7-Tease might be considered the opening of what one could call Donovan's years in the wilderness. His next to last album, Cosmic Wheels, had managed to generate sales but its successor, Essence to Essence, marked the tipping point beyond which, because of the seeming datedness of his image, or whatever reason, he was no longer regarded by the public as being terribly important or relevant, or his records programmed by radio stations or ordered by record retailers in quantities resembling his earlier work. All of this is a pity because a fair hearing of 7-Tease reveals an album steeped in disillusionment, yet built upon beautiful melodies and some of the most diverse and appealing sounds and arrangements of his career, and a harder rocking sound than he was usually known for (courtesy of Nashville-based producer Norbert Putnam, who'd done something similar for Joan Baez). Listening to it 30 years after the fact is an eerie experience, vividly evoking the feelings of uncertainty surrounding the period in which it was made (and for those too young to know, the early to mid-'70s saw the self-destruction and resignation of a U.S. president, crippling oil boycotts affecting daily life in America, and serious political and social strife on every continent except Antarctica) -- all wrapped up in songs that were achingly beautiful, piercing in their directness, and generally as clever as any music of its era. "Rock and Roll Souljer" is a rousing opener (and a could've/should've-been single) whose spelling is a perfectly valid hint of its direction -- it comes with a soul chorus, a bracing, all-too-brief sax solo, and a mix of acoustic and electric guitars that's pretty much a harbinger of the whole album, and it almost deliberately gives a nod to "Universal Soldier" from the opening of Donovan's career. The rest of the album crosses boundaries between folk-based balladry ("Your Broken Heart," "Ride-a-Mile"), Dixieland jazz ("Salvation Stomp"), personal confessional ("The Ordinary Family"), folk-pop ("Sadness"), hard electric rock ("Moon Rok"), political commentary intermingled with breezy-'50s jazz-pop ("How Silly"), serious acoustic folk ("The Great Song of the Sky"), topical songwriting ("The Quest"), and some bittersweet reminiscences ("The Voice of Protest"). For all of its lack of success, Donovan later said that he went into 7-Tease the way he approached every album he ever cut, including such unabashed hits as Sunshine Superman and Hurdy Gurdy Man, and he saw no difference in his way of making music or the quality of what he delivered -- and it turns out that he was 100-percent correct; 7-Tease is about as good as any long-play record he ever made, and as fine an album that can be heard from any '60s artist working in the '70s (and that would include John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez et al).
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder