Donovan & Robert Pollard Review

This week on Sound Opinions, the hurdy gurdy man himself, Donovan, comes in and chats with Jim and Greg, and puts down a few of his classic songs acoustically. Plus a review of former Guided by Voices lead singer Robert Pollard’s solo debut, and a DIJ from Greg Kot.

Donovan
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This episode of Sound Opinions starts out with a discussion of the recent phenomenon overtaking many rock groups: Bands like The Doors, Queen, Journey, and The Cars are touring and making albums despite the fact that their original lead singers are no longer with them. This is not a new phenomenon, however. Jim and Greg have both seen this before with The Four Tops, The Platters, and more recently, Judas Priest, whose story inspired the movie Rock Star.

One of the most heavily publicized instances of a band replacing its lead singer is with the group INXS. In order to cast another Michael Hutchence, INXS’s original lead singer who committed suicide in 1997, the Australian bandmates went so far as to utilize reality television. In Rock Star INXS, hundreds of wannabes vied for this slot. The winner was JD Roth, whose single with INXS is currently getting a fair amount of radio play. The runner-up is Chicago musician Marty Casey. To get to the bottom of the substitute lead-singer phenomenon, Jim and Greg sit down with Casey, whose band The Lovehammers is opening up for Roth and INXS on their current tour.

Donovan

This week Jim and Greg talk with legendary ‘60s singer/songwriter Donovan. In honor of his 40th anniversary in the music business, Donovan has written an autobiography, released a box set, and set out on tour. A contemporary of Bob Dylan and The Beatles, Donovan was acclaimed for his finger-picking style, which he garnered from The Carter Family and demonstrates for our hosts.

Jim and Greg also want to know about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll in Donovan’s life. Specifically, they discuss his experience being busted for drugs in 1966. His arresting officer, Sgt. Pilcher, later targeted fellow British rockers Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and John Lennon.

Another part of the Donovan mythology involves the origin of his song Mellow Yellow. As Jim points out, many people believe that Donovan was alluding to the ability to get high by smoking banana peels. While Donovan does not refute this idea, which was tried out by Country Joe McDonald, he also admits that part of the song’s imagery was taken from a marital device he saw advertised in a magazine. In his book, Donovan also suggests that Andy Warhol may have been inspired by the electrical banana.

Jim and Greg also ask Donovan about covers of his songs. They play for him the Butthole Surfers’ rendition of Hurdy Gurdy Man. Other notable covers include Hüsker Dü’s Sunshine Superman, Eartha Kitt’s Hurdy Gurdy Man, and My Morning Jacket’s Wear Your Love Like Heaven.

00:43:23 Review: Anthony Hamilton

Ain’t Nobody Worryin’

Next up is a review of Ain’t Nobody Worryin’, the new album from Anthony Hamilton. This R&B singer reminds both critics of classic vocalists like Bill Withers and Bobby Womack. While keeping his day job as a barber in in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hamilton began recording. He sang back-up for D’Angelo on his Voodoo our, and eventually caught the eye of mega-producer Jermaine Dupri during a Grammy performance honoring Stevie Wonder. While Greg initially objected to the lack of up-tempo songs, both he and Jim appreciate the quality of the songwriting and the substance of the lyrics. Therefore Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ gets two Buy It ratings.

A Compound Eye Robert Pollard

From a Compound Eye

Next up is a review of A Compound Eye, the first solo release from ex-Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard—and our hosts couldn’t disagree more. Sound Opinions fans know that, like the spirited debates about Bruce Springsteen, the GBV/Pollard dispute is almost as old as time. Jim starts off by expressing his wish that Pollard took more time to polish the tracks on this album. Greg disagrees, and finds the lack of polish part the music’s lo-fi charm. Jim also thinks that Pollard is, as always, too prolific of a songwriter, and that over half of the album is just self-indulgent clatter. Thus, it’s a Trash It. For Greg, though, A Compound Eye is a beautiful, eclectic double album rolled into one. He recommends fans go out and Buy It.

Greg

This week it is Greg’s turn to choose a song for the Desert Island Jukebox. He goes back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the era when rock and dance music merged. This period has been referenced a lot during discussions of contemporary bands like Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem. For his pick, Greg goes to one of the sources— ESG. This South Bronx group made up of four sisters worked with Martin Hannett, best known as the producer of Joy Division. While not skilled musicians, the Scroggins Sisters had a unique sound that greatly influenced house and post-punk bands. Their track UFO is actually one of the most heavily sampled songs in music history. But for his DIJ, Greg chooses to play Moody, which is both atmospheric and danceable. Listen for the conga solo by the sisters’ friend Tito.

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