Nick Drake
Five Leaves Left

Bryter Later

Pink Moon

Label: Hannibal Records

CD review written for Spa Magazine Mar/Apr 2001

Like an early spring bluebell, British singer/songwriter Nick Drake bloomed and withered too soon. Barely 26 years old when he died in 1974, Drake produced haunting music that was all but ignored during his lifetime. Yet, almost 27 years after his untimely death, Drake's sensitive, folk-infused songs have proven evergreen, sparking attention from unlikely commercial sources and influencing popular musicians such as R.E.M., Belle & Sebastian, and Elvis Costello.

The only three full-length albums Drake recorded in his brief career have now been lovingly re-mastered and re-released for a new generation of fans to discover. Whether enjoyed individually or as part of a series, they reflect Drake's beguiling ability to create music that appears simple but is stunningly complex. Recent converts will marvel at the contemporary quality of Drake's music, and longtime believers will find full lyrics, intriguing new photos, and a clarity of sound that rivals the original masters.

As a child of the '60s, Drake drew significant inspiration from his contemporaries—folk icons such as Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley and Donovan—and his brilliant first album, Five Leaves Left, reflects this. The album set the standard for Drake's subsequent work, with songs such as "Time Has Told Me" and "Day is Done" establishing him as a singer/songwriter of uncanny insight and talent. This album also introduced a style of guitar playing that relied on an intricate blend of tunings and fingerings no guitarist has ever managed to replicate.

Drake's second album, Bryter Later, is an intriguing mix of poppier numbers ("Hazey Jane II") and jazz-inflected songs buoyed by sultry sax fills and rippling piano chords ("Poor Boy"). However, his flair for bittersweet melodies and baroque guitars is never far away, especially on the atmospheric "Northern Sky." Combined with Drake's quiet yet assured vocals, these ten songs conjure haunting aural images that shimmer and float around poignant, carefully chosen lyrics.

Drake stripped himself bare for what was to be his final and most memorable album, Pink Moon. Featuring just vocals and guitar, each song resonates with emotion and seems the perfect reflection of this shy, introverted young man's soul. Ironically, the use of the title track as the soundtrack for a VW commercial has had the most impact on Drake's posthumous career. While some Drake fans felt this exploited their idol, it is possible that Drake himself might not have agreed. According to Patrick Humphries' excellent biography, Drake craved success. Viewed in that light, it is just possible that Drake might have been rather pleased with the fact that after all this time, his career is in full bloom again.

Copyright Lisa M. Moore
May not be reproduced in whole or part without my written permission.