- Album name: The Real Donovan
- Artist name: Donovan
- Year: 1966
- Number of discs: one
- Label: Hickory Records
- Collection: Brenner / Gessner
- Distinguishing characteristics: “GESSNER” written on the LP, indicating that my father owned it
- Buy it on Amazon: $24.95
Level of familiarity before listening
I’ve never heard this record before and don’t think I know any of Donovan’s music, but I have heard that he may have been more than a little bit inspired by Bob Dylan.
What I expected
Folk and folk rock.
What it was actually like
There was not a single moment on this record that didn’t sound like it was an imitation of Bob Dylan’s music from the same era. Donovan did not have quite the same voice as Dylan had, but it sounded about as close as he could get it without falling over himself.
And do you know how Dylan would sometimes sing a verse and then blow out a long chord on the harmonica? I don’t know that I had ever heard anyone else doing that until Donovan. Maybe Donovan did it first, though?
At any rate, I would not say that it’s fair to discount Donovan and his music. Even if he were literally playing covers of Dylan songs, he would still have had talent and he would still have been making music of some quality. He just was not the songwriter that Dylan was, and lots of artists and groups channel Dylan – because he’s such a great canvas.
The most interesting song on the record was Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness), which had a guitar riff that sounded pretty blues-influenced, and also sounded like it anticipated Led Zeppelin, and eventually heavy metal.
The War Drags On, starting with its opening line “Let me tell you the story of a…,” struck me as highly cynical, though he was able to get a pretty nice wah wah sound out of his acoustic guitar.
Having listened, I can completely understand why Donovan wasn’t played on classic rock radio, even though he was objectively talented and his songs were good, and why my parents never played him in the car: a lot of this music does have pop sensibilities, but not in the way that doo wop or Motown did, and on the other hand, whether fair or not, it was quite easy to discard him as a knockoff.
4/5: would listen again