Nick Drake — A Day Gone By (2014)
♦ V tuto chvíli to posloucháme a je to fantastické. Nejsem obvykle pro dema a lo~fi domácí nahrávky atd., ovšem zde máme nějaké speciální, odhalující skladby.
Birth name: Nicholas Rodney Drake
Born: 19 June 1948, Rangoon, Burma
Died: 25 November 1974, Tanworth~in~Arden, Warwickshire, England
Album recorded: July 1968 ~ July 1974
Genres: Singer~Songwriter, Contemporary Folk
Record Label: Rover Records
Duration: 79:43 +
01 Strolling Down The Highway 3:09
02 Cocaine Blues 2:08
03 Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright 2:11
04 Betty and Dupree 2:08
05 Get Together 2:01
06 Here Come The Blues 3:52
07 Come In to The Garden 2:14
08 Summertime 1:37
09 Joey 5:13
10 Strange Meeting II 3:36
11 Milk and Honey 2:54
12 Tomorrow is A Long Time 3:24
13 Courting Blues 2:38
14 Black Mountain Blues 2:54
15 Morning Monologue 3:17
16 Saturday Sun I 3:22
17 Mayfair III 3:03
18 Fly II 3:40
19 Hazey Jane I 4:43
20 Place To Be 2:52
21 Parasite II 4:07
22 Three Hours 6:15
23 Day Is Done 4:26
24 Time Of No Reply 0:59
25 Three Hours 3:00
02 The Thoughts of Mary Jane
03 Day is Done
04 Time Has Told Me
05 Saturday Sun I
06 River Man
07 Joey II
08 Saturday Sun II
09 Saturday Sun III
10 Mayfair I
11 Mayfair II
12 Fly II
13 Parasite I
14 Joey (fragment)
15 Guitar Instrumental (No. 1 — Guitar)
16 Poor Boy
17 Time Has Told Me
19 Sketch II — Guitar
20 Sketch IV — Piano
21 Sketch V — Guitar
22 Sketch VI — Piano
23 Sketch VII — Piano
24 Hanging On A Star
25 Rider On The Wheel
26 Black Eyed Dog
27 Tow The Line
28 I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again
29 Full fathom Five
30 With My Swag All On My Shoulder
31 The Commissioner, He Come
32 Dark and Devil Waters
♦ Engineer — John Wood (tracks: D1 to D3, D6)
♦ Producer — Joe Boyd (tracks: D5), John Wood (tracks: D5)
♦ Home Recordings, Demos, and Outtakes.
♦ Side A and Side B recorded at the Music Room, Far Leys, Tanworth~In~Arden, 1967/1968.
♦ Side C, recorded at Hampstead, London, 1968/1969.
♦ Side D, tracks 1 & 6 recorded at Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London, July 1968 — December 1968; tracks 2~3 recorded at Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London, 11 November 1968; track 4 recorded at Hampstead, London, 1968/1969; track 5 recorded at Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London, July 1974.
♦ Double album packaged in a gatefold jacket with liner notes.
♦ The challenge of packaging a career only 3 albums wide still poses a problem in the days of multiple downloads, archive break~ins and choice. Despite the best intentions of Nick Drake’s estate by producing perfectly packaged versions of his album on both CD and high~grade LP with all the peripherals, Nick remains such a cult character, his works are picked upon for reverence and speculation as much as works of the Beatles, the concerts of Led Zeppelin and the unreleased works of Neil Young.
♦ Quite why no~one has produced a bootleg of such high standard before is mystifying. The booklet of this release — I’ll come to that in a second — notes only a couple of release that have appeared before, one seemingly a grey area bootleg of indeterminate source. It’s scratchiness as thrilling as the fact that we were getting to hear the very demos and blues songs that Nick had been playing to himself, to his family, to his friends.
♦ Now, those sleeve notes. They read like a mini encyclopaedic history of Nick and his recordings. I could do you a favour by typing them out verbatim so it might cover the set but part and part with the 2 CDs, it’s a pleasure to read and puts even most official notes, in to the shade.
♦ I’ve split this review in to the parts the set is spliced in to, beginning with the songs recorded at Nick’s home in the Music Room at Far Leys, Tamworth In Arden, seemingly in one sitting (Or so Nick’s comments before “Black Mountain Blues” seem to suggest.)
♦ These tracks encapsulate Drake’s love of the guitar player and his genius around the instrument. Presenting songs by Dylan, Janch, Dave Van Ronk, Jackson C. Frank and George & Ira Gershwin, Nick plays his distinctive, picked style and sings in his even more distinctive way. The sound from the music room is fantastic, although not quite studio quality, certainly as good as, say, a very good AM radio live session. A couple of these tracks, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” for instance, appear to have come from clean vinyl sources. Nick also had the tendency to record over cassettes that had previously been recorded on, tape, being in it’s infancy, featured bleed through on some tracks so the recordings are made a little more interesting in themselves as you can try to play spot the original.
♦ The best of the recordings reveals itself in the most surprising ways, hear Nick pronounce ‘Cocaine’ as “Cock~Ayne” in a voice that might suggest that the closest that Nick might have come towards white powder might be his mothers washing detergent, a gloriously delicate turn on the liberation anthem, “Get Together” is fairly rushed through but sets the song rigidly in a folk setting, We hear the love that Nick had for Jackson C. Frank’s debut with 2 covers of the beleaguered troubadours own songs.
♦ The most interesting songs from the sessions are the embryonic versions of Nick’s own compositions, “Come In To The Garden” (extended from the ‘Family Tree’ release), “Joey” (featuring a middle eight that was later dropped) and “Strange Meeting II” (Not markedly different from the Aix version on ‘Family Tree’ but with a different ambiance.)
