, really turns the soul shake on.” What a great record! Pulled from 1970’s To Bonnie From Delaney, “Soul Shake” is one of those records that never fails to bring a grin to my face. And it’s kind of a shame we have to move on. After all, “there ain’t nothin’ ’bout you, baby, that I don’t approve.”

From there, we get more horn-accented R&B, as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes launch themselves into “Talk To Me” from 1978’s Hearts of Stone. The track was one of two written for the album by Bruce Springsteen, but nevertheless, most listeners thought that Hearts of Stone was when John Lyon and his band stepped out of the significant shadow of their fellow Jerseyite.

Staying with the blue-eyed R&B groove for at least one more song, the player takes its sixth random jump of the morning and lands on Rod Stewart’s 1972 take on “I’d Rather Go Blind.” From Never A Dull Moment, the track is pretty good, which is – I acknowledge – faint praise, but for me, Etta James’ take on the song remains the standard.

And we head to the Walkabouts and their moody, dark and compelling visit to New West Motel in 1990. The track is “Break It Down Gently,” with its swirling effects and bleak vocals. “Black rain will come to break it down gently,” the Walkabouts sing, “to wash it down slow, goin’ straight to the bottom.” That’s a little bleak, but boy, does it sound good.

Things lighten up a lot after that. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of anything that contrasts more than switching from the Walkabouts to a John Denver song as delivered by Olivia Newton-John. Her take on “Follow Me” comes from her 1975 album Have You Never Been Mellow, and after a breathy intro, the banjo and the drums come in for the chorus, which helps. But it’s still pretty airy and well, insubstantial. It didn’t hit the Top 40 back in 1975, but it’s not a lot different from those singles by Newton-John that did.

Magic Carpet’s only album, a 1972 self-titled release, says All-Music Guide, “fused Indian ragas and singer-songwriter folk in a manner suggestive of Joni Mitchell playing with the Incredible String Band.” Well, maybe. Listening to the track “Father Time,” I’m not sure that Mitchell has ever sung lines like “There’s only one you, and there’s only one me. We’re all just a part of the fish in the sea.” The sitar and other Indian instruments sound cool, though.

Our tenth stop is “Oh, Pretty Woman” from blues giant Albert King’s 1967 classic Born Under A Bad Sign. This is not the Roy Orbison song but a much tougher song by A.C. Williams. (According to Second-Hand Songs, a database of cover versions, King might have been the first to record the song, but I’m not sure.) Backing King on the track – on the entire album, in fact – were Booker T and the MG’s along with the Memphis Horns.

I wrote once that Rick Danko’s 1977 self-titled solo album was one I’d wish I’d had when it came out, as it would have been one of those records I listened to for some consolation during my first months out in the working world, living in a different city than did almost all of my friends. And when “Once Upon A Time” pops ups this morning, that thought holds true: This is music that comforts.

Number Twelve this morning pulls us back to San Francisco in 1968: “Pride of Man” from Quicksilver Messenger Service’s first, self-titled album. So much of the music from that time and place has become so familiar – stuff by the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, especially – that the music has become divorced from its origins. This Quicksilver track still has an unmistakable vibe to it, summoning images of Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park, self-conscious hippies and the impending doom that always seems to threaten the gentle and gullible.

And our last stop this morning keeps us in that era of hippies and flowers. Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are. But having taken a circle from the starting point of Marc Eric’s confectionary tune, perhaps Donovan’s “Isle of Islay,” from his 1967 album, A Gift from a Flower to a Garden, is a good place to wind things up. So that’s today’s Saturday Single: