Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man


Artist: Donovan
Title: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Style:Raga Rock, Pop and Psychedelic Pop
Format: Vinyl
Producer: Mickie Most

The Hurdy Gurdy Man is the sixth studio album (seventh overall) by Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan, released in the US in October 1968, but not in the UK, because of a continuing contractual dispute that also prevented Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow from a UK release.

Donovan wrote and recorded much of The Hurdy Gurdy Man in late 1967 not long after recording the songs that would form A Gift from a Flower to a Garden. The rest of The Hurdy Gurdy Man was recorded in April 1968, after he visited Rishikesh, India to study under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Donovan has since said in concerts that Harrison wrote a verse for “Hurdy Gurdy Man” when they were in India, but it wasn’t recorded for the studio version. On his 1973 live album Live in Japan: Spring Tour 1973 and his 1990 live album Rising, Donovan explains the story and sings the previously omitted verse. The last verse of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” written by George Harrison is: “When the truth gets buried deep, beneath a thousand years of sleep, time demands a turn around, and once again the truth is found”.

Donovan’s songwriting for The Hurdy Gurdy Man centered around drones on such songs as “Peregrine”, “The River Song” and “Tangier” (the latter two being compositions by his good friend Gypsy Dave AKA Gyp Mills), and pop music on most of the other tracks. “As I Recall It” continues Donovan’s infatuation with jazz. “Jennifer Juniper” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” were both released as singles well before the album was released.

As seems to be the case with many of his LPs, the recording sessions for the album are purported to have included future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. Page was in The Yardbirds at the time and was actively looking to rebuild that band. The album credits John Bonham for percussion on the song and Clem Cattini as the drummer.

This is not my favorite Donovan LP. I don’t think it was recorded well, but then again maybe it was the best way available at the time. The whole album sounds filtered. The highs are really laid back, but not in the extreme.

Side one:
Hurdy Gurdy Man – The familiar humming opens the notes to this title track. On this LP it sounds like lots of filters were used in the recording, but this is the full rock version. This is one of my favorite Donovan songs. (Note: For some reason this same song on the Greatest Hits LP sounds much better, which means either this pressing is not that good or it was remastered at some point).
Peregrine – This song has a strong east Indian flavor and ironically an actual Hurdy Gurdy was used in this recording.
The Entertaining Shy Girl – This is a cute acoustic number and the shortest song on the LP clocking in at 1:40
As I Recall It – This song has a show tune/vaudeville sound to it
Get Thy Baring’s – This song shows the start of the fascination with Jazz Donovan was forming at the time. It has a mellow 60s jazz flavor. The upright bass guides this tune along and there is reverb on the drums, but not a disturbing amount and it was common to do at the time.
Hi, It’s Been A  Long Time – This song has strange lyrics and sounds kind of Sgt. Pepperish to me.
West Indian Lady – This is similar to Jennifer Juniper I think and also sounds like a fair amount of dubs were used.

Side Two:
Jennifer Juniper – Another hit for Donovan. The track was written about Jenny Boyd, sister of Pattie Boyd, while they were all with The Beatles in Rishikesh. The song features a wind section with oboe, flute, and bassoon. The last stanza of the song is sung in French. This is a 60s ballad or love song and it captures all of the innocence of the era perfectly,
The River Song – In spite of having some of my favorite elements (bongos, guitar), this is an annoying song in the chorus and lyrics in my opinion.
Tangier – This song starts off with percussion and then a Hurdy Gurdy joins. The song is obviously about what Donovan saw in the country of Tangier and it is done in that style. I personally don’t like this song the way he did it. I find it disturbing and a downer.
A Sunny Day – We come back to “happy” here with this track. One thing I noted though is that the flute is mixed too far forward.
The Sun Is A  Very Magic Fellow – Donovan is known for this type of thing. This kind of sounds like a children’s song, but one of the better tracks on this LP.
Teas – The structure is kind of annoying and one interesting note, the piano is put through the same effect  as The Beatles used for Magical Mystery Tour.

MUSIC: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars
SOUND: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars