Albums »The Hurdy Gurdy Man (Best Album)

hurdy gurdy manPick for the week of Sept. 3rd
Here's what I said then:

Poor Donovan. Despite his plentiful success, he's never gotten much respect. My aunt know this too well. When she was on American Bandstand, Dick Clark asked her what musician would most likely still be relevant 50 years later. She didn't answer The Doors, The Beatles, or Jimi Hendrix–she said Donovan. And everyone has made fun of her since.

Even in his heyday he was often dismissed as a Bob Dylan wanna be – even by Dylan himself who is kind of a jerk about and to him in the Pennebaker documentary Don't Look Back (even though they did become friends eventually). Today he still gets kicked around, just look at this inexplicably grumpy allmusic review for this very album.

Well, I'm here to defend my aunt's love of Donovan (she named her daughter Juniper; her name is Jennifer). In fact, I think her prediction may have been right. After all, if you listen to the best Donovan, it's easy to hear how tons of contemporary artists are highly influenced by his work–without him, there would be no Belle and Sebastian for one. I took the task of choosing the best Donovan album to recommend very seriously. During our recent vacation, we heard his full albums over and over.

Most fans claim Sunshine Superman as his best, but this much darker and varied album is the one for me. I admit, sometimes the man can't help but tread in annoying territory (see 'I Love My Shirt' and 'Mellow Yellow'), and a hint of this sing songiness usually makes its way into all his albums, but when it does on hurdy gurdy in the broadway-like tune 'As I Recall It', it's so toe tapping that you don't mind at all.

The rest of the album is simply amazing from my very favorites (the shadowy title song and the jazzy moody 'Get Thy Bearings') to the ancient droning folk songs 'Tangier' and 'Peregrine'; to the lighter pretty ballads 'The Entertaining of a Shy Girl' and 'West Indian Lady'. Beginning to end this is possibly my most favorite album experience of the year. You would do well to scoff at his critics and pick up this remarkable album.

Runners Up:
Multi Kontra Culti Vs. Irony by Gogol Bordello
Mutiny/The Bad Seed EP by The Birthday Party
At Last! by Etta James
Fresh Cream by Cream
White Witch by White Witch

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Posted on November 5, 2007

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