Five Leaves Left,
Time Of No Reply,
Made To Love Magic
Retro Album & Music Reviews |
Five Leaves Left 10
( 1969 )
Time Has Told Me / River Man / Three Hours / Way To Blue / Day Is Done / Cello Song / The Thoughts Of Mary Jane / Man In A Shed / Fruit Tree / Saturday Sun
During his life-time, Nick Drake sold only a small amount of records and played only a handful of concerts. His rise to prominence in terms of reputation has been slow and gradual through the years. Word of mouth helped his standing grow in England, a compilation or two for the benefit of new generations. A TV advert recently in America brought this most English of singer songwriters an amount of popularity world-wide. His early tragic death has frozen him in time, of course. A shy, sensitive depressive born with a skin too few. A soft, caressing voice over hypnotic folk and jazz influenced guitar patterns. Little matter that Nick was actually a happy child, growing up in a close family, and any form of depression only really set in during the final three or four years of his life. Another effect of being frozen time is being taken for granted - that the guitar style Nick spent hours upon hours upon hours practising and perfecting - was somehow a lucky twist of fate born into the world when Nick was. He was blessed with natural talent of course, but days on end spent merely tuning his guitar, playing figures and patterns, re-tuning, just snippets that would later form the basis of songs. Nicks guitar playing is sometimes overlooked when there is so much else on display through the poetic lyrics, a gorgeous voice and the mystique surrounding his short time in this world. The fact is, as well as all of those things, the guitar style of Nick was completely unique to him, and has been unrepeatable since.
Opening with 'Time Has Told Me' is perfect, a wonderful way to open a debut album, a statement of intent. All the Nick Drake trademarks are present and correct. A lovely, lilting melody. Rich, deep and romantic vocals. The guitar truly is hypnotic, I could just listen to that guitar pattern over and over, all day long. 'River Man' which follows is bordering on
genius. The sound of Nick and acoustic is enhanced here by tasteful string arrangements that sweep past and perfectly suit the melodies and vocal lines. Nick sounds especially alluring and mysterious vocally through this song. The lyrics are poetry and everything is just perfect. The guitar is amazingly strong for acoustic guitar playing. 'Three Hours' was written for a friend of Nicks. The lyrics are ever so slightly mysterious in their poetry. So much so, that same friend didn't have the faintest idea what the song was actually about. So, what chance the rest of us?! It hardly matters, the words sound good when sung, the playing and singing as strong and melodic as ever. 'Way To Blue' ditches the guitar entirely to concentrate on orchestrated backing to highlight Nicks voice. A sad, beautiful and mournful melody. Lyrics that sound so full of loneliness. So very lonely, and going straight for the heart. Makes you want to hug somebody to comfort them. So, powerfully strong emotionally, then? Well, yeah. Music works best expressing the range of human emotions. But Nick expressed particular emotions through 'Way To Blue' that perhaps have never been expressed better by anybody else in music. And, that's some compliment. The guitar returns for 'Day Is Done', a short little song to carry on from 'Way To Blue' in a sense - but comes across more as a song of resignation. It's no less beautiful for it though, and the string arrangements are something else.
We were talking about emotions? Well, 'Cello Song' has a fair few for you! A life-affirming joy, Nick sounds happy, the song full of a particular energy bringing to mind a morning breaking in spring-time. It contrasts with Nicks image of being perpetually Autumn. Early in the song he sings 'you have nothing to fear...' which is kind of nice. 'Thoughts Of Mary Jane' continues the feeling of a hazy spring time, moving onto to a feeling of spending a late afternoon with someone beautiful in a field of long grass. 'the way she sings, and her brightly coloured rings....' and his voice is just, ah..... just, well, so very romantic and touching. A brilliant little
guitar introduction leads into the breezy and jazzy 'Man In A Shed'. It lacks the romance of other songs, but the performance is as good as anything else here. 'Fruit Tree' is almost impossible to describe. Nick sounds wise, lost, in his dying days. The strings are beautiful, the vocal reaching into your heart and pleading. The guitar goes round, repeating patterns, but changing them through variation, and the lyrics are some of the best Nick ever wrote. 'Saturday Sun' rather than 'Fruit Tree' ends the
album. 'Fruit Tree' would have made a rather 'heavy' ending. 'Saturday Sun' is subtly jazz influenced and utterly gorgeous - like being tucked into a bed by a loved one. Really, it is! Well, I think so. Maybe you will too.
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Tom Hayes firstname.lastname@example.org
Songs like time has told me and river man have inspired me no end.
The Lyrics to River Man took some time to sink in, but once they were in they stuck, and even though they are so so simple they say all that they need to.
Being a songwriter myself, I find it very hard to write simple lyrics like Nick's,and feel that I need to make what I want to say, 'difficult sounding' as to cause a reaction from the listener, butI think that every songwriter that writes with this style in mind should take note! Simple is often the best way to say what you need.
Dan Cadman email@example.com
Whilst I agree with you on every level about the beauty of this album, there is also
a darker side that you did not speak of. Five leaves left refers to the warning in
a rizzla packet, and there is a drug theme to this album. For instance 'mary jane'
is actually a metaphor for weed. One of the best albums ever made!
All 3 drake records are superb but this one shades it for me if forced to choose .
Theres not much you can say really the music says it all - it connects with you in a really special way .
Its a record for those moments when all is not right with the world and nicks voice becomes your guide.
Bryter Layter 9
( 1970 )
Introduction / Hazey Jane II / At The Chime Of A City Clock / One Of These Things First / Hazey Jane I / Bryter Layter / Fly / Poor Boy / Northern Sky / Sunday
A long time was spent recording both this, and Nicks debut. John Wood and Joe Boyd made for a production team appearing on a number of Island Records releases and were almost a recommendation of quality in themselves. That production team helps Nick Drake with this record, as they had with 'Five Leaves Left'. John Wood was especially talented at recording acoustic and folk based material. Joe Boyd had taken Nick under his wing and doted on him somewhat. Richard Thompson was jealous! Yeah, Nick is backed here by Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Richard Thompson, as well the undoubted talents of John Cale. After the sessions for 'Bryter Layter' were complete, everyone at Island Records, the musicians who had participated, and it seems Nick himself, were more than happy with the record. But in quite likely the only interview to the music press Nick ever gave he did express an intention to record the follow-up to 'Bryter Layter' with just engineer John Wood. The idea that his stark 'Pink Moon' record was purely a result of Nicks deepening depression is not exactly true. It seems he'd planned something along those lines two years prior to its release. There was optimism 'Bryter Layter' would build upon the very modest sales 'Five Leaves Left' had achieved. Ultimately though, promoting a new artist who didn't tour, so therefore had virtually nil public profile was never going to be easy. But, the production here does lend itself to the idea 'breaking' Nick was always a prime motivation behind this records creation. The sound and instrumentation is lush - Nick backed by guest musicians on every song. The rhythm section of Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks provided a solid musical backing to surround Nicks voice and guitar. String arrangements provided by Robert Kirby and the beautiful contributions of John Cale complete the line-up.
We open with one of three instrumentals. 'Introduction' is a beautiful 93 seconds of guitar and strings but ultimately inconsequential. The flow into 'Hazey Jane II' seems slightly odd as well. It renders the inclusion of 'Introduction' questionable when it doesn't even work to lead into the following song. Thankfully though, 'Hazey Jane II' itself is rather fine, even if the musical track displays little of Nicks own talents - the lead guitar duties being taken by Richard Thompson. The vocals are of the same nature that marked out 'Five Leaves Left' as a special record. 'At The Chime Of A City Clock' is the first song where Nicks guitar playing is highlighted. The rhythm section does a fine job - this is almost groovy! And, when the chorus comes in, and the strings, 'at the chime of a city clock, put up your roadblock, hang on, to your ground' - an urban environment is created. 'Five Leaves Left' had been very concerned with nature and seasons. Nick had been living in London and that environment seems to have influenced the lyrical nature of some of the songs here. It doesn't sound urban or ugly musically though, of course. 'At The Chime Of A City Clock' with it's propelling rhythm section lines would almost make a great driving song! Which isn't very 'Nick Drake' but there you go. The vocals are beautiful - romantic sounding, as always. 'One Of These Things First' opens with lovely Piano and such an up-close and wonderfully captured Nick Drake vocal. It's a stunning song, ah! It brings a little smile to my face, sends a chill up my spine. It makes me happy. 'Hazey Jane I' introduces itself with a very distinctive guitar introduction, the strings compliment Nicks playing perfectly. It progresses and becomes another happy song. The music is happy, the vocals pulling at your heartstrings, twisting them and making your facial muscles move in an upwards direction!
The title song is the second of the three instrumentals here. Nick himself was apparently very proud of these instrumentals, so much so - he was reluctant to bring in any additional material whatsoever to the recording sessions in case a new vocal tune was included in the place of any of these instrumentals. 'Bryter Layter' is fairly breezy, the flute work is a nice touch. It sounds nice, and does break up the record well. John Cale makes his first contribution next. He plays Viola and Harpsichord, Dave Pegg plays bass and Nick sings. His vocal is truly
otherworldly here, in a high register for the first verse, dipping into a very quiet and personal mode for the second. The harpsichord and viola create a wonderful sound. A fabulous, beautifully haunting song. The closing Sunday 'reprises' the title song in a sense and is the last of the three instrumentals. Again, it's pretty enough - but like 'Introduction' seemingly doesn't connect with the rest of the record. 'Bryter Layter' itself did serve a purpose, 'splitting' the album in two, so to speak. Like a little interlude. 'Sunday', like 'Introduction', is nice but inconsequential. Add in the six minute long lyrical self parody that is 'Poor Boy' and perhaps this 'Bryter Layter' album isn't quite the masterpiece Nick Drake fans often hold it up to be. 'Poor Boy' is very well played of course, as everything here is. When the female vocals come in singing 'he's just a poor boy...' you do start to wonder. Nick himself sings well. It's not a bad song, don't get me wrong. It doesn't warrant being six minutes long!
Oh, did I forget? No, I didn't forget. There is a reason this album still gets a grade of '9' from me, and still manages to be a recommendable classic. Well, we've already had a handful of truly great songs. 'Fly', 'One Of These Things First', 'Hazey Jane I'. We've also got 'Northern Sky'. John Cale returns to play Piano and Celeste. The Piano is especially beautiful. The rhythm section ( someone called Mike Kowalski on drums this time round ) is faultless and Nick himself turns in his most romantic performance over the top of one of his finest melodies. There is a particular section I love 'would you love me for my money, would you love me for my head, would you love me through the winter and would you love me till I'm dead.....' - I find it swoon-some :) It's a perfectly structured song, everything in the right place. 'Sunday' of course follows, something of an anti-climax. What's gone before is still enough to leave you wondering just how the hell Nick Drake managed to write such songs though. How the hell he got such a voice. Where did it come from? Just one of those things, I suppose. A happy blessing for all of those who have loved and enjoyed his music.
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dan cadman firstname.lastname@example.org
for some reason this album never impressed me. Suddenly the urban feel came through and now I feel this challenges as Nick's best. Northern Sky is his best song of all time.
John Lacy email@example.com
When it comes to Nick Drake's music, I hardly know where to begin, or how to shut up. For me, Northern Sky is simply the most beautiful love song I've ever heard, and more often than not, when he moves from the swelling instrumental into his heartfelt and repeated question, "Will you love me ...", I have tears on my face over the rapture of it. The joy of listening to Nick Drake is the joy of recognizing genius.
Nick Drake is one of the best musicians ever to walk the Earth. Brilliant. Everything he ever did was amazing. Released three albums...blew his brains out. It's amazing his music is. Bryter Layter, though...is his best. Hazey Jane 2 is one of the most incredible tracks ive ever heard, and wont you trust me, ive heard it all. Imagine. Just Imagine if this man was still living today. It would really b somethin... Good Review, but I'd give it a 10, an easy 10. I can see why you gave Five Leaves Left such a great score and review. But Man. You're leavin this one out. an easy 10 for this one.
A near flawless set of songs , some of the tracks having more urban jazzier arrangements , "hazey jane 2" and "chimes" show this advancement best. "northern sky" is indeed almost spiritual in its incandescent beauty . Its hard to choose the best between nicks work really , i like 5 leaves for personal reasons -but all 3 albums are essential .
Pink Moon 9½
( 1972 )
Pink Moon / Place To Be / Road / Which Will / Horn / Things Behind The Sun / Know / Parasite / Ride / Harvest Breed / From The Morning
Nick was crushed by the commercial failure of 'Bryter Layter' and a complete lack of recognition from the general public. Look in any of the music papers from the early seventies and the name Nick Drake is conspicuous only by its absence. Nobody was really even expecting a third Nick Drake album, at Island Records. Nick was experiencing deepening depression at this stage, a depression that would ultimately, directly or in-directly cost him his life. Depression is mis-understood even to this day. Nick had his family around him, Folk singer John Martyn was close to Nick. He wasn't alone, but he felt terribly alone and under-appreciated. He apparently told his mother he'd thought he'd failed in everything he'd tried to do in life. If 'Five Leaves Left', 'Bryter Layter' and 'Pink Moon' are failures, then well..... I mean, it takes time to build a career. Through touring ( something Nick was petrified of ), releasing records frequently, talking to the press. Richard Thompson for example, who had worked with Nick and by 1972 was in a state of limbo didn't having a solo charting album until 1988 or something! So, maybe Nick had un-realistic expectations of the amount of attention his records were going to receive. Then again, making music this beautiful, pouring your heart and soul into it - to see it largely ignored? It must have been truly soul-destroying.
Nick was a fan of blues music, and rather taken by Robert Johnson amongst others. 'Pink Moon' has drawn frequent comparisons to the music of blues legend Robert Johnson. Partly this is due to the fact Nick entered the studios with engineer John Wood
with nobody else present and recorded the entire album facing the wall - just Nick and his guitar. The record itself is stark in nature, only the title song features any overdubs, with tasteful Piano enhancing the track. The skill of John Wood captures Nicks voice well, even though it appears he wasn't singing with any great self-confidence. He's almost mumbling in places. The funny thing is though, thanks to John Wood, thanks to the sheer beauty of the songs themselves, it doesn't become a problem. It becomes part of the overall mystique and appeal of 'Pink Moon' the album. The song 'Know' displays this the most effectively. A bare, repeating guitar figure. Nick starts humming the melody of the lyric. It's a two and a half minute song. He doesn't start singing until it's half-way over. When he does though, 'I know that I love you, I know that I don't care....' it's effective, to say the least. 'Know' is typical of the stark pure beauty of 'Pink Moon'. The guitar towards the end of the song sounds really strange, as if he's tuned it to death. I'm not a guitar player, but it sounds as if the strings are really 'tight' and not tuned in a normal fashion.
'Place To Be' follows 'Pink Moon' on the album, a beautiful vocal, reaching deep. The lyrics contain less of the imagery present on 'Five Leaves Left' for example but still are rooted in nature and emotion. It's a lovely song. 'Road' has some of the most enjoyable guitar playing on the album, hypnotic and beautiful. Nicks voice comes in, quiet and deep, lost in a world of its own. The guitar is crystal clear and the contrast between the guitar playing and the vocals is striking and very effective. 'Which Will' contains one of albums happiest guitar melodies, almost back to the kind of sound heard on 'Five Leaves Left' only without all the overdubs and orchestra parts. If 'Bryter Layter' for some was over-orchestrated, 'Pink Moon' is too unadorned. But these songs are the pure essence of Nick Drake. There is nothing else, after all. No other musicians, nothing. 'Horn' is sometimes described as filler. It's an instrumental, just over a minute long. It's very hard to explain or write about the sound of someone's inner turmoil, however brilliantly and effectively it's being expressed.
A simple guitar figure, long sustained notes going off into the ground, before a new section comes in - a repetition re-iterating the message of the song. It's a plea for help without any words, appropriate really given Nicks state of mind. Can you call a song such as this 'enjoyable'. Well, perhaps not enjoyable, but it is utterly haunting and possessing a strange kind of beauty. 'Things Behind The Sun' following this becomes even more striking. It sounds full thanks to Nicks guitar playing. The lyrics are back to the symbolic, poetic nature of 'Five Leaves Left' and indeed, this song dates from that era, it's a song Nick had been working on for a while, playing the guitar pattern to himself over and over. It's a brilliant song. Following 'Know' comes 'Parasite', more beautiful guitar playing, more quietly deep affecting vocals. The lyrical matter here comes across as bitter - reflects Nicks state of mind at this time. That it's still utterly beautiful, through the poetic nature of the lyrics and vocal work, says something to me about how developed Nicks talent was.
