Posts Tagged ‘Nick Drake’

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English folkie Nick Drake barely created a ripple during his lifetime. He recorded three albums of beautiful acoustic folk, but barely sold a copy during his lifetime. His acoustic music was sophisticated, with flourishes of jazz, and his acoustic guitar finger-picking was beautiful; he used alternative tunings to create tone clusters. Drake studied English literature at Cambridge and enjoyed the poetry of Yeats, Blake, and Vaughan; his lyrics have the same evocative spirit, with images drawn from nature.

Nick Drake passed away in 1974 from an overdose of anti-depressants, leaving a legacy of three studio albums. He didn’t enjoy playing live, and languished in obscurity despite his immense talent. The release of the “Fruit Tree” box set in 1979, shout-outs from famous fans like The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, and the use of his song ‘Pink Moon’ in a US car commercial all contributed to Nick Drake’s growing stature.

By the 1990s, Nick Drake’s work, overlooked at the time, had been reassessed. Drake’s three albums are now all critically acclaimed.

Each of Nick Drake’s three studio albums provide a different angle on his acoustic folk sound. His 1969 debut, “Five Leaves Left”, is a pretty mood piece, with Drake’s guitar often accompanied by the bass of Danny Thompson (from contemporary folk-rock band Pentangle) and by Robert Kirby’s string arrangements. 1971’s “Bryter Layter” is more detailed – Drake is accompanied by a rhythm section on almost every tune. 1972’s final album, “Pink Moon”, is stark, with Drake performing completely solo – it was recorded quickly in two late night sessions.

Additionally, Time of No Reply and Made to Love Magic are overlapping compilations that mop up Drake’s studio out-takes, most notably the four songs that he recorded in July 1974. It’s worth hearing one of them, but they’re not as essential as his studio records.

All of Nick Drake’s albums require some persistence to enjoy, as Drake’s songs are subtle and nuanced, but the diversity of Bryter Layter makes it the most accessible. The fuller sound also helps; the Fairport Convention rhythm section of Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks appear, while Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson plays lead guitar on ‘Hazey Jane II’. Robert Kirby reprises his role of orchestral arrangements from Five Leaves Left, although John Cale’s beautiful arrangements on ‘Fly’ and ‘Northern Sky’ are next level.

Choosing a favourite Nick Drake album is purely an academic exercise, as all three are essential, but it’s the magical contributions of the other musicians, particularly John Cale, that elevate Bryter Layter as Nick Drake’s best album.

“One of These Things First” On the gentle and jazzy, Drake is joined by a cast of American musicians – rhythm section Ed Carter and Mike Kowalski were both involved with The Beach Boys, while pianist Paul Harris later joined Stephen Stills in Manassas. The gently meditative song was later featured in the film Garden State.

John Cale, at a loose end after his dismissal from The Velvet Underground, was sent a demo from Drake. Cale was impressed by Drake, particularly his “sensuality”, and added his arrangements to two songs on Bryter Layter. The classically trained Cale is a terrific foil for Drake, adding an exquisite beauty to his songs without drowning them in sentimentality. ‘Fly’ is the more ethereal of Cale’s two arrangements, with his viola colouring Drake’s delicate song.

The other song arranged by Cale, ‘Northern Sky’ is a romantic tale of wistful longing. While the subject of the song has never been confirmed, it was reported to have been inspired by Linda Thompson. Cale augments the song with beautiful work on celeste, piano, and organ. None of Nick Drake’s records were popular upon release, and none charted.

A contemporary review of the compilation Nick Drake in Rolling Stone by Stephen Holden read: “An incredibly slick sound that is highly dependent on production values (credit Joe Boyd) to achieve its effects, its dreamlike quality calls up the very best of the spirit of early Sixties’ jazz-pop ballad. It combines this with the contemporary introspection of British folk rock to evoke a hypnotic spell of opiated languor.”