♦ The guitar playing complete, we also hear a rambling monologue by Nick, recorded after a party that he attended and stumbled back in from in the very early morning. Nick is sober but tired and starts losing his thread a little, still psyched after his partying, he may very well have met someone whom excited him at the event and was giddily reciting his night before realising that it would have been better for him to sleep. This retelling has appeared before on bootleg but never at this good a quality, here you can hear almost every word and the liltingly tired tones in which Nick says them.
♦ Two more songs from Far Leys follow but the first on this set played on piano, “Saturday Sun” is played with the recorder resting on the top as we hear the clunk of the piano pedals as a metronomic effect. “Mayfair” has Nick returning back to the guitar but, in a rare instance, he shows off his whistling prowess. While his equipment might have been set up to echo, the technicalities of blowing rather than speaking confuse the microphone.
♦ Moving out of the familial home, we have tracks that Nick recorded in the flats that he rented in Hampstead, London, prior to both “Five Leaves Left” and “Bryter Layter” being recorded. Nick was working on his next collection of songs, finessing his guitar style. “Fly” comes unsweetened from the ‘Time Of No Reply’ album alongside a coda that was shaved from the official release, “Hazey Jane”’s guitar line is closer to the microphone than it’s later rendering and gives a little embellishment to the song.
♦ The version of “Place To Be” that was demoed is a slower, more traditionally folksy style than it’s contemporary. It features more of a finger picking style than it’s final recording too, lightening the mood a little. It’s an amalgamation of two versions of the same tape, an ever so slightly inferior version swiftly leads in to a better recording but it is mixed very, very well. “Parasite” is a longer version of the song that would appear on the final album, a jerky, pausing version rather than a smooth flowing strum. Nick is obviously still running through the rhythm but it still sounds as effective as the final version.
♦ “Three Hours” is closer to the heavy, doomish version presented on “Made To Love Magic” but without the drumming. Nick uses a loose tuning to add a little echo here and his vocal lines are slightly longer drawn out, giving a slightly more Tim Buckley~esque tone to the song. Nick would sing it a little straighter on “Five Leaves ..” although whether he had the idea for Robert Kirby’s strings at this point and was harmonising this, we can only guess at. The middle eight batters at the protagonist, giving the feel of a rebirth.
♦ Finally, “Day Is Done” features three extra verses that Nick dropped from the final recording, drawing out the song to a fascinating four and a half minutes. Nearly double that of it’s official appearance.
♦ The John Peel sessions are often rumoured, never replayed as the estate nixed the BBC from using them again. These aren’t quite as clear as the normal Peel sessions that were and do usually see release or get played systematically on BBC 6 Music and are fragmentary in their appearance but as they are as close as they will be to releasable quality, having been recorded off air, they are to be treasured.
♦ Disk two is more of a mixed bag of material. Beginning with three songs that were orchestrated for “Five Leaves Left” by Richard Hewson, Apple records arranger, however after some consideration, Nick decided that he would much rather stick with the work of his old collage friend, Robert Kirby. “Magic” has already appeared on “Made To Love Magic”, the 2004 official compilation but with Robert’s arrangement replacing Richard’s. “The Thoughts Of Mary Jane” and “Day Is Done” are also taken from bootlegged studio tapes but are a little less crisp.
♦ The following 4 tracks come from the annals of Sound Techniques studios between July to December 1968. “Time Has Told Me” is the first take of the song in the studio. As with most musicians, Nick was nervous about with his new surroundings and despite his mastery of the guitar, fumbles at the start over his tempo, gives a very british apology and continues.
♦ “Saturday Sun” and “River Man” are early versions of “Five Leaves Left” songs too, the former, as the notes point out, is played at a nervous tempo but would be slowed down on it’s official debut while the latter is an attempt to record the track before strings were added. Danny Thompson’s bass is also markedly higher in the mix.
♦ Brand new to Nick Drake collectors will be take 2 of “Joey”. The first take was premiered on “Time Of No Reply” but here the second take, with additional studio call, features minor differences in Nick’s vocals.
♦ Tracks 8 ~ 11 take us back to the music room in Far Leys. The first run through of “Saturday Sun” begins with a clip of a news cast — an obvious reminder that Nick was prone to recording over used cassettes — this version lasts around a minute before breaking down, possibly because Nick had played a wrong chord, possibly as Nick runs to give the song a little more echo. The second take is a much lengthier version but still without the second verse. Nick plays with his phrasing through the track, stretching out certain words.
♦ The two takes of ‘Mayfair’ are obvious rehearsals, the initial take breaking down completely, the second causing Nick to stall at certain points while he plays and sings at the same time. It’s worth mentioning that all four tracks are under pinned by classical music underneath.
♦ Tracks 12 ~ 15 come from the Hampstead tape in 1968 — “Fly” is still a work in progress with certain elements missing that would be added to the album version.
“Parasite” comes from a tape in slightly worse condition and sounds a little more atmospheric. The rolling riff that centres the song pauses no problem for Nick as he effortlessly runs through the song. The lyrics reflect a change though to something less doomish. It’s slightly extended coda a reflection of Nick’s fondness for the riff. A very different “Joey” is presented next, softer, a little more dreamy. Nick is playing with the tempos here, trying to ascertain it’s pace. Finally, “Guitar Instrumental”is a work out piece as Nick plays with various themes. Whether this was supposed to represent a work in progress or was noodleing is not quite clear.
♦ Tracks 16 ~ 23 are from the so~called ‘Work Tape’. A rough sounding cassette of various try~outs recorded in the music at Far~Leys A sparse “Poor Boy” begins in abbreviated form, much sparsely decorated than the “Bryter Later” version, in it you you hear the full remit of the guitar as unfashioned by