While by no means a complete retrospective, this two-disc compilation contains a healthy sampling from Donovan's first dozen years as a formidable musical figure. His chameleon-like sensibilities not only adapted to, but likewise defined the '60s folk, pop, acid rock and the scene of swingin' London. As well as hitting some of the more obvious high points, Donovan -- who personally oversaw the project -- included a couple of unissued demos ("London Town"/"Codine"), alternate versions ("Museum"/"Superlungs"/"Riki Tiki Tavi") and previously unearthed titles ("Breezes Of Patchulie"/"Age Of Treason"/"What The Soul Desires"). The set charts a chronological examination commencing with a handful of the earthy acoustic demos and sides cut for the Pye (U.K.) /Hickory (U.S.A.) label(s) -- ultimately yielding Catch The Wind (1965) and Fairytale (1965) as well as over a dozen knock-off titles sporting the exact same material. [Note: Enthusiasts looking for a more thorough overview of the nearly three dozen sides documented during this era are encouraged to investigate the two-CD Summer Day Reflection Songs (2000) collection.]. The remainder of the first volume focuses on the fruitful '66 through '67 era that produced a string of hits ranging from the happy hippy anthems "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow" to the decidedly dark and foreboding "Season Of The Witch" and the Mod trendy pop art of "Sunny South Kensington"." Also included are a healthy sampling of album tracks. "The Trip," "Writer In The Sun" and the "Tinker And The Crab" are among the most timeless as his folksier nature resurfaces. The second volume of Troubadour picks up with Donovan at the peak of his popularity with Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) -- which featured the respective talents of Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (keyboard/orchestral arrangements) and John Bonham (drums). This was followed by the equally impressive line up that included Jeff Beck (guitar), Ron Wood (bass), Nicky Hopkins (keyboards) as well as Jim Gordon (drums) for Barabajagal (1968). Donovan slowed down as the decade came to a close re-emerging with the understated Open Road (1970) and Cosmic Wheels (1970). Again, he surrounded himself with top-shelf talent such as Cozy Powell (drums) and Chris Spedding (guitar). This produced works such as the quaint and bouncy "Maria Magenta" and the ethereal "I Like You" -- which is reminiscent of the Incredible String Band's choral folk leanings. Among the latter standouts are the unreleased tracks "Age Of Treason" and "What The Soul Desires" -- both of which were recorded just prior to the Nashville sojourn that resulted in 7-Tease (1974). Until his seminal Epic Recordsdiscs are offered in an expanded and remastered form, Troubadour is as definitive a collection as is available under one title.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2