From Belfast, Ireland, folk-rock/pop singer/songwriter David McWilliams recorded several albums in the late '60s in a style similar to Donovan. Here, too, was a youthful but slightly ragged-looking troubadour, obviously influenced by Bob Dylan, whose songs were also dressed up with Baroque orchestration. McWilliams' songs and singing, however, were milder than those of his Scottish counterpart, and as a vocalist and composer he didn't have nearly as much originality or personality. Problematically, the similarities to Donovan made unfavorable comparisons unavoidable. The records aren't bad, but are rather derivative and forgettable, though his best-known single, "Days of Pearly Spencer," was his best song, with a dark edge, swirling violins, and an effective dab of psychedelia in the megaphone-distorted vocals on the song's chorus.
McWilliams made his first single in 1966, and was lifted to a higher profile throughout the U.K. by Phil Solomon, an influential Irish manager who had worked with Them and the Bachelors. In 1967 McWilliams managed to record three albums -- quite a prolific rate for an artist who wasn't a star -- which tickled the lower regions of the British album charts, with the second, Vol. 2, almost making the Top 20. These albums were produced and arranged by Mike Leander, who had already proven his facility for mixing pop/rock with classical-influenced orchestration on records by Marianne Faithfull. "Days of Pearly Spencer" got a lot of airplay on British radio when it was released at the end of 1967, and is well remembered by listeners of the time, but somehow did not make it onto the U.K. charts, although it was a big hit in several European countries.
McWilliams continued to record through the 1970s, without breaking through to wide success. A compilation drawn from his first three albums, The Days of David McWilliams, was issued by RPM in 2001. It's his earliest work that's most remembered (if at all), particularly "The Days of Pearly Spencer," which was covered for a British hit by Marc Almond in the early '90s. ~ Richie Unterberger