Monday, May 24, 2010

Nick Drake - A Rough Guide

From Wikipedia:
"Nick Drake was an English singer-songwriter and musician. Best known
 for the sombre pieces composed on his primary instrument, the guitar,
 Drake was also proficient at piano, clarinet and saxophone. Although
 he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, Drake's work
 has gradually achieved wider notice and recognition; he now ranks among
 the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years."

He only released three full-length albums in the late 1960s and early
1970s.  Sadly, he died from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant
when he was just 26 years old.

Several of my favourite musicians have cited him as an influence, but
I only got into listening to Nick Drake's music a few years ago.

The links in the guide below are to YouTube movies.  Since Drake's work
pre-dates the music video era, many of the clips are home-made by fans.
Apologies in advance for any out-of-place Google ads.  Where possible,
I've selected clips where the ads should lead to revenue for Drake's
estate, and not for something crass.

If the links are blocked, you can try listening to some clips on the
Wikipedia link above, or at Bryter Music, the official website of the
Estate of Nick Drake:

The "rough guide" ...

1. "Time Has Told Me"
The opening track from Nick Drake's debut album, "Five Leaves Left",
released in 1969.  He was only 21 when he recorded this album, and the
lyrics display a maturity beyond his years.  On this album he was
joined by some accomplished backing musicians.  This track features
some electric guitar work by Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention.

2. "River Man"
Another strong track from "Five Leaves Left", this song features a
delicate string arrangement.  According to Drake's manager, Joe Boyd,
Drake considered it as the centre piece of the album.  The clip was
produced by Drake's record label.

3. "Way To Blue"
This is a home recording of a track from Drake's first album, with just
Drake singing while playing the piano.  The album version is backed by a
great string arrangement.  This clip was also produced by Island Records.

4. "Day Is Done"
Another beautiful contemplative piece from "Five Leaves Left".  The clip
includes a nicely put-together montage of pictures from the album's
original artwork.

5. "One Of These Things First"
In 1970, Drake released his second album, "Bryter Layter".  Once again
he was joined by guest backing musicians.  This upbeat track features a
couple of members of the Beach Boys.  The song was included on the
soundtrack for "Garden State" (2005).

6. "Fly"
This is a simple and moving track from Bryter Layter.  John Cale from
The Velvet Underground plays viola and harpsichord.  This is probably
my favourite track on the album.  A beautiful, stripped-back home
recording of this song is included on the posthumous compilation, "Time
of No Reply".

7. "Northern Sky"
Another favourite from Bryter Layter.

8. "Hazey Jane II"
This track features some brass instruments as accompaniment.  Initially
I found the brass and string arrangements on this album a little jarring,
but over time I've come to appreciate them more.

9. "Pink Moon"
This is the opening and title track from Nick Drake's third and final
album (1972).  Unlike his first two albums, this one was basically just
Drake solo.  As such, it's a more personal and intimate record, as
demonstrated by the opening track.  Bizarrely, it was used as the
backing for a VW commercial a few years ago.

To wrap things up, here's a trio of great tracks from Drake's final

10. "Place To Be"

11. "Free Ride"

12. "Parasite"