Donovan | Beat Cafe

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Beat Cafe

by Donovan

A heady, atmospheric and uniquely timeless blend of folk/jazz/pop/blues, seductive and magical originals from the creator of "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine Superman," "Season of the Witch" and other classics.
Genre: Folk: Folk Pop
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. Love Floats
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4:18 album only
2. Poorman's Sunshine
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4:02 album only
3. Beat Cafe
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4:14 album only
4. Yin My Yang
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3:35 album only
5. Whirlwind
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4:46 album only
6. Two Lovers
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3:42 album only
7. The Question
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3:06 album only
8. Lord of the Universe
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4:47 album only
9. Lover O Lover
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4:56 album only
10. The Cuckoo
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3:49 album only
11. Do Not Go Gentle
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4:27 album only
12. Shambhala
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5:29 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
That shimmering, intimate voice . . . the poetic, seductive lyrics . . . the dreamy, hazy music that surrounds them . . . From folksinger to flower-child to timeless musical poet, Donovan and his distinctive, magical songs have become familiar to decades of music fans since the early Sixties through hit singles like "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine Superman," "The Hurdy Gurdy Man," "Catch the Wind," "Colours" and "Atlantis," through jam-band covers by the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers ("There is a Mountain"), in TV and movie soundtracks and commercials, and on a precious, infrequent trickle of new releases.

"Beat Café" is the first new Donovan CD for grown-ups since 1996's "Sutras" ("The Pied Piper," a children's CD, was issued in 2002). While "Sutras," produced and released by Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mick Jagger) emphasized Donovan's folk roots, "Beat Café" is an extension of the heady rock/folk/pop/jazz/blues/world music brew that has become Donovan's trademark.

To capture the spirit of the Bohemian café happenings dating back to 1840s Paris that combined philosophy, poetry and free thought and inspired this CD, Donovan enlisted multiple Grammy-winner John Chelew (Blind Boys of Alabama, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt) as producer and keyboardist and the world-class rhythm section of folk/jazz double bassist and longtime Donovan accompanist Danny Thompson (Nick Drake, Richard Thompson, The Pentangle, John Martyn) and drummer/percussionist Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, George Harrison, many more). Applying a "no fixed arrangements" approach to foster the proper mood of spontaneity, Donovan (vocals, guitars) and his cohorts have created a lusciously atmospheric collection of eleven new original Donovan compositions plus a cover of the folk standard "The Cuckoo."

This "beat café" of the mind is a sensuous, smoky den of fevered seduction (the hypnotic "Love Floats," "Yin My Yang," "Two Lovers," "Whirlwind"), jazzy, finger-snapping hipness ("Poorman's Sunshine" and the title song), self-mocking blues ("Lord of the Universe"), and gentle spirituality ("Shambhala," "Do Not Go Gentle," the latter song an adaptation of Dylan Thomas's famous poem). The contemporary production values meld mystic chants, teasing wordplay, tender meditations and warm musical telepathy into a reaffirmation of Donovan's status as a unique musical visionary.

DONOVAN BIO:
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1946, Donovan's musical career started in England in the early Sixties, where his influences included musicians Martin Carthy, Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and a mixed bag of blues, jazz and folk songs. After appearing on the UK's seminal "Ready Steady Go" TV pop show for three consecutive weeks in late 1964, the 18-year-old Donovan found "Catch the Wind," his first single, ascending to Number 3 in the British music charts. Although inaccurately tarred with the tag of "Great Britain's Bob Dylan," Donovan's acoustic, folk-oriented songs were far more optimistic and inclusive than those of his media-perceived transatlantic counterpart, reflecting his love and respect for nature, peace and harmony.

Throughout the Sixties, Donovan's songs gradually shifted from wide-eyed folk to hip folk-rock, with the earnest innocence of "Catch the Wind" and "Colours" giving way to lighthearted, playful flower-power anthems like "Mellow Yellow" (which inspired the urban myth that smoking banana skins gets the user high), "Sunshine Superman," the calypso-flavored "There is a Mountain," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Atlantis." Imaginative arrangements and topflight sessionmen such as Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones (both of Led Zeppelin), and the Jeff Beck Group (on the hit "Barabajagal") made each new Donovan single and album an unpredictable adventure for the duration of the Seventies and early Eighties. Perhaps his most surprising appearance was as guest vocalist on the title song of Alice Cooper's Number One-selling 1973 album, "Billion Dollar Babies," but Donovan can also be heard in the background of a Beatles song or two (and vice versa).

As his recording output slowed in the Eighties, Donovan and his family moved to Joshua Tree, California, for a period of rest and creative recharging before returning to the United Kingdom in 1990 to tour, to work on his autobiography and to write new songs.

In 1996, Donovan recorded his "Sutras" album with the unlikely figure of Rick Rubin, best known for working with metal and rap bands, as producer of this auspicious return to a folk-oriented sound, which was met with popular and critical applause. Overseas, a collaborative version of "Atlantis" by the German group No Angels and Donovan hit Number 5 on the German charts in 2001 and sold over 500,000 copies.

More recently, Donovan's contributions to music and poetry were recognized with the award of an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Hertfordshire in 2003. In the summer of 2004, early recordings by Donovan are being issued in the UK as "Sixty Four," marking Donovan's fortieth anniversary as a performer.

The release of "Beat Café" renews the six-year-old relationship between Donovan and Appleseed Recordings. Donovan contributed a specially-recorded version of "My Rainbow Race" to the first of our three tributes to Pete Seeger's music, 1998's award-winning "Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 1." Donovan selected Appleseed to release his new CD over offers from far larger companies because of the label's independent and idealistic outlook, which meshes perfectly with this
project and his own countercultural philosophy.


Reviews


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Mark Spohn

real beatnick stuff
I feel like if I was in a dim-lighted coffee house and Donovan finished his set...everyone would start snapping their fingers instead of clapping...cool tunes w/cool lyrics. I've liked him from the beginning...I just turned fifty...L8R, Mark

Robert E. Levy

Donovan is still cool
I remember meeting Donovan in Chicago at the now closed Biddy Mulligan's. He was cool and personable then, and still is now. As a fellow musician I can appreciate his artistry and the intamacy he captures on this disc. Hope to see you in Chicago again soon.

Charles Macarthur

Donovan's best for many, many years.
Beat cafe is Donovan back on top form again after a few years in the wilderness with albums such as Sutras and Neutronica disappointing his many fans by not living up to the promise of his captivating live shows in recent years.
Although the expected jazzy beatnik feel suggested by the title is not carried through consistently on this new album, what is delivered is all timeless Donovan as we love him. His voice sounds great; any one of these songs could fit seamlessly into many of his classic albums from the sixties and early seventies. He sounds fresh again, and passionate about his work, and he uses his voice as an instrument, from breathy whispers to strident singing that is most effective. The songs are all very strong and feature the familiar Donovan themes that have recurred down the years. It's wonderful to hear echoes of some of his earlier works in several of the songs: in Love Floats it's Barabajagal's cool chorus that is hinted at, and the opening bars of Yin My Yang sound like we're back on Open Road, while Lover O Lover borrows from The Divine Daze Of Deathless Delight from 1973's Essence To Essence. Although the accompaniment is simple and overdubs and effects appear to be minimal, it all works really well to create a CD that is totally contemporary and immediately classic. Packed in a cool digipak with simple artwork and, thankfully, a lyrics booklet, the whole package is a delight and sits up there alongside Open Road, Mellow Yellow and Sunshine Superman as one of Donovan's best works.

Bryan Anthony

A 'melodic' masterpiece
Everyone should know Donovan for sixties hits like Colours, Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Catch The Wind, Hurdy Gurdy Man, and many, many others. Well, here is a 'new' album that will establish the fact that Donovan can still deliver a heady performance, dreamy, atmospheric, that is equal to earlier accomplishments.
The musicality of this collection is simply stunning: well produced, down to earth, raw and gutsy. The album takes the listener on a journey, lyrically as well as musically, back in time to the era of beat poetry, music, art and philosophy. Close your eyes as you listen to the thumping acoustic bass accompaniment to Donovan's dreamy articulaltions and you are swept away into the smoky beat cafe that is the inspiration for this wonderful suite of songs.
This is a 'melodic' masterpiece, not over done, not over produced, not overly fx'd, but breathily atmospheric, creating a 'believable' ambience that will simply blow you away from the first song to last.
If you are a Donovan fan, this is a must have. If you are not yet a Donovan fan, it is still a must have.

M Zarro

The Greatest Songwriter returns with Authority
I really won't even get into the music, without even a listen this would be a 5 star album just because its Donovan. Donovan is the greatest songwriter of all time so therefore everything he puts out is 5 stars. He has out done himself once again. This is an album very similar to Open road seeing that some of these songs were written around the time of Open Road. All I can say is buy it, BUY IT NOW, IT WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR CD PLAYER FOR MONTHS!!!!!!! The Enchanted Gypsyo from Scotland is back with authority, Keltner and Thompson shine, the album will knock you on your ass!!!!! "O MAEVE MAEVE MAEVE MA LOVER, SAKKA PAKKA RAKKA PAKKA TEEE, O MAEVE MAEVE MAEVE MA LOVER, SAKKA PAKKA RAKKA PAKKA TEEE, LOVE FLOATS IN SPACE, THAT SPACE BETWEEN US"

Marita Brake

Oh My! Donovan still "wears his love like heaven."
I loved Beatcafe so much that, as a musician myself, I wish I'd written it. I would have, if I'd have thought of it, but alas, Donovan did! Of course, HE DID and oh my, what a wonderful, lovesexy, barabajagal this CD is.From melt in your mouth lyrics like "two lovers" to the incredibly hip "beatcafe" Donovan has me addicted. In fact, even as road hardened and world weary as I am, I wrote him a fan letter. Not something I'm prone to do. He truly is an artist's artist. Thank you, Donovan, for gently reminding us to "wear our love like heaven!"

Ernie Black

Donovan at top form, finest album since 1970's "Open Road"
Far more of a back-to-the-roots album than a casual fan might realize, "Beat Cafe" brings together strands of folk, jazz, and blues with great effect, true to Donovan's own roots. He was really more of a folk-jazz artist than a folk-rock artist, and in "Beat Cafe" he captures that smoky, jazzy, bluesy, folk and beat milieu brilliantly. Rather than compare "Beat Cafe" with either his folk and acoustic work or his 60s folk-rock hits, think instead of "Mellow Yellow" (the album, not the single): listen to The "Observation," "Bleak City Woman," and "Young Girl Blues" and you'll hear the same smoky, erotic, jazzy (but subdued and bluesy) feeling throughout.

The cd pulls you in immediately as Donovan mysteriously intones a beat-era chant, "shakapakkapakkapakkati" (and you thought "goo goo barabajagal" was a mouthful). "If I was your lover I'd take you to the sky" he sings in "Love Floats," building to an enchanting chorus reminiscent of his spoken poem "Two Lovers" (also included, for the first time, on this cd. Immediate, intimate, dissolving boundaries, all to a hypnotic echoing of chant and lyric, Donovan invites us to share his experience. He then cranks it up a notch with what, in lesser hands, might have been a throwaway song, "Poorman's Sunshine," but the rhythm, thanks to Jim Keltner's drums and Danny Thompson's bass, is compelling. "From outa the darkness and into the light" he impels us, telling us that he's "just a poorman's sunshine", but oh, the light is so very bright. You're gonna need those dark sunglasses for this joint, man.

The title track, "Beat Cafe," has an enchanting swagger and rhythmic pulse, so evocative that you can almost smell the heady coffee, the smoke, the reefer drifting in the air. Don evokes the beat cafe scene as effectively here as he did years ago with his classic "Sunny Goodge Street," recreating that scene, making the forty years between then and now dissolve in a wisp of smoke lingering with a hint of hashish. Makes me want to go "to a beatnik cafe where the lights are low" (too bad I was only 12 in 1964).

Donovan offers us some of the finest poetry he's set to music in a very long time, as in the song "The Question":

"nay luna n'er can enter /
forests dark and deep as these /
see it is the secret goddess /
wandering amidst her trees"

Nor does he stop there, as he fully recreates the beatnik cafe scene with a mind-blowing reading of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle" with musical accompaniment.

Word: Donovan is "cool again" - not that there was ever a time when he wasn't. If you love poetry mingled with acoustic jazz, Richard and Mimi Farina singing "House Un-American Activities Blues Dream," Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," or snapping your fingers on the down beat, then this cd deserves a prominent place in your collection. I say: "Go, Man, Go!"