All three of Nick Drake’s albums are included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

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Friends, I have some announcements! First of all, I’d like to share my video for “It Changes”: three and a half minutes of illustrated colourful madness, courtesy of Ben Clarkson. Hope you enjoy! Second of all, I have a whole EP named “Cannonball EP” which I would love you to listen too and a few european select dates. Alongside “It Changes” it will feature my reworking of Nick Drake’s “Which Will” and also 3 more as of yet unreleased tracks. .

It Changes is written by Annelotte De Graaf
Produced and recorded by Ben Greenberg
Mixed by Jez Williams


Guitars by Manuel van den Berg and Annelotte de Graaf
Bass by Ronald Straetemans
Drums by Jaap Bontekoe
Keys by Ella van der Woude

bumpers up front

“Bumpers” was a double sampler album from Island Records, released in Europe and Australasia in 1970; there were minor variations in track listings within Europe but the Australian release was fundamentally different. The title refers to the training shoes which can be seen on the front of the album cover but there may also be a less obvious reference to the meaning “unusually large, abundant or excellent”.

The album is left to present itself; there are no sleeve notes, the gatefold interior consists of a photograph showing publicity shots of the featured acts attached to the bole of a tree, without any identification. This image is flanked by the track listings, but even there, the information given is unreliable. Unlike its predecessors You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat, there are no credits for cover art (the cover art was by Tony Wright, his first sleeve for Island), photography or design. The impression is left that the album’s production was rushed, presumably to leave enough lead-time to promote the albums featured. The English version of the album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim, each version with some minor variations in the production of individual tracks.

In the late sixties British record labels started to release a selection of their artists’ material on records known as samplers. These were not intended as anthologies or compilations – the purpose was to allow listeners the opportunity to sample a range of acts at a reduced price, showcasing in particular those for whom there was not a conventional singles market and hence little opportunity for radio airplay in the UK. Columbia’s ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’ and Liberty Records ‘Gutbucket’ .   Island Records produced a series of gems from ‘Nice Enough to Eat’ and ‘You Can All Join In’ in 1969, to ‘Bumpers’ in 1970 and ‘El Pea’ in 1971. ‘Bumpers’ was, as it’s name would suggest, the pick of the crop, with an eclectic yet cohesive collection of music across two 33rpm vinyl discs. Priced at actually 29/11 cover price . The album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim.

Side One

  1. “Every Mother’s Son”  – Traffic (from John Barleycorn Must Die (ILPS 9116)) (7:06)
  2. “Love”  – Bronco (from Bronco (ILPS 9134))  (4:42)
  3. “I Am the Walrus”  – Spooky Tooth (from The Last Puff (ILPS 9117)) (6:20)
  4. “Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga”  – Quintessence (Live version of track, not released elsewhere at the time, but available as ‘bonus’ track on CD version of album Quintessence (REPUK 1016) (5:15)

Side Two

  1. “Thunderbuck Ram” – Mott the Hoople (from Mad Shadows (ILPS 9119) (4:50)
  2. “Nothing To Say”  – Jethro Tull (from Benefit (ILPS 9123)) (5:10)
  3. “Going Back West”  – Jimmy Cliff (from Jimmy Cliff (ILPS 9133)) (5:32)
  4. “Send Your Son To Die” – Blodwyn Pig (from Getting To This (ILPS 9122)) (4:35)
  5. “Little Woman”  – Dave Mason (no source listed)  (2:30)

Side Three

  1. “Go Out And Get It”  – John & Beverley Martyn (from Stormbringer! (ILPS 9113)) (3:15)
  2. “Cadence & Cascade” – King Crimson (from In the Wake of Poseidon (ILPS 9127)) (4:30)
  3. “Reaching Out On All Sides”  – If (from If (ILPS 9129)) (5:35)
  4. “Oh I Wept”  – Free (from Fire and Water (ILSP 9120)) (4:25)
  5. “Hazey Jane” – Nick Drake (from his album to be released Autumn ’70) (4:28)

