Mac MacLeod

The Incredible Musical Odyssey of the Original Hurdy Gurdy Man

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The musical odyssey documented by this 20-track CD is indeed incredible, not so much due to the quality of the music as the sheer manic speed at which MacLeod traveled between traditional folk and British psychedelia from the mid-'60s to the early '70s. The bulk of this disc follows his trail from 1965-1971 as both a solo performer and a member of various groups, including the Other Side, Exploding Mushroom, Hurdy Gurdy, and Amber. Unsurprisingly considering his close association with the man, MacLeod often sounded a little like Donovan, both on his acoustic solo folky sides and his weirder, harder psychedelic excursions. From the solo incarnation, listeners get a couple of trad folky numbers from 1965, one ("Candy Man") from a Swedish single, the other ("Donna Donna") from a Swedish EP, though the other side of the Swedish single ("Remember of the Alamo") is inexplicably absent. A strange, bluesy garage rock 1966 Swedish single from the Other Side, with American Jack Downing on lead vocals, follows; one of their songs was a heavy version of "Like a Rolling Stone," and folk-rock Dylanisms with psychedelic organ are heard on the 1966 Danish single by the Exploding Mushroom, in which MacLeod played bass. Then it's back to acoustic folk-based sounds on three 1967 outings from an unreleased solo album (all of them previously released on the four-track Copenhagen Lites EP), though these are embellished with flute, sitar, and some Indian percussion, à la Donovan. Two unreleased 1968 tracks by Hurdy Gurdy dive into downright crazed psychedelic blues-rock, albeit with a touch of folk-rock whimsy on the first part of "Tick Tock Man." Then it's back to a more measured blend of folk and psychedelia on the four 1971 songs by Amber, which strongly recall Donovan's gentler late-'60s work with their blend of acoustic guitar and sitar. In the midst of this mad path is a nice, previously unreleased late-'60s demo, "Telescope," of a psychedelic pop tune by an early version of Argent, on which MacLeod played. In all it's an unpredictable journey, though always an interesting one, through the periphery of the British folk and psychedelic scenes, on which MacLeod hovered without managing to make a commercial impact. The CD's rounded off by four recordings from 2000 and 2002, including covers of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man."

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