I have just finished watching a three hour documentary film plus a little over two hours of bonus material about Donovan. If you are not close fifty years old, a 60’s aficionado or a Donovan fan, you should probably stop reading right here as five hours is a lot of time and material.
In the 1960’s Donovan was a respected folk/pop artist who for a short time was compared to Bob Dylan. Some of his early career hits such as “Colours,” “Catch The Wind,” and “Universal Soldier” were excellent straight folk. By the mid 1960’s his sound had moved to what can be best called psychedelic folk. He had huge hits with the likes of “Sunshine Superman,” “Wear Your Hair Like Heaven,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Atlantis,” and “Mellow Yellow” which made him a star in The United States and his native England.
SPV has released an exhaustive two disc DVD set titled, Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan. The first disc is a three hour documentary film that follows Donovan’s career from its beginnings down to the present day. The second disc consists of two hours of rare bonus footage which includes concerts, unreleased songs, TV appearances, and some private film.
The first half of the documentary film is interesting in that it pastes Donovan’s career against the background of the 1960s. The archival footage of Donovan and the time in which he lived really is historic and goes beyond just his story. The film of his time with the Beatles and the Maharishi in India portray a time long gone.
The second half of his career is not as interesting. His best work was a product of the 1960s and he will always be remembered in that context. However his did keep active and moves through history gracefully.
Donovan’s recollections and stories are an asset to the DVD. At times in his career he has had a tendency to overestimate his influence in music history and over indulge when speaking about his past. Here he sticks to the truth and is humble, entertaining, and ultimately interesting.
The bonus footage is more hit and miss. The TV appearances are very dated as are many of the music videos. The short film, Wear Your Hair Like Heaven, is a wonderful look at 60’s psychedelic music and imagery. The changing colors and shifting moods are a wonderful journey down memory lane. Two unreleased songs, “Refugee Of Love” and “The Olive Tree” are some of the best music Donovan has created in years as they are a return to his folk roots. There is a surprisingly good modern, electric performance of his “Season Of The Witch.”
I am a product of the 60’s and I found this project interesting. Ultimately it all comes back to the fact that five hours is a lot of Donovan and for many people it is just too much. However, if you are so inclined and have the time, it can be a worthwhile journey.