Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven – Epic Records BN 26349 (1967)/Speakers Corner Records (2017) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 22:40 ****:
(Donovan – guitar, vocals, whistling; Cliff Barton – bass; Mike O’Neill – piano, organ, harpsichord; Kieth Webb – drums; Candy John Carr – congas, bongos; Harold McNair – flute; Mike Carr – vibraphone; Eric Leese – electric guitar; Jack Bruce – electric bass)
The British Invasion in the 1960’s was renowned for pop-infused recreations of American blues. Most of the bands were trying to be the next Elvis Presley. There was also a connection to folk music including British artists like Martin Carthy and American troubadours, including Woody Guthrie, and of course, Bob Dylan. Much of the music embraced by emerging British musicians was a blended tapestry that included folk, blues, jazz pop and psychedelia. Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch (who would be known simply as Donovan) was a significant part of this movement. He scored hit singles in 1965 with “Catch The Wind” and “Colours”. The following year “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow” ensued. Subsequent tunes like “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Atlantis” also charted. Donovan maintained a viable presence throughout the 60’s, but waned as the 70’s unfolded. However his influence was notable. His song, “There Is A Mountain” was famously covered by The Allman Brothers on their Eat A Peach, “Mountain Jam”.
Speakers Corner Records has released a 180-gram vinyl re-mastered update of Wear Your Hair Like Heaven. Recorded in 1967, this was the first half (Record Number One) of a double album, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden. This double album was released in the U.S. as two separate projects.It has been described as electric pop, unlike the matching acoustic children’s album For Little Ones. Wear Your Hair Like Heaven has ten songs that clock in at a succinct 22:40. Side One opens with the title track. This is the epitome of the quirky tempo and lyrical contexts of Donovan Leitch. In an unusual ode to love, the singer utilizes an assortment of colors to express a spiritual resonance. Organ shading, vibraphone and jazzy phrasing complement the idiosyncratic vocals. “Mad John’s Escape” is pop-oriented with references to Reform school (possibly a euphemism for mental institution) and English gardens. It feels like a British Dylan song. Donovan’s vocals (including a huffing breath) are complex and interesting. On “Skip-A-Long Sam”, there is a skittle-like cadence enriched by counter harmonies and English rhyming patterns (“…You’ll be back in time for tea, with a diamond to show me…”). in what seems as a cautionary heads-up, “Sun” invokes a mercurial angst (“…Life’s very unstable, it’s built upon sand…”). The arrangement is interesting. The verse is in 3/4 time with a jazzy chorus transition. Self-reflection is at the core of “There Was A Time”. it is an amenable ditty that captures the 60’s vibe with a harpsichord.
Side Two continues with these musical templates. In a pleasant change, the universality of “Oh Gosh” is framed by a funky bass line and jazz flute. Donovan imbues spiritual awakening to everyday life. “Little Boy In Corduroy” re-establishes the easy grooves with ethereal organ riffs, Music Hall chanting and whistling. The simplified phrase turn “…Wish I had a wish to wish away…” sums it up perfectly. In a 60’s pop rock tribute to William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “Under The Greenwood Tree” is oddly appealing with Old English expressions like “doth” and “come hither” put to modern music. The final refrain, “…Will you, won’t you join the dance…” is an apparent reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. With a piano structure, “The Land That Doesn’t Have To Be” is a lilting nursery rhyme nuanced with psychedelic organ and rich vocals (and unexpected half-steps). In an ambitious finale, “Someone Singing” is grandiose with sound effects (waves, seagulls) and a mixture of classical and bluesy undertones. There are orchestral swells with horns and strings (including a harp).
Wear Your Love Like Heaven is a retrospective look at a stylized 60’s singer/songwriter. Donovan has a musical vision that is emblematic of his era. Speakers Corner Records re-mastering to 180-gram vinyl is flawless. The overall mix is balanced and the pressing is of superior quality.The infared cover photo is compelling and nostalgic.
Wear Your Hair Like Heaven
Mad John’s Escape
There Was A Time
Little Boy In Corduroy
Under The Greenwood Tree
The Land Of Doesn’t Have To Be