NICK DRAKE – ” Five Leaves Left ” Released 46 Years Ago Today

Posted: September 2, 2015 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , ,

46 years ago this week, Nick Drake released his debut album ‘Five Leaves Left.’  Don’t go looking for extensive chart statistics to map the career of Nick Drake, because there aren’t any. That’s to say that, however much we now rightly revere the quintessential sensitive singer-songwriter, his tragically short life was painfully unrepresented by any commercial rewards on either the UK or US charts while he was alive. A far cry from today, when you hear his music playing everywhere, from album-oriented radio stations to supermarkets.

Drake’s all-too-brief recording span and his debut album Five Leaves Left. Produced by the great acoustic music frontiersman Joe Boyd and released by Island Records on 1st September 1969, the LP featured such timelessly haunting pieces as ‘Time Has Told Me,’ ‘River Man’ and ‘Way To Blue.’

Often depicted as the archetypal doomed young singer songwriter of his generation Nick Drake remains almost impossible to pin down in any such flippant way. Even nearly forty years after his death the songs of Drake find a resonance with new audiences and artists not born when he was recording the three albums that appeared in his lifetime  Five Leaves LeftBryter Layter and Pink Moon.

Five Leaves Left

Although these recordings sold relatively poorly on initial release such is their drawing power for those who love introverted, folk tinged verse and melody that Nick’s songs have sound bedded adverts, featured in successful movies and been reinterpreted by a host of admirers on larger stages than he ever inhabited. The usual irony of such matters persists Drake couldn’t contemplate long tours and loathed interviews but didn’t entirely shy away from limelight. He could be reclusive yet maintained separate circles of friends who rarely came into contact with each other but felt a bond because of their kinship with Drake himself.

Don’t go looking for extensive chart statistics to map the tragically short career of Nick Drake, because there aren’t any. That’s to say that, however much we rightly revered the quintessential sensitive singer-songwriter today, his short life was painfully unrepresented by any commercial rewards on either the UK or US charts while he was alive. A far cry from today, when you hear his music playing everywhere, from album-oriented radio stations to supermarkets.

Five Leaves Left,’ which took its title from a message near the end of a packet of Rizla cigarette papers, was recorded between the summer of 1968 and a year later. It featured contributions from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention, on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass and others, as well as the beautiful string arrangements of Robert Kirby.

‘Five Leaves Left’ has come to be a classic album ,  In 1975, the NME’s Nick Kent described it as “one of those albums that seem tied to exhorting and then playing on a particular mood in the listener, like ‘Astral Weeks’ and ‘Forever Changes.’ Indeed, the public’s apparent indifference to Drake’s singular talents was not for lack of some critical approval. Mark Williams  ‘Five Leaves Left’ as a new release for the International Times, made the point that the newcomer’s voice would be compared with Donovan’s.

 

The Legacy Of Nick Drake’s Album Debut

The stranger, the search, the illusion, the myth have all deepened over the years but there is no question that Nick Drake today is more popular than ever. His second album, Bryter Layter, was placed a cool first in The Guardian’s list of ‘Alternative top 100 albums ever.’ Not second, fourteenth or ninety-ninth but number one. We’ll never know whether Nick Drake would have appreciated the attention his albums receive now but one hopes he would have sorted his personal demons out and banished them while sadly accepting that without them he may never have created his greatest work.

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