The entire album is under thirty minutes long. Nick was asked if he wanted to add anything else, but no. And, you know? It would have spoilt it. In it's own way, this 'Pink Moon' record is perfect, just as it is. What would you have added anyway? Each of the songs here plays a part. 'Ride' is completely impossible to describe. I don't know what's going on in the song, guitar wise, lyrically..... how do you translate such material as this? If 'Pink Moon' has been compared to Syd Barretts 'Madcap Laughs' in terms of it representing the sound of someone falling apart mentally, it's just plain wrong. Nick was still fully in command of his writing and playing. His playing here is as good as any of his playing. We do get 'Horn' and 'Know' sometimes too heavy insights into his psyche, but we also get plenty of others songs of sheer beauty. The title song is one, 'Things Behind The Sun' another. The closing joy of 'From The Morning' yet another. 'From The Morning' was a favourite of Nicks parents and ends the album on an optimistic note. It's a song full of spring-time and beautiful air. Wonderful lyrics, vocals and playing - and it does sound happy. Given the length of the album as a whole, you may be inclined after 'From The Morning' to listen all over again. It's a short enough album to do that. It's not an entirely comfortable record, this isn't at all an easy record. What it loses though it more than gains through a sustained, captivating atmosphere. This is a unique record, a work of beauty and another fine testament to the talents of Nick Drake.
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Anthony Nicolosi firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems that every person has a different opinion on which is the best Nick
Drake Album. Your fav. is Five Leaves Left; my fav. is Pink Moon, and his
most popular album is Bryter Layter. I think it's odd. But very unique.
Dan Cadman email@example.com
Never had I heard an album quite like this. Drake's voice and his guitar are one.
They flow like a river without any elemnt of trying. If you have not got this album
you may never understand his brilliance
I couldn't believe my ears the first time I heard Pink Moon. Nothing is so amazing. I didn't even know that he had other albums. Lucky for me I came across your site. I'm totally going to check out his other stuff. Thanks dear
i also find it funny how opinions differ as far as the best album is concerned. i personally love pink moon the best, although it's very hard to choose a favourite, isnt it? i think individual songs are what count the most...like how some of them actually sound like a sobbing person's heaving body, or how some sound like the rain in trees. i think that sadness is the best inspiration for beauty, and that pink moon was recorded when he was saddest.
An amazing album. One of the most enchanting moods on any album, ever. It's so hard to listen to sometimes because of how stark and semi-depressing it is.
almost as brilliant as the freewheelin' bob dylan in a technical sense,but thats where the comparisons end.this is a frightening deeply unnerving album. "parasite" makes dead skin mask by slayer sound like an audition for louis walsh. i havent listened to that song for about five years.it's not that i dont want to,its just too frightening.it seems to be stuck in a november time loop.this is a dark night of the soul on another level.that doesnt mean i dont like pink moon,quite the opposite in fact,i just find it a chilling experience. nonetheless it's a bloody good album 9/10.
Jonny Partridge firstname.lastname@example.org
Listend to all three albums over the last 2 days, and i really have to say that Pink moon stands out for me... All the albums are great but pink moon, has moments of happiness and sadness, a real contrast. What a pleasure to listen to this genius of a musician. :)
chilling in its sparseness , at times nicky sounds like hes a fireplace minstrel from the 15th century other times he sounds like completely contemporary - what an extraordinary talent , and a terrible tragedy his death was.
Its only 20 odd minutes long but an experience like this cant be measured in minutes , its just too much really - too much talent,heart,technique,intensity its all here sometimes it overwhelms in a good way other times it alters you in a more subtle direction , but always you respond to it in a way that so much modern music just cant achieve . That piano overdub on the title track is just incredible , like wandering around an icy cave for a few seconds, it just removes you from reality .
I think nick realised and is a perfect example of how modern life is killing our souls and he could see something higher - what a tragedy an audience didnt respond in his own lifetime .
