The Agony and Ecstasy

Donovan in Buffalo

Last night “The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector” played on the big screen at the Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman House in glorious mono. Most of the songs anyway. It’s adventurous and reckless and almost over the top. There are essentially three pieces running around: Old footage of the Wall of Sound bands, Court TV video of Phil’s first trial and and an amazing interview. You get the sense that the interviewer doesn’t really care about Phil or is even interested in the topics he raises. He just keeps that tight shot on Phil and prods him to open his mouth. Is he drooling? We went in thinking he was guilty and then wound up with a soft spot for the guy.

Donovan, on the other hand is strangely pure. John Gilmore came over the other night with a Donovan documentary. We drove with John to see Donovan in Buffalo a few years back. He still has a beautiful voice and his songs are as good today as they ever were. He played two sets in Buffalo, mostly solo but he had a clunky backup trio for a few songs. Donovan does NOT need a rhythm section. He has a perfect sense of rhythm and other players just clunk up his material (except for the Mickie Most, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck backed records). The movie is a bit encyclopedic (three hours and we didn’t make it to the end) but it gives Donovan a chance to introduce his songs by playing abbreviated versions on acoustic guitar.

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