REVIEW

 

DONOVAN
The Abbey Road Acetates [no label 3CDs]
Incomplete set lists but no further info. VG+ to Ex SBD stereo.

For an artist as beloved, and avidly colleted as Donovan, shockingly little information on the nuts and bolts of his career has made it into circulation. The sterling run of '60s hits and LPs notwithstanding, great swathes of his recording career have passed by in the shadows, and the collector’s circuit so overflows with what someone has described as an "abandoned LP" that it’s a wonder he found time to ever complete one.

This three-CD set rounds up a lot of the material spread across those other discs, although the lack of any kind of annotation leaves the listener struggling to be sure exactly what is going on at any given moment. The best guess is that the bulk of it hails from the abandoned Open Road sessions, convened during 1971-1972… although we’d probably need a Mark Lewisohn-style detective agency to confirm that once and for all.

The package opens with apparently completed takes of defiantly swing-tinged "Giggle In A Bubbly Bath" and "Open Up Your Heart," then drifts into a series of more obvious works in progress - "Eight Little Fishes," "Shipwreck," "Slow Down World," "Spaceship Earth," "Sailing Homeward," "There Is An Ocean" are all interrupted at some point by studio chatter, or some other breakdown. And on it goes across three stuffed CDs. Even allowing for the handful of songs that were resuscitated for subsequent projects (including several that emerged on 2004’s Beat Café), it’s an awful lot of unreleased Donovan, and the fact that the early 1970s did not exactly represent the peak of his creativity means it can get a little wearing after a while.

On a less subjective level, the sound quality is fine, although the presentation is a little clumsy - just because a CD is sourced from LP, that doesn’t mean we need to hear the needle falling onto the vinyl at the start of each side! But there’s little in the way of scratching and crackles, and the transfer is actually cleaner than many officially sanctioned archive releases. - Dave Thompson

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September 29, 2006