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 Nick Drake

British singer-songwriter

 

Studio Albums

Five Leaves Left (1969)

Bryter Layter (1970)

Pink Moon (1972)

 

Compilations

 

 

 

Nick Drake

Five Leaves Left - 7

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.

Trying to assess an artist who produced just three studio albums in his lifetime is very difficult, particularly when that artist is now heralded as one of the biggest influences on British folk/rock music. Nick Drake was a tragic figure, who committed suicide at the age of 26. Like so many important artists through the history of music it was only after his death that his output grew in popularity. Today many artists of all genres herald him as an influence. Certainly he had a unique voice and interesting guitar style. Spread over only a four year period, Drake's studio albums show very little progression and leave you to wonder what he would have achieved if he had gone on. Would he have musically changed direction, would he have found acclaim? These are questions that will never be answered. Five Leaves Left has a sparse acoustic feel to it with few embellishments despite the presence of backing music from Fairport Convention. Drake's voice is pure and deep - quintessentially English in tone. There's a mix of folk and blues embedded in everything he does. On Way to Blue he also encompasses a classical chamber feel. Elsewhere there are groaning cellos that give the whole thing a rather morbid feel, but certainly do not detract from the power of the album. Overall there's a very satisfyingly rounded feel to the sound as if Drake has entered the arena already at the top of his game with songs of beauty like The Thoughts of Mary Jane.

Bryter Layter - 7

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

Bryter Layter dovetails beautifully with Five Leaves Left - almost as if the two should have been a double album. They seem to be totally interchangeable. If anything this is slightly more commercial based than the first album and Drake was very unhappy at its lack of success - something that sadly was corrected after his death with Bryter Layter being named in numerous top polls of all time. There is almost a languid feel to it, juxtaposed with more sprightly songs. Introduction really sets the scene with Hazey Jane II seeming to change directions a number of times. Towards the end the song picks up speed only to come to a sudden halt. Bryter Layter frimly establishes Drake in the British folk scene, but sadly was to be his penultimate album. And perhaps he never regained the same kind of style as on the lengthy and jazzy Poor Boy and the poignant Northern Sky.

 

Pink Moon - 6.5

Pink Moon / Place To Be / Road / Which Will / Horn / Things Behind The Sun / Know / Parasite / Ride / Harvest Breed / From The Morning

There is a sparseness about Pink Moon that almost makes it hard to take. No backing musicians, just Drake, his guitar and his depression that would help to mark this as his final album. Overall I find it less impressive than his previous two albums, but that is purely a matter of personal choice. I know a number of people rate this as the best. Weighing in at well under 30 minutes there might just be a hint here that Drake was becoming disillusioned with his lack of success and maybe  running out of ideas. Sadly instead of immersing himself in his music and trying to promote it whilst fighting the lack of attention, he shifted into his inner turmoil. It is therefore particularly fitting that there is no embellishments to this album.