- Album name: A Gift From a Flower to a Garden
- Artist name: Donovan
- Year: 1967
- Number of discs: two
- Label: Epic Records
- Collection: Brenner / Gessner
- Who owned it: my father
- Buy it on Amazon: $68.40
Level of familiarity before listening
I’ve never listened to this record before, but I recently reviewed The Real Donovan (1966) and thought it was not that bad!
What I expected
The Real Donovan was not that bad, but I’m getting a very bad sense about this double album.
First of all, lots of musicians were putting out double albums in the late 1960s, and the way they always did it was by having an extra sleeve in the album, and sticking the second record in there. For whatever reason, Donovan seems to have felt the need to go all out and create a whole box set for his double album, as if it was going to be an unforgettable experience to buy it and then take it home, lovingly unbox it, and diligently listen to it.
Moreover, there’s a folio inside, with DONOVAN printed on the cover, and he’s printed twelve sheets on very heavy stock, each in a different color and labeled “the first” through “the twelfth,” with a song name and that song’s lyrics, and a drawing that presumably illustrates the song. It’s as if he saw a William Blake book in a bookstore one day and decided to copy that exact idea.
Also, on the back cover, there’s a photograph of Donovan fawning towards his guru, captioned “His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Author.”
In short, all indications are that this will be an extremely pretentious record.
What it was actually like
You know the famous story about how automatic double tracking was invented for the Beatles to use when recording Revolver? I’m all for new advances in music recording, but there’s a good reason why no one listens to Revolver and finds the vocals to be distractingly unnatural, which is that the Beatles knew not to overdo it. Since they understood that it was critical to integrate technological changes judiciously, why couldn’t they tell their pal Donovan to chill out and not ruin his record with the ADT effect?
The whole first LP was so heavy on the voice effect that I could not stop noticing it. It was very folk rock and very psychedelic, and I recognized Wear Your Love Like Heaven, but I would not recommend it.
The second LP was way better, far more about folk music and some folk rock, and what it lost in ADT, it gained in flute, which was particularly prominent in songs like The Enchanted Gypsy and The Tinker and the Crab.
A low point of the second LP was the sound effects – seagulls and laughing children – at the beginning of Song of the Naturalist’s Wife, and then again with more chirping birds at the beginning of The Magpie. That was totally unnecessary.
There was also absolutely no justification for making this a double album, since very few of the songs were memorable enough that they needed to have been included.
3/5: interesting, but not for me