Beat Cafe

In Donovan's first album in eight years, the Scotsman whose best records ("Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow") are lasting snapshots of the '60s backtracks to an earlier decade.

In Donovan's first album in eight years, the Scotsman whose best records ("Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow") are lasting snapshots of the '60s backtracks to an earlier decade. Donovan digs beatniks. Although he believes he's conjuring the world of literary rebels of the '50s (Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Kerouac), we find the model to be closer to Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik played by Bob ("Gilligan") Denver on the TV show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." In the title track, Donovan cites the supposed totems of beatnik life: beret-wearing poets, slow-moving chicks, bongo drums. But there aren't enough bongos on the record and too much of Jim Keltner's excellently played but out-of-place kit drums. Still, the record is cool, in a way. Donovan's seductive whisper and spare jazzy air (centered on the walking double-bass of Danny Thompson) does capture the spirit of a rich, largely fictional milieu, the sound of Mingus gone minimally techno. The best track is "Do Not Go Gentle," a syncopated reading of Dylan Thomas' poem. The whole album should've been Thomas poems: It could have been called "Donovan Sings Dylan."—WR