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This double-CD set compiles 29 tracks recorded live by Patrick Hehir in the mid-'80s, at Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and Royal Festival Hall in London. Many of the songs here were issued on the mid-'80s CD Classics Live, but this seems to be the first unified release of all of them. The accompaniment ranges from Donovan's solo acoustic guitar to small backing band, though it is solely Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson (who played on many of Donovan's classic, late-'60s sides, as well) who is credited as a backing musician. Regardless, the excellence of the sound is a decided virtue on this collection, which, if it lacks the mystique and distinct timbre of Donovan's classic original recordings, offers beautiful un-amplified renditions of material from across his entire repertory. The songs encompass everything from "Universal Soldier" on up, reaching well beyond the chart hits and out to material from such personal works as HMS Donovan. Some people will always prefer the amplified versions of "Season of the Witch," to pick just one title, but as a basic account of Donovan's core song catalog, stripped down to its essential melodies (which are often quite compelling), this collection has to rate serious consideration among serious fans and casual listeners alike, ahead of such dubious compilations as Sony Music's 2004-vintage The Essential Donovan.

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