When we talk about the greats of music through the 60’s and 70’s we seem to be bogged down with mentions of bands like The Who, The Beatles and ABBA amongst others. Now whilst they all have their place in peoples memory’s (yes sadly ABBA are in my memory), an understated young man is missed from most mentions, and yet is argueably the most talented musician of the time. That man is George Best *gets tapped on the shoulder and told I’m doing a CD review* oops…I mean that man is Nick Drake.
Who you may ask yourself, is Nick Drake, sadly too many people are asking themselves this. Well Nick Drake was was what you could call the epitome of British folk music. This debut album of Drakes, released originally in 1969 (though I can’t find the CD re-release date), has been ranked according to wikipedia as:
“Five Leaves Left was ranked 85th in a 2005 survey held by British television’s Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 283 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.”
This aclaim comes despite none of his first three albums (this, Bryter Layter and Pink moon) sold over 5000 copies. He is also considered as one of the most influential song writers of the last 50 years, having been cited by Robert Smith (The Cure), Peter Buck (R.E.M), Kate Bush, Paul Weller, American rock band The Black Crowes and recently Jack Johnson has been quoted as saying “I really dig Nick Drake”.
He got mass exposure after a a VolksWagen Commercial had the song “Pink Moon” as backing music, and within a month the sales of his records had doubled in comparision to the previous 30 years.
What happened to Nick Drake?
Different stories have arisen, despite the knowledge he was depressed and an insomniac, the actual facts of his death are highly disputed. He was found dead after overdosing on Anti-depressants, the dispute is over weather he intentionally took too many, or, as his family pertain he took them thinking they were sleeping pills.
Right thats enough to explain who this great musician was, what about the album?
The album is a 10 track folk album, with a soft easy feel, however it’s not the most accessible of albums to get into, with it’s simple and some what bare music often with just Drakes vocal’s an acoustic and the occasional bass. The lyrics are also not the most cheery “doomed romatic” seems to be the best description of the type of songs.
The opening tack is “Time has told me” the only track to use an electric guitar on the whole album and is around 4 mins 27. The lyrics despite being simple in form and generally use a a-b-c-b rhyme scheme in the verses and the chorus taking an AABB style, are still wonderful and full of gorgeous images. The lyrics are delectiably delivered by Drakes charming and yet hollow sounding voice, which sounds like it’d be able to do gymnastics whilst yet staying so relaxed. The accompaning music is such a simple pleasure to hear and allows you to want to hear more, it’s works perfectly as the carrot to the horse. A song of such beauty was sadly hidden away from so many for song. 10/10
“River man” comes second on the track list, but is highly aknowledged as the albums shining star. The lyrics are again simple in structure with an AAAB rhyme scheme and a delivery that oozes the charm that Drake never relaised he had. The images from the previous song are overshadowed by this dazzling array of wonder, and the song is amazingly just an acoustic and vocal (both by Drake) and nothing else. It’s a definate track that needs to be listened to to just aknowledge how beautiful it is but yet at the same time, the beauty fails to hides the secret sadness that Drake suffered from. 11/10.
