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Published: 2008/12/03
by Brian Ferdman

Sunshine Superman The Journey of Donovan

SPV 80001294

Coming of age in the mid-1960s, Donovan burst on the British pop scene as a young troubadour with a boyish charm and an intellectual curiosity. His roots in grim post-war Glasgow would eventually give way to an epiphany that occurred when hearing “Love Me Do” on the radio after a night at the local pub. Upon hearing the Beatles’ early gem, Donovan set out to become a professional singer, not knowing that his path would eventually intertwine with those Beatles and many other superstars of the day. With the aid of visually-stimulating graphics, multiple clips, and lots and lots of interviews, director Hannes Rossacher tells the story of Donovan through the lengthy and thorough Sunshine Superman The Journey of Donovan.

Donovan has had a rich and successful career, one that has brought him to many exotic places and yielded many fascinating stories, all of which are recapped here. And when I say “all,” I mean it in the truest sense of the word, as this double-disc DVD stretches to over five hours in length! If you’ve ever wanted to know who played the swirling, psychedelic Celtic rock backup on “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” your answer (Led Zeppelin sans Robert Plant) is right here. If you’ve wanted to see Donovan engage in a guitar-banjo duel with Pete Seeger on Seeger’s “Rainbow Quest” television program in New York, you got it. If you’ve wanted to learn that “Mellow Yellow” was actually inspired by a trip to New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, look no further. More or less, everything you would ever want to know about Donovan is in this documentary, and to be perfectly honest, the details of his story are actually quite interesting.

However, no aspect of his life is more fascinating than the comparisons to Bob Dylan. As a young man breaking into the business, Donovan wore outfits like Dylan, sang a little like Dylan, and wrote songs like Dylan. Of course, this opened the British guitarist up to loads of criticism from the press, criticism that Donovan does his best to refute. He argues vehemently that he was not imitating Dylan at all, stating that there were similarities in their work because Dylan was imitating Scottish and Irish folksingers. He even cautiously moves toward the fine line of suggesting that he was an equal of Dylan. Yes, this is the most irritating but also entertaining part of the documentaryDonovan’s extremely high opinion of himself. As most of the film is told through interviews with the subject in a plethora of locales, it is often quite amusing to see just how large the singer’s ego can swell. Nevertheless, there is something infectiously charming about the man, and as much as you shake your head at his pompous words, you also find yourself laughing along and enjoying the ride.

For his part, director Rossacher has accomplished quite a feat in documenting and amassing so much quality footage. He has also applied some great, creative touches, employing the previously mentioned graphics, as well as some fun split-screen shots that juxtapose the modern day Donovan singing and playing in the same exotic locale as the Donovan from forty years ago. While the massive scope of the project might strike many as over-indulgent, all of the footage here is essential and informative. In addition, the wealth of concert and performance clips on the bonus disc provide hours of excellent music. If anything, by the time you finish digesting every minute of Sunshine Superman The Journey of Donovan, you will realize that Donovan has had a full life that merits such a thorough and all-encompassing tribute.

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