Time Of No Reply 8
( 1986 )
Time Of No Reply / I Was Made To Love Magic / Joey / Clothes Of Sand / Man In A Shed / Mayfair / Fly / The Thoughts Of Mary Jane / Been Smoking Too Long / Strange Meeting II / Rider On The Wheel / Black Eyed Dog / Hanging On A Star / Voice From A Mountain
The final four songs on this compilation comprise the entire finished results of the last ever Nick Drake recording session. John Wood was again present but it soon became clear Nick wasn't together enough both to sing and play. The vocal work and guitars were therefore recorded seperately from each other. The final four songs were initially released as bonus tracks on 'Pink Moon' for the vinyl release of the 'Fruit Tree' box-set. When it came to re-compiling 'Fruit Tree' for the CD era, Joe Boyd ( Nicks original mentor ) was asked if there was anything else left in the vaults. 'Very little' was his reply, but all the master and session tapes were gone through as well as home recordings made by Nick. The songs chosen to make up this 'Time Of No Reply' set reflect both Joe Boyd and Nicks immediate familys desire than nothing 'sub-standard' should be released bearing Nicks name. You should understand as well, this was before wide-spread boot-legging of Nicks home demos. Nicks parents, following his death in 1974, were both flattered and slightly surprised by the continuing ( and growing ) interest in Nicks music and only too pleased in their enthusiasm to run off copies of songs Nick had taped. Rodney Drakes tape recorder ran slightly too fast and ultimately resulted in a flood of sub-standard bootlegs through the nineties and beyond. To his parents, Nicks fans always seemed so polite and nice! They weren't really prepared for such attention or given knowledge of how valuable such tapes of Nicks could become. These bootlegs may result in a future compilation of these home demos. It's not an ideal situation, but given that Nick only released three albums in his life-time, any officially released material will be welcomed by fans.
As well as the final session songs this album consists of five 'Five Leaves Left' out-takes, a number of alternate versions of songs from both 'Five Leaves Left' and 'Bryter Layter', nothing at all from the 'Pink Moon' era ( there wasn't anything else, apparently ) and a couple of the more interesting home demos. The opening 'Time Of No Reply' was in every set-list and un-official live performance Nick ever gave. So, it's something of a mystery why this was left off his 'Five Leaves Left' debut. It's a lovely poetic song that's beautifully haunting. The reason 'Made To Love Magic' was never previously issued is apparently unhappiness with the
string arrangement. Both Nick and Joe Boyd felt the arrangement was 'dated' and
'corny'. But.....I love this song to bits!! I see nothing wrong with the string
arrangement, which perfectly suits the song, by the way! Now, this is just my
own supposition, but I believe the real reason was that Nick was unhappy with
his vocal performance. He sounds stoned! 'Joey' shares much of the appeal of
'Five Leaves Left' albeit given in completely unadorned form. 'Clothes Of Sand' is slightly less enjoyable, but only slightly. The lyrics and vocals are fine but for once the guitar melodies don't quite seem as impressive or developed as other Drake material. 'Mayfair' is breezy and fun, if slightly lightweight. It's easy to see why this was passed over when 'Five Leaves Left' was compiled.
The alternate version of 'Man In A Shed' is exactly the same but sans strings and embellishments. Whether it's preferable to the 'Five Leaves Left' version is just a matter of personal taste. The version of the 'Bryter Layter' song 'Fly' is a home recording and matches the structure of the original quite closely, but does miss those lovely John Cale contributions. 'Thoughts Of Mary Jane' is the most radically altered of the familiar material. It's quite lovely actually, with nice little guitar parts from Richard Thompson in particular. 'Been Smoking Too Long' is a lo-fi home recording
and utterly captivating - an acoustic guitar blues, not written by Nick by the way, but suiting him perfectly. 'Strange Meeting II' is sometimes known as 'Princess Of The Sand' and is apparently the first original song Nick ever wrote. A few nice guitar parts here and there but the lyrical ideas are not as developed or masterful as other Nick Drake material. The final four songs from 1974 are sonically different from the rest of this compilation, if not radically different from Nicks 'Pink Moon' record. 'Rider On The Wheel' is of the same quality as much of 'Pink Moon', 'Voice From The Mountain' is nice if featuring a slightly strained Nick Drake vocal. 'Hanging On A Star' is better, wonderfully poetic with a nice blues influenced vocal performance. Speaking of which..... 'Black Eyed Dog' bears a lot of the influence of Blues legend Robert Johnson. The whole facing the wall thing whilst recording 'Pink Moon' was taken from Johnson who apparently recorded all of his material that way. Nick was captivated by the music and vocals of Robert Johnson and with 'Black Eyed Dog' creates his very own blues classic. Ok, so this isn't authentic blues but it is the one undeniable classic of the final four Nick Drake songs. The guitar playing is pure Nick Drake, the vocal leaning towards Johnson, a slight quiver present, a high register. It's beautiful, by the way - even though this is obviously dark material.