Side Four

  1. “Walk Awhile”  – Fairport Convention (from Full House (ILPS 9130)) (4:00)
  2. “Maybe You’re Right”  – Cat Stevens (from Mona Bone Jakon (ILPS 9118)) (3:00)
  3. “Island”  – Renaissance (from Renaissance (ILPS 9114)) (5:57)
  4. “The Sea”  – Fotheringay (from Fotheringay (ILPS 9125)) (5:25)
  5. “Take Me To Your Leader”  –Clouds (intended to be on their Chrysalis album to be released Autumn ’70) (2:55)



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“Nice Enough to Eat” is a budget priced sampler album released by Island Records in 1969. Continuing the policy set by its predecessor You Can All Join In, the album presented tracks from the latest albums by their then established artists including Free, Traffic, and Jethro Tull, and introduced tasters from newer signings to the label, notably Nick Drake and King Crimson. The inclusion of the Nick Drake track, “Time Has Told Me”, has been credited with providing the first opportunity for many record buyers to hear Drake’s music.

It was priced as low as 14 shillings and 6 pence (£0.72), less than half of the standard album price at the time. The album is described as a “somewhat incoherent sampler of folk-rock, prog rock, and prog-tinged hard rock”, but with a “stellar artist lineup”

It was combined with You Can All Join In for a CD Re-release in August 1992 entitled “Nice Enough To Join In”

The cover was designed by Mike Sida, who had already provided the cover for Spooky Two, and went on to produce several further classic Island album covers including Free’s Fire and Water and Traffic’s “John Barleycorn Must Die”. The front cover’s simple motif of names of featured bands spelt out in alphabet sweets (in a combination of blue/biscuit colours alone) is subverted on the rear cover, where most of the letters have been dispersed and replaced by what seem to be brightly coloured tablets. The presence of (at least parts of) medicine capsules might make a suspicious observer suspect a reference to drugs.

Side one

  1. “Cajun Woman”  Fairport Convention – (from Unhalfbricking (ILPS 9102)) – 2:41
  2. “At the Crossroads”  Mott the Hoople – (from Mott the Hoople (ILPS 9108)) – 5:28
  3. “Better By You, Better Than Me” Spooky Tooth – (from Spooky Two (ILPS 9098)) – 3:29
  4. “We Used To Know”  Jethro Tull – (from Stand Up (ILPS 9103)) – 3:58
  5. “Woman”  Free – (from Free (ILPS 9104)) – 3:45
  6. “I Keep Singing That Same Old Song”  Heavy Jelly – Island 7″ (b/w “Blue”) (WIP 6049) – 8:19

Side two

  1. “Sing Me A Song That I Know” Blodwyn Pig – (from Ahead Rings Out (ILPS 9101))- 3:04
  2. “(Roamin’ Thro’ The Gloamin’ With) Forty Thousand Headmen” Traffic – (from Best of Traffic)[ (ILPS 9112)) – 3:12
  3. “Time Has Told Me”  Nick Drake – (from Five Leaves Left (ILPS 9105)) – 4:23
  4. “21st Century Schizoid Man”  King Crimson – (from In the Court of the Crimson King  (ILPS 9111)) – 7:20
  5. “Gungamai”  Quintessence – (from In Blissful Company (ILPS 9110Q)) – 4:17
  6. “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” (Pawle) – Dr. Strangely Strange – (from Kip of the Serenes (ILPS 9106)) – 4:26

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Nick Drake was planning to shear back his songs’ surplus of detail before recording his third and final album—if you could call strings and light electric guitar excessive, that is. Pink Moon was recorded in two successive nights with just Drake and producer John Wood in the room, and nothing but Drake’s acoustic guitar and a couple isolated piano runs behind his unmistakable voice. Pink Moon echoed Drake’s gradual withdrawal from civilization. It’s always been hard to ignore the crawling fragility in Drake’s performances, but on Pink Moon he’s almost aggressively alone. The slight motion of “Know” is undercut by its solitude: The beat moves him, but it’s a tough haul. The title cut, “Road” and “Parasite” are all melodically beautiful, but emotionally impossible to bear. The exhaustion of Pink Moon foretells Drake’s passing almost too well, but its trim power can’t be questioned. Released two years before Nick Drake’s death in November 1974, at the age of twenty-six,

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Nick Drake has been saddled with the kind of (death) “cult” reputation that lends itself to fervent fan-kid obsession (I know, I’ve been there) by some, much to the annoyance of others. Unfortunately for the poor bloke, like Jeff Buckley, and more recently Elliott Smith, his premature passing led marketing men and music journalists to focus on his sensitive, dark, quiet “ethereal” side.

Nick Drake delivered the master tapes of Pink Moon to Chris Blackwell at Island Records, In an interview Island’s press officer David Sandison recalled that Drake’s arrival at the record company had certainly not gone unnoticed, although there had been no indication that he was delivering them a new album:

“I saw him in reception after I came back from lunch and I was talking to somebody and I saw a figure in the corner on the bench, and I suddenly realized it was Nick. He had this big, 15 ips [inches per second] master tape box under his arm, and I said ‘Have you had a cup of tea?’ and he said ‘Erm, yes’, and I said ‘Do you want to come upstairs?’ and he said ‘Yes, okay’. So we went upstairs into my office, which was on top of the landing, it was a landing that went into the big office with a huge round table where Chris and everybody else worked and there was a big Revox and sound system there, and he just sat in my office area for about half an hour … After about half an hour he said ‘I’d better be going’, and I said ‘Okay, nice to see you’, and he left. Now, he went down the stairs and he still had the tapes under his arm, and about an hour later the girl who worked behind the front desk called up and said ‘Nick’s left his tapes behind’. So I went down and it was the big sixteen-track master tape and it said NICK DRAKE PINK MOON, and I thought ‘that’s not an album I know’. The first thing to do was get it in the studio to make a seven and a half inch safety copy, because that was the master. So we ran off a safety copy to actually play, and I think twenty four hours later or so, it was put on the Revox in the main room and we heard Pink Moon.”

Pink Moon was recorded over a few days with producer John Wood prior to its February 1972 release date. It’s a brief record (twenty eight minutes), mainly focusing on a mal-tuned acoustic guitar and vocals. With a more lo-fi nature than its older siblings and his continued relative obscurity. Pink Moon does feature the occasional sparse message, (“Know” features only the lines: “Know that I love you / Know I don’t care / Know that I see you / Know I’m not there“), but the album offers so much more than that.

The album’s opening title track is lyrically simplistic and instrumentally nocturnal, but more in a relaxed, family bonfires and pumpkins with funny faces style. The piano almost sends mist through the stereo. It’s an atmosphere that permeates the next two songs before “Which Will” changes tack. The lyrics are so simplistic one can’t possibly quote them in context. It could be about breakups, breakdowns, hope or ambivalence.

“Horn” is a really beautiful, poignant instrumental.  “Things Behind the Sun” bends from the franticly sinister to the carefree. The aforementioned “Know” feature’s the four lines above, but over a surreal background juxtaposing Drake’s sighs with an off-kilter guitar line more reminiscent of The Fall’s Rough Trade years than Damien Rice. In all fairness to the publicists, “Parasite” is a rather bleak song. It’s also one of my favorite songs of all time. Whether Drake is “changing a rope for a size too small“, or “lifting the mask from a local clown” and “feeling down like him,” I’m smiling all the way. There’s a touch of surreal cynicism on “Free Ride,” seeing through “all of the pictures that you keep on the wall…all of the people that will come to the ball.” However it seems more indicative of somebody at the back of the room laughing at the people who can’t quite tell why they’re dancing than someone who deserves a carefully written biography. “Harvest Breed” is a fantastic hangover tune, particularly when backed by a color-free sky. “From The Morning” closes things with some renewed vigor, as people “rise from the ground.” I hadn’t listened to Pink Moon in a long time. It’s still my favorite Nick Drake album, and one of the best of its era.

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.

In the UK Folk Scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Beverley Martin was a obviously familiar performer. A creative and talented performer was overshadowed by her well known partner, In the last forty years she only released one other album, but her new album “The Phoenix and the Turtle” features an previously unreleased track co-written with Nick Drake in 1974 that is totally in the style of Nick,Beverley with her full and rich voice
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