Spotted these in the Norwich "Gentlemens Walk" store today. They're in the "1001 albums you must hear before you die" book, so an essential purchase for me as I'm trying to do the whole book.
Nick Drake's debut album encapsulates a marriage between folk music and the singer-songwriter genre. Part Donovan, part Jim Webb, he articulated an aching romanticism at a time when progressive rock ran rampant. Beautiful melodies and fragrant accompaniment, in particular Robert Kirby's stunning string
After crafting a debut album full of beauteous, somber chamber-folk, Nick Drake pulled something of an about-face with the follow-up, BRYTER LAYTER. With a bright, sparkling production and orchestrations that occasionally border on Easy Listening, the framework is light and airy where FIVE LEAVES LEFT was dark and foreboding. The key, however, is that Drake's artfully expressed inner turmoil peeks through at every turn in the lyrics and in his understated-but-heartfelt vocal delivery.
"At the Chime of a City Clock" finds Drake facing existential despair at every turn, despite an almost-lugubrious string arrangement. Perhaps the crucial moment of BRYTER LAYTER occurs on "Poor Boy", where female backing vocalists literally mock the singer's anguished laments. Clearly, for as much as Drake's heart and soul were bared in every note of his music, he was self-aware enough to know that his disillusioned-romantic view of the world was one that put him on the fringes of society. Of course, some 25 years later, his early-1970s work would find a much wider audience, even though the initial era of the sensitive singer/songwriter had long since passed.arrangements, enhance the artist's sense of longing in which warm, but understated, vocals accentuate the album's passive mystery. An aura of existential cool envelops the proceedings, accentuated by Danny Thompson's sonorous bass lines and Drake's poetic imagery. The result is a shimmering, autumnal collection, reflective but never morbid. It's a tragedy that Drake never lived to see how his stature has grown.
It's widely reported that by the time Nick Drake got around to recording his third and final album, PINK MOON, his already-precarious mental/emotional state had drastically deteriorated. In a deep depression, Drake recorded a brace of solo acoustic tunes, dropped the tape off unannounced at the label's office one day, and that was the last the world at large ever heard of Drake's music.
The results of those solo sessions were as harrowing and stark as anything by Robert Johnson or Charley Patton. Enclosed in an inner world of psychological distress, Drake recorded PINK MOON's dispatches from a private hell that was simultaneously terrifying and beautiful. Both the lyrics and the melodic motifs are pared to the bone here, their simplicity making them all the more immediately striking. The most nakedly emotional and disturbing moment is probably "Parasite", a visceral-but-mysterious account of a disconsolate soul roaming through the world in search of succour, with Drake taking the starring role, ultimately offering, "take a look, you may see me in the dirt". This was the end of the road for Nick Drake in more ways than one, but just the beginning for the scores of songwriters subsequently inspired by his bleak-but-beautiful visions.