When considering 'Time Of No Reply' as an album, it inevitably suffers from a patch-work nature and as a result lacks the unified atmosphere of Nicks albums proper. The material is varied in quality, but not so much that anything here is less than intriguing. The highlights of this set, including 'Black Eyed Dog', are actually as good as anything he ever did.
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Made To Love Magic 8½
( 2004 )
Rider On The Wheel / Magic / River Man / Joey / Thoughts Of Mary Jane / Mayfair / Hanging On A Star / Three Hours / Clothes Of Sand / Voices / Time Of No Reply / Black Eyed Dog / Tow The Line
This release, put quite simply, places things into context. Whilst certain writers ( hey, i'm innocent!! ) have been getting excited about various new releases by hip new 2004 artists, Nick Drake returns from the dead to provide us with the real reason some of us were ever here in the first place. Before I get going with this new Nick Drake archival release, one amazing thing. 'Magic' was released as a UK single and charted within the top thirty. Testament to the number of fans Nick Drake has built up over the years, testament to the quality of his material. 'Magic' is of course 'Made To Love Magic', a song which appeared on 'Time Of No Reply' having originally been left off 'Five Leaves Left'. That's not all, of course. Nick used an arranger for a couple of songs circa the 'Fives Leaves Left' era and wasn't happy with the orchestrations. Seeing as the songs 'Made To Love Magic' and 'Time Of No Reply' were not slated to be on 'Five Leaves Left', these songs never got re-recorded as Nick had originally intended them to be. Enter Nicks original arranger, Robert Kirby. The original Kirby orchestrations ( Robert arranged nearly all of Nicks orchestral scores ) written back in 1968/1969 have been recorded and placed upon Nicks original vocals and playing. Whilst such actions may seem very un-Nick Drake and more the kind of thing surviving Beatles do, it does provide a fresh look at familiar Nick Drake material.
The real reason we are all here of course is the brand 'new' song, 'Tow The Line'. Found at the end of a tape and a song not heard since 1974, it has all the familiar Nick Drake trademarks. Nick Drake trademarks are good things for a song to have. Very much in line with the other material ( 'Black Eyed Dog', etc ) he recorded post 'Pink Moon', the song opens and continues with an utterly distinctive guitar pattern. It's a beautiful, haunting song right up there with the finest Drake material and a wonderful find. Other moments to savour on this album include an early version of 'River Man' minus the band and orchestrations. Just Nick and guitar taped by Robert Kirby, in fact. It's actually just as spine-chilling and lovely as the 'finished' studio version. The two songs that feature newly recorded orchestrations are something it takes awhile to get used to. The fact that the already perfect 'Time Of No Reply' now features strings, albeit strings arranged by Robert Kirby, from his original orchestrations, is a little weird initially. For me, the strings neither detract nor enhance the song, just provide something different. Given that Nick was only recording for a few short years, any different takes or newly found songs are things to be cherished, anyway. I should point out that the new orchestrations are perfect, shouldn't I? Yeah, I should. The other song the same treatment has been given to here is 'Made To Love Magic'. The vocal has been altered slightly, as well. This string arrangement is radically different from the version previously found on the 'Time Of No Reply' set and suits the song far better.
With 'Tow The Line' , with the new version of 'Made To Love Magic', every Nick Drake fan needs this new compilation. Other songs here have been remastered or are different versions than have been heard before. Overall, the magic of Nick Drake comes through. It comes through better than it did on the 'Time Of No Reply' compilation. I'd recommend this over that set as something to sit nicely alongside the three albums proper.
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Horace Tambler email@example.com
"Tow The Line" may be a newly released song, but the instrumental backing has already been in circulation for several years. There was also another CD of unreleased rarities (home and studio demos)called "Family Tree" planned for release BEFORE "Made To Love Magic". I imagine we will be granted another release in due course.
Noone was happier than me to see nick finally get the sucess he deserved , documentaries , songs used in adverts etc but i didnt really see the need for anything other than a remastered "time of no reply" which had been deleted for years .
