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Old 12-12-2008, 06:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A Complete Assessment of Nick Drake

Its official, Iím in love with Nick Drakeís songs. Nobody has reviewed his albums here on the board, so I am going to do all three of his albums. Iíve been absorbing his songs like a gluttonous sponge for the last two weeks. Heís skyrocketed to my top ten favorite songwriters.


Five Leaves Left (1969)



This is my favorite album of his. His 1969 debut is so fully formed, so representative of the beauty that would become a staple of his songwriting. Iíve read somewhere that his songs are very virginal, in the sense that he never describes love in a very detailed way, or alluding to love making, which is odd of a singer songwriter, thatís almost a clichť in that sort of sub-genre(if you could even call it that.) He was a very autumnal songwriter, in that he spoke in broad terms referring to nature, the sky, the earth, and really didnít write much on, letís say, modern society.

The first song Time Has Told Me starts the album off on a perfect mood. A wistful song on time and the past. His lyrics are really up there with greats like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. For instance, in the next song, which is my favorite off the album, River Man, has one of my favorite lyrical lines: ďBetty said she prayed today/For the sky to blow away.Ē If I were someone to weep while listening to music, River Man would come pretty close to that desired effect.

Three Hours, the next song, really shows off his great range as a songwriter. His chords and the drums in the background really set an eastern tone. The lyrics are actually some of the darker ones on the album. Listen to the wind instrument solo, itís a simple and beautiful melody. Coming up in second place for my favorite song on the album, Way To Blue actually is darker than Three Hours, but itís the strings that make it so, not the lyrics. Listen to this song, I implore you. The next song Day is Done is a beautiful song, with strings in the background, it is a meditation on death I believe. Nick Drake touches on the subject of death a lot in his music, and it seems to me be a tragic sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, heís the definition of tortured romantic singer songwriter. For those who are interested, there is a really in depth article called The Death of Nick Drake: The Death of Nick Drake

Cello Song is another beautiful song on an album where beauty is commonplace. On this album Nick often adds strings, bongos, a double bass (I think) and in this song a cello, all to add to his acoustic guitar. The Thoughts of Mary Jane is a cryptic song, the title seems like it would be a poorly hidden allusion to something else, but the lyrics talk of some almost angelic girl, perhaps from his teenage or childhood, some lost love. The next song, Man in a Shed has a really beautiful chorus, and I have a feeling the song has an autobiographical angle to it, look at the lyrics: ďWell there was a man who lived in a shed/Spent most of his days out of his head.Ē I really like the piano in this song and the bass, it shows Drakeís innate ability to add backing instruments that donít detract from his songwriting, which some songwriters will do if they take their beautiful acoustic songs and record them in a studio, but the background instruments really enhance the song(to all of his songs, really.) Fruit Tree is a haunting song, it speaks of hopelessness and death, and the solitude of fame. His lyrics are absolutely beautiful, maybe his best on the album:
Quote:
Fame is but a fruit tree
So very unsound.
It can never flourish
Ďtil its stock is in the ground
So men of fame
Can never find a way
Ďtil time has flown
Far from their dying day

Forgotten while youíre here
Remembered for a while
A much updated ruin
From a much outdated style

Life is but a memory
Happened long ago
Theatre full of sadness
For a long forgotten show
Seems so easy
Just to let it go on by
Ďtil you stop and wonder
Why you never wondered why

Safe in the womb
Of an everlasting night
You find the darkness can
Give the brightest light
Safe in your place deep in the earth
Thatís when theyíll know what you were truly worth
Forgotten while youíre here
Remembered for a while
A much updated ruin
From a much outdated style

Fame is but a fruit tree
So very unsound
It can never flourish
Ďtil itís stock is in the ground
So men of fame
Can never find a way
Ďtil time has flown
Far from their dying day

Fruit tree, fruit tree
No-one knows you but the rain and the air
Donít you worry
Theyíll stand and stare when youíre gone

Fruit tree, fruit tree
Open your eyes to another year
Theyíll all know
That you were here when youíre gone
Look at that last verse, those last two lines. That is what happened to Nick Drakeís career, he went the fate of Van Gogh and Bach, becoming famous only after their death. Saturday Sun is a particularly beautiful way to end an excellent album, with the piano being especially brilliant. This is a rare type of album in music, the perfect debut, made even more sad by the short time the artist lived. If Nick Drake were alive today, I have no doubt he would have much, much, much more perfect albums, and maybe even be able to enjoy his recognition. He's like Bob Dylan in a way that, if you like him, you REALLY like him, he hits deep, right to the core of you, but if you don't like him, you may hear mediocrity in a song that some consider precious. Hopefully, more people go for the latter, the route of precious sound, the route of a life enriched by one man's talent, who rose up into the air like a roman candle and exploded too soon.

Rating: 10/10
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Bryter Layter(1970)


Donít get me wrong, this is a REALLY good album, the type of album that if released today would shoot to the top of thousands of criticís top ten lists, but in a relative comparison to all of his albums, I find it to be his weakest. It contains the least amount of songs that really strike to the core of me, that give me that sort of revelation you get when youíre listening to a song of rare beauty, the type of song you hear and go ďI will remember this a long time.Ē Nick Drake seems to have a lot of those songs for a relatively short career. But let me stress, LISTEN to this album, it is really good.

Introduction is a sad and beautiful instrumental to open up the album. Those two adjectives, Ďsad and beautifulí are the two adjectives that would describe Nickís whole career, so excuse my department of redundancy department use of adjectives.

Hazey Jane II is a confusing sort of title, since it is the first song with the title of ĎHazy Janeí to appear on the album. Before, when I reviewed the song ĎThe Thoughts of Mary Janeí, I suspected it was not about what the title implied. This song is at least half-about what the title implies. The horns remind me of a Motown sort of love song, am I crazy in that assessment? Please someone back me up on that.

At the Chime of a City Clock is a song that touches on the subjects of alienation and loneliness. One feels that this song hints to Nick Drakeís past, maybe he was an awkward, skinny, outsider who liked weird things and was shunned:
Quote:
Stay indoors
Beneath the floors
Talk with neighbours only.
The games you play
Make people say
You're either weird or lonely.
A city star
Won't shine too far
On account of the way you are
And the beads
Around your face
Make you sure to fit back in place.
One of These Things is one of the best songs on the album. The piano is absolutely beautiful. Itís a gem, a joy, a pleasure to hear, it emerges like an old friend in the guise of a stranger. Hazey Jane I is far superior to the first one(or is it the second one? MY HEAD HURTS). It feels much more authentic, the other one seemed almost forced. The drums are interesting, they remind me of ĎHeroiní in their simplicity, yet their absolute importance to the overall scheme of the song.

Bryter Layter seems like a song that a hobbit from the shire would write if given 1970s musical instruments and recording technology, it has that feel of nature, capturing the pulsating heart of the woods, fields, babbling streams. It almost harkens back to a Great Britain of old, where machinery and metallic skylines didnít dominate the land. Itís an instrumental, the flute is especially good.

Fly is the best song on the album and perhaps the best song Nick Drakeís written. The lyrics are absolutely haunting, and you can see Nickís depression deepen as his career passes by. There is an all acoustic demo of this version for those interested: YouTube - Nick Drake fly acoustic . The lyrics are right here:
Quote:
Please give me a second grace
Please give me a second face
I've fallen far down
The first time around
Now I just sit on the ground in your way

Now if it's time to recompense for what's done
Come, come sit down on the fence in the sun
And the clouds will roll by
And we'll never deny
It's really too hard for to fly.

Please tell me your second name
Please play me your second game
I've fallen so far
For the people you are
I just need your star for a day.

So come, come ride in my my street-car by the bay
For now I must know how fine you are in your way
And the sea sure as I
But she won't need to cry
For it's really too hard for to fly.
Poor Boy has a groovy sort of jazz feel, the guitar and the piano especially. Itís a pretty good song, but not one of my favorites. The backing choir is an interesting addition. I am going to correct what I said earlier, this song just has a bland sort of start, but it gets really good. The saxophone is interesting and really cool, itís a soulful and jazz flavored song.
Northern Sky is another song in the classically beautiful style of Nick. Itís named about some part of nature, it starts with a tender and beautiful acoustic guitar, and hit has vague references of longing for Ďyouí, with many references to nature.
Nick Drake has some of the best uses of flute Iíve heard in latter twentieth century songwriting, (and yes better than even a band whose vocalist is a flautist) and the song Sunday is a really pretty song, not quite rising up to the beautiful level, but it is a solid close to a great album.
Rating: 8.5/10
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Pink Moon(1972)



"Now we rise and we are everywhere."

That bolded words above me are carved into the back of Nick Drakeís headstone, and are another reminder of the constant self fulfilling prophecy of perhaps one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. The relevance is startling, considering his resurrection after his death, the growing popularity he possessed only after his body was lowered and rotting into dust. But thatís the way things sometimes are, right? Life isnít always fair, or just.

Pink Moon is Nick Drakeís final album, and itís haunting acoustic requiem, recorded over only a few nights, a sound that is very minimal yet very piercing. The only song to have an accompaniment is Pink Moon, the first track, and it is only a wistfully beautiful piano melody. But my god, itís wonderful. Place To Be is a song of tragic alienation, a song that goes back into the past of a man who knows what it is to be on the edges, an outcast by birth, and in death a legend.

Road is another beautifully sad song. When I say beautifully sad, I mean a sad that is almost bittersweet, it isnít oppressive, rather it is liberating, knowing that is a dirge and is a conduit to release emotions through, as all the best sad songs are. Every song on this album has a bit of that spirit in it.

Which Will is a song that almost blends in with every song on the album. His chord progressions, tones, mood, lyrical content and acoustic guitar are all connected, like this is one piece of music. The chorus is one of the better parts of the song. Horn is a beautiful little instrumental. The first few strums of the guitar in this song remind me of ĎHeroiní by The Velvet Underground.

Things Behind the Sun is the longest song on the album, clocking in at just under four minutes long. Once again, I feel like I am being repetitive because this album is so interconnected, it gets to a point where I just have to say, listen to it, itís beautiful.

Know starts off with a refreshing blues guitar part, which funnily, is one of the more upbeat songs of the album. Nick Drakeís humming during the song are like dirges, hymns for the lonely and scared. Parasiteís lyrics are really revealing about how Nick feels about himself: ďAnd take a look you may see me on the ground/For I am the parasite of this town.Ē

Ride is a dark sounding song, but not in a depressing way, in a malevolent sort of way. The lyrics are quite good:
Quote:
I know you
I care too
I see through
All of the pictures that you keep on the wall
All of the people that will come to the ball
But hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride
Hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride
I know too
What you do
When youíre through
Counting the cattle as they go by the door
Keeping a carpet thatís so thick on the floor
But hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride
Hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride

I know you
I care too
I see through
All of the pictures that you keep on the wall
All of the people that will come to the ball
But hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride
Hear me calling, wonít you give me
A free ride
Harvest Breed is a brief and sad song, mentioning finding friends, but mentioning a fall, as if Nick knows the end is approaching.

From the Morning is the final song on the album. I find it poignant that Nick Drakeís last song on his last album has a positive angle to it, the title containing the word morning, a time of a new beginning, a time where the sun rises and gives all people a chance at redemption. Letís hope they grasp it before itís too late.

Rating: 9.5/10
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Here also:
http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...-corner-6.html
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Old 12-13-2008, 01:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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one of the greatest acoustic song writers to ever walk the face of the planet is nick drake. the whole pink moon album is amazing, i wish i could meet this guy. maybe shake his hand.
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Old 12-13-2008, 05:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I like your view on this, while I don't entirely agree on a lot of things I think it's quite a refreshing take on what albums you consider to be superior. And I have to say that neither of us are right, but we can just agree that Drake is great.
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Old 12-15-2008, 08:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Bryter Layter is an incredible album. Everything from the guitar lines on Hazey Jane I to the vocal melodies on Northern Sky make me feel fuzzy inside. He really was a gifted songwriter and guitar player.
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Pink Moon is my favorite album of all time. The ambiance he cultivates with no more than a guitar and voice (title track's piano notwithstanding) is astounding. Really glad he's getting recognition here.
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Old 03-05-2009, 09:29 AM   #9 (permalink)
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i'm pretty new on here, but I have only heard a couple of Nick Drake songs. I don't listen to much in that genre because that is the style we play. I will definately buy these for my collection regardless... Thanks for taking the time to do these reviews. If you would be interested, I would love for you to listen to our stuff and see how we compare.
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