Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Born: June 19, 1948 (Rangoon, Burma)
Died:  November 25, 1974 (Tanworth-in-Arden, England)

Instruments: Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Genre: British Folk-Rock, Baroque Pop, Progressive Folk, British Folk, Folk-Rock, Singer/Songwriter

A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, Nick Drake produced several albums of chilling, somber beauty. With hindsight, these have come to be recognized as peak achievements of both the British folk-rock scene and the entire rock singer/songwriter genre. Sometimes compared to Van Morrison, Drake, in fact, resembled Donovan much more in his breathy vocals, strong meolodies, and the accoustic-based orchestral sweep of his arrangements. His was a much darker version than Donovan's, however, with disturbing themes of melancholy, failed romance, mortality, and depression lurking just beneath, or even well above, the surface. Ironically, Drake has achieved a far greater stature in the decades following his death, with an avid cult following that grows by the year. In the manner of the young romantic poets of the 19th century who died before their time, Drake is revered by many listeners today, with a following that spans generations. Baby boomers who missed him the first time around found much to revisit once they discovered him, and his pensive loneliness speaks directly to contemporary alternative rockers who share his sense of morose alienation.

FIVE LEAVES LEFT/1969/Hannibal****

BRYTER LAYTER/1970/Hannibal****

PINK MOON/1972/Hannibal****

TIME OF NO REPLY/1986/Hannibal***

Music of a melancholy, twilit beauty, Drake's 3 albums: Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon echo, in muted intensity, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks; they are suites of gemlike songs urged on by Drake's nimble guitar, set against arrangements whose finesse recalls chamber music. Pink Moon is the sparest; some of its lyrics read like Zen koans. Everything Drake wrote--and sang in a haunting, sometimes chilling near-whisper--is pervaded by a fragile hypersensitivity, and while his mood seldom varies, it has its dark, resonant magic. Dead of a drug overdose in 1974, Drake was sudden like lightning--and the afterglow still simmers. Time Of No Reply is a collection of outtakes and fine unreleased tracks.

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