H.M.S. Donovan (album)

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HMS Donovan
Studio album by Donovan
Released 1971
Recorded June 1968–1971
Genre folk
Length 74:10
Label Dawn Records
Producer Donovan Leitch, Mickie Most
Donovan chronology
Open Road
HMS Donovan
Cosmic Wheels
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [1]

HMS Donovan is the ninth studio album, and tenth album overall, from British singer-songwriter Donovan. It marks the second album of Donovan's children's music, after the For Little Ones portion of A Gift from a Flower to a Garden. HMS Donovan is the second double album of Donovan's career, and was released in the UK only, in July 1971 (Dawn Records DNLD 4001 (stereo)).


Donovan married his longtime affection Linda Lawrence (once girlfriend of Brian Jones) in October 1970. When Linda became pregnant with their first child, he began working to complete a children's album that would eventually contain recordings spanning from July 1968 to 1971. Paul McCartney was present for some of the 1968 recordings ("Mr. Wind", "The Walrus and the Carpenter", "The Unicorn"), and there are bootleg recordings where Donovan plays these songs with Paul present. A demo of "Mr. Wind" was recorded after the Barabajagal sessions in a lower register and without the voice effects. The original lyrics of the song were printed on the British version of Sunshine Superman, four years before the release of HMS Donovan.

HMS Donovan was chiefly produced by Donovan, although "Homesickness" was produced by Mickie Most. "Homesickness" is the sole electric rocker on this album of acoustic songs and the original recording date is the subject of debate. It is widely reported that Donovan and Mickie Most stopped working together after the Barabajagal sessions.

For the majority of the songs on this album, Donovan set to original melodies classic poems for and about children. Many of the poems were from One Hundred Poems for Children compiled by Herbert Strang (Clarendon Press, Oxford – 1925). Other poems come from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Some of the songs on HMS Donovan share melodies with other songs in Donovan's canon. "Jabberwocky" has an acoustic arrangement with the same melody as "Celtic Rock" from Open Road. "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "The Unicorn" also have the same melody, but bootleg recordings suggest Donovan once sang these two songs together in a medley during late 1960s live performances. Sydney Carter's "Lord of the Dance" borrows the melody from the Joseph Brackett song "Simple Gifts". "The Star" is better known as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

Despite the inclusion of Donovan's minor hit "Celia of the Seals", HMS Donovan sold poorly and failed to chart in the UK. Epic Records refused to release the album in the US and Pye Records only put the album out on its subsidiary label Dawn Records in the UK. This prompted Donovan to reunite with his old producer Mickie Most to try to find a hit making formula for his next album.

After this album's release, Donovan became involved in two films. First, he played the lead role in Jacques Demy's "The Pied Piper", which was released in the US on 25 May 1972. He also provided the English soundtrack for Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which was released in the US on 2 December 1972.


Track listing[edit]

Original album[edit]

Side one[edit]

  1. "The Walrus and the Carpenter" (words by Lewis Carroll, music by Donovan Leitch) – 8:36
  2. "Jabberwocky" (words by Lewis Carroll, music by Donovan) – 2:37
  3. "The Seller of Stars" (words by Thora Stowell, music by Donovan) – 2:52
  4. "Lost Time" (words by Frida Wolfe, music by Donovan) – 2:29
  5. "The Little White Road" (words by Thora Stowell, music by Donovan) – 2:05
  6. "The Star" (traditional, arranged by Donovan) – 1:45

Side two[edit]

  1. "Coulter's Candy" (traditional, arranged by Donovan) – 1:44
  2. "The Road" (words by Lucy Diamond, music by Donovan) – 1:08
  3. "Things to Wear" (words by Agnes Grozier Herbertson, music by Donovan) – 1:06
  4. "The Owl and the Pussycat" (words by Edward Lear, music by Donovan) – 2:24
  5. "Homesickness" (Donovan) – 2:31
  6. "Fishes in Love" (Donovan) – 1:04
  7. "Mr. Wind" (Donovan) – 2:38
  8. "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" (words by Eugene Field, music by Donovan) – 2:38

Side three[edit]

  1. "Celia of the Seals" (Donovan) – 3:02
  2. "The Pee Song" (Donovan) – 2:06
  3. "The Voyage of the Moon" (Donovan) – 5:18
  4. "The Unicorn" (Donovan) – 0:55
  5. "Lord of the Dance" (Sydney Carter) – 2:31
  6. "Little Ben" (Donovan) – 1:44
  7. "Can Ye Dance" (Donovan) – 1:32

Side four[edit]

  1. "In an Old Fashioned Picture Book" (Donovan) – 3:11
  2. "The Song of the Wandering Aengus" (words by W. B. Yeats, music by Donovan) – 3:56
  3. "A Funny Man" (words by Natalie Joan, music by Donovan) – 1:51
  4. "Lord of the Reedy River" (Donovan) – 2:38
  5. "Henry Martin" (traditional, arranged by Donovan) – 5:08
  6. "Queen Mab" (words by Thomas Hood, music by Donovan) – 2:18
  7. "La Moora" (Donovan) – 2:21


  • Donovan - voice, guitar, harmonica
  • Mike Thomson - bass, organ
  • John Carr - drums
  • Danny Thompson - double bass on "Celia of the Seals"


External links[edit]