But this and "family tree" are perfect little addendums to the 3 studio albums . This certainly shows how many great songs nick had at the time of his 1st album , and the last 5 songs he recorded are included here and essential for fans . I always preferred these versions of "mary jane" and "3 hours" and the title track is just spectral . The remastering and packaging are top class too .
Nicks legacy remains intact thanks to some respectful and sensitive repackaging . Fans can buy this with confidence and future generations can accord nicks music the respect it deserves..
I have enjoyed the music of Nick Drake for sometime mainly becuase it has featured so many times as the soundtrack to both Heartbeat and THE ROYAL (sunday night ITV 60's dramas for non UK residents) and the way they use the tracks to fit the scenes are perfect. The most noteable use of one of his tracks was the sweeping intro of Day Is Done used in context of a burial at sea during an episode of THE ROYAL the helicopter shot starts across the north bay of Scarborough up and over the castle and out into the south bay following a small boat. The epsidoe in question is 03.11 For Those In Peril
Family Tree 8
( 2007 )
Come Into The Garden / They're Leaving Me Behind / Time Piece / Poor Mum / Winter Is Gone / All My Trials / Kegelstatt Trio For Clarinet Viola And Piano / Strolling Down The Highway / Paddling In Rushmere / Cocaine Blues / Blossom / Been Smoking Too Long / Black Mountain Blues / Tomorrow Is A Long Time / If You Leave Me / Here Come The Blues / Sketch #1 / Blues Run The Game / My Baby's So Sweet / Milk And Honey / Kimbie / Bird Flew By / Rain / Strange Meeting #2 / Day Is Done / Come Into The Garden / Way To Blue / Do You Ever Remember
Nick's reputation rests on the three albums proper he released during his lifetime as well as a handful of tracks issued posthumously. 'Family Tree' brings the number of Drake posthumously released tracks up quite considerably, but these aren't carefully honed studio performances, these are reel-to-reel, homemade recordings. It's fascinating initially to hear Nick perform this way, almost as if he's sat in front of you. The covers, blues and folk tunes, reveal the influences on the young Nick Drake and 'Poor Mum', peformed by his mother Molly reveals where the music came from in the first place. 'Poor Mum', either written by Nick or his Mum seems to be a cunning reply to Nick's own 'Poor Boy'. It's actually one of the highlights of the set, her vocals quiver pre-war style and it's a glimpse into a bygone age for British entertainment. Sat round the fire, uncle strums guitar, dad sings and mum does the dishes. It's that kind of feeling. Flowing into 'Winter Is Gone', Nick showcases his finely toned guitar playing technique. Enjoyable standouts include his take on Dylan, 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time' and the perrenial folk favourite, 'Blues Run The Game'. Nick does both of these tunes in his own style, the former is a warm, languid and autumnal version whilst 'Blues Run The Game' sees Drake sound happy and the sheer joy of making music comes through - his vocals being particularly strong. Bert Jansch was of particular importance to Nick and Nick's version of 'Strollin' Down The Highway' gives clues as to where that Drake style came from. 'Rain' is a song that sounds like, recording quality apart, it could have fit on any one of the Drake albums. Give it a string session and voila.
We get early versions of a couple of Drake originals. 'Way To Blue' is played on Piano and is a rather rough version, yet the beauty of the song is already there and the words already fully-formed. 'Day Is Done' comes across wonderfully well, that flowing guitar line already in place, the darkness already in place. You find youself putting in the missing strings parts and nearly breaking down. Well at least, I do. I love the few blues pieces here, also. Listening to 'Black Mountain Blues' suddenly makes sense of those Robert Johnson comparisons. 'Blossom' is a touch of the Drake way with melody, it's all in there and it's again one of the more enjoyable tracks. 'Winter Is Gone' continues Nick's love of nature and focus on the seasons, 'Bird Flew By' is a pleasing Drake original on an album light on originals, but then, this album is more akin to your own private Drake concert. This isn't a release that was going to match his albums proper, it serves a different purpose. With so little material out there, 'Family Tree' fills in a few of the gaps. There is a danger that revealing this stuff will lessen some of the mystery that surrounded Nick, remove some of the mystique. You know, 'he was human after all', but for me, these rough demo tracks only further to enhance the beauty of his albums proper.
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this page last updated 11/05/08
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