Three hours, is the third track and uses a bass and conga’s. This is lyrically a much more complex song than the previous two and uses such vivd images of a journey to London of a man called Jeremy. The rhyme scheme is significantly different to the previous songs as well, utialising an ABCBDEFE scheme for the 3 verses (pretty damn complex from my point of view) before the bridge uses an ABBCDED one. The song has a sad feel about it, despite Drakes wonderful voice and the amazing guitar sounds in the background. 10/10
Way to blue, A strong vivid string based opening before Drakes vocals glide effortlessly over them the effort that Drake needs to put in seems none-exsistant despite the rich full sound he seems to posses. The lyrics are again amazing and Drake blows you away with his calmness of delivery of some astonishing lines. This song does have one gripe with me, and that is that it’s short (ok 3 mins 11 isn’t short short, but Drake makes it seem so good it should go on forever). The rhyme scheme of the lyrics is again advanced, with an AABBCDEEFFCD (bridge) GGHIICD one. The bridge is ABCDB. 10/10
Day is done, is the fifth track and takes yet another rhyme scheme, with every line in a verse ending the same (Done, sun, won, done. For example) This track is in fact the shortest on the album at 2 mins 29, and is argueabley a breaker track (not a filler, fillers are of lower quality). This short and yet wonderous song is again filled with Drake’s own sadness and it shows, despite the vocals again being wonderful the song makes you think of a sad time in your past. 9/10
‘Cello song, This song has a Cello, bass and conga’s as well as Drake’s own wonderous acoustic and vocals. The cello stands out as soon as the song starts with the bass and acoustic following it well, the conga’s give the song a really deep sound and added to the cello’s richness the music sounds brilliant. Drakes vocals are as always awesome and almost heavenly, as he carries you like an angel. The vocals aven more visually explosive than their counterparts from most previous songs and a rhyme scheme thats different again (ABCBDED) and the song split into three verses. 10/10
The thoughts of Mary Jane, One of my favourite Nick Drake tracks (even before I’d heard the whole album) and again the vivid images catch you and drag you away with them, just like the any fantastic song should (don’t even talk to me about the “Umbrella” song…). The song is arranged into 4 verses with generally a ABCBDDE rhyme scheme (the third verse is slightly different), and talks about Mary Jane. With some wonderfully arranged but yet simple acoustic, a wind instruement that opens up the song and vocals that make you smile. 10/10
Man in a shed, Sorry but what an awesome title, and opening 3 lines that match it (see the excerpts). The lyrics I guess take on a slightly more comical feel as a metaphor for something that’s so typical drake, and are very well polished and take a different rhyme scheme for all three verses. The song uses a piano and bass for musical background and oddly has a jazzy feel to it that takes your hips and makes you sway to it. Drakes vocals are beautifully and tell the story of the man in the shed so wonderously. A song that again (it’s becoming a cliche) must be listened to. 11/10
Fruit tree, The most lyrically advanced song and the one with the most “parts” (7 sections to the song), the story of the song is again a metaphor, this time it’s for fame and if your read along you get your mind amazed by them. The visual idea’s are again glorious and you wonder where music went down hill, before remembering this it’s self was somewhat a niche’ release. The idea’s featured in the lyrics are beweildering to say the least, yet as unique as they are, they all make sense. Another song that really needs to be heard. 11/10
The final track is “Saturday sun”, and takes a solemn feeling and yet you sway from side to side as if at the end of a concert (something Drake hardly took part in). The vocals make the listening listen but also relax and really smile, a lot like a “I know this is the end” kind of feeling. The rhyme scheme is ABABCDCDDDD for the first verse and ABABBBB for the shorter second one. A wonderful track to finish off one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, if not ever. I admit it’s not for everyone (people who like the simple to make “music” known as the “dance” genre are warned to stay well away, as they may start to wonder what this brilliance is). 10/10
“Time has told me”
“Time has told me, You came with the dawn, A soul with no footprint, A rose with no thorn, Your tears they tell me, There’s really no way, Of ending your troubles, With the things you can say.”
“Betty said she prayed today, For the sky to blow away, Or maybe stay, She wasn’t sure.”
“Three hours from London, Jacomo’s free, Taking his woes, Down to the sea, In search of a lifetime, To tell when he’s home, In search of a story, Thats never beenn known”
“Way too blue”
“Have you seen the land living by the breeze, Can you understand a light amongst the trees”
“Day is done”
“When the day is done, Down to earth sinks the sun, Along with everything that was lost and won, When the day is done”
“Strange face, with your eyes, So pale and sincere, Underneath you know weel, You have nothing to fear, For the dreams that came to you when so young, Told of a life, Where spring is sprung”
“The thoughts of Mary Jane”
“Who can know, The reason for her smile, What are her dreams, When they’ve journeyed for a mile, The way she sings, And her brightly coloured rings, Make her the princess of the sky”
“Man in a shed”
“Well there was a man, Lived in a shed, Spent most of his days out of his head”.
“Safe in the womb, Of an everlasting night, You find the darkness can, Give the brightest of light, Safe in your place deep in the earth”
“Think about stories with reason and rhyme, Cirlcling through your brain, And think about people in their season and time, Returning again and again”