Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Donovan: Season of the Witch

Well today’s traditional song is going to be a real stretch as it is not really a traditional tune at all; however, with that said, Donovan in his autobiography, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” makes claims that he invented Celtic Rock and was one of the earliest proponents of electric folk. Donovan said he predated Bob Dylan’s use of an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival by five months. Since Donovan started out as a folk singer, I’ll use this 1966 recording as today’s Halloween based song. Crawdaddy’s review of Donovan's “Sunshine Superman” album stated that “Season of the Witch” was the most powerful single track on the LP.”

While the song is not promoting witchcraft or the occult, it is a song that explains paranoia with the paranormal. The protagonist is looking out his window and over his shoulder and sees things that are “so strange” that the only explanation is that these oddities are occurring because of witchcraft; therefore, “Oh no, must be the season of the witch.” The addition of the words, “Oh no” indicates that the season of the witch is not a welcome occurrence.

Billboard’s review of an October 25, 1968 New York concert stated, “His ‘Season of the Witch.’ In which all his (Donovan’s) skills are on display, is already a folk-rock standard recorded by many groups.” Other artists who have recorded it includes Julie Driscoll; Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills on Super Session; Richard Thompson; Terry Reid, and Lou Rawls to name a few.

I first heard this song on a Vanilla Fudge album where they do it in a minor key variation. Hmm, I just realized I mentioned Vanilla Fudge two days in a row – that’s uncanny. Vanilla Fudge also changed the lyrics of the song from “beatniks are out to make it rich” to “hippies are out to make it rich.”

Another version I like is a recent concert recording by the Strangelings, which features electric sitar and three part female harmony.

As Halloween approaches and you look out your window, beware as it may be the “Season of the Witch.”

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