The Classics Live finds the cosmic troubadour performing solo and acoustic before a rapturous and respectful audience. The set list has been tightly selected, so few albums are represented by more than one song. Included are the title tracks to late-'60s albums like Hurdy Gurdy Man, Sunshine Superman, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, and Catch the Wind, as well as fan favorites "Universal Soldier," "To Susan on the West Coast," "Colours," and "Jennifer Jupiter." As is probably expected from a singer/songwriter whose roots lie in folk music soil, the songs do work well in these stripped-down arrangements. The material almost seems meant for such a setting. It's only Donovan's limitations as a performer/vocalist that begin to wear over the course of the performance. His perfectly controlled tone feels too reserved and actually seems slightly strained on the falsetto sections of songs like "Sadness." Similarly, the singer's attempts to interject humor into the proceedings ("Hurdy Gurdy Man"'s reference to visiting the Maharishi with "four Beatles, one Beach Boy, and Mia Farrow") are only half-successful. A collection of Donovan's hits are probably better heard in their studio versions, where the peculiarities that resulted from different musicians and producers make for a more varied, and satisfying, listen.
AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush