Donovan's Brain : Carelessly Restored Art

Album Cover

Some background : Ron Sanchez, the main man behind Donovan's Brain, was an influential West Coast DJ back in the seventies who did a lot to promote the Man band at the time - hence the thank you on the cover of Maximum Darkness. He was also the sonic overlord chosen to produce Call Down The Moon, and has his own studio in Montana, where this collection was put together. Ron plays guitars, bass and keyboards, and does some of the singing, and is helped out by a variety of local musicians.

Now that you know all this, you probably won't be surprised to learn the album has a very psychadelia influenced sound, with lots of plush organ and harpsichord to compliment the guitars which at times have a much rougher edge. Maybe this isn't too surprising, since the record label, Get Hip, seem to specialize in garage and grunge type bands; at least the label's insert in the CD lists dozens of bands, none of whom I have ever heard of. I dare say it's my loss... But back to Donovan's Brain. I think the album's opener is my favourite, lots of hihat behind an insistent beat which reminds me of something, but just what eludes me.

Heavy Water is another of the highlights, a bit more of a contemporary sound than some of the others, such as Holly Green and Anna Lee Page, which have such a sixties sound that they should be wearing velvet flares, while Dandelions Are Back has a classic Byrds Rickenbacker 12 string sound, and is a decent song too. Smothered In Hugs is apparently a cover of a song originally done by Guided By Voices; my background reading suggest they have something of a reputation, but again, my ignorance prevents me from commenting. Anyway, it's a rough, garage band sort of piece. Make A Noise Quietly is back to sixties psychadelia, and another very strong song, taking a relaxed pace with luxuriant keyboards (mellotron?) and meandering guitar throughout.

I wasn't too sure about this on first hearing, but it has certainly grown on me. The playing and production are fine, and the only area where I have doubts is the vocals, shared by Ron and Colter Langan; maybe they're part of the independent, home studio ethos, but if the album does have a weak link, this, for me at least, is where it lies.

Ron has also recorded some stuff with Richard Treece and Ken Whaley, and the snippets I've been lucky enough to hear sound extremely promising. Another Donovan's Brain CD, Eclipse And Debris, should be out in 1999.

Originally issued in 1998.

Available on Get Hip Recordings, GH-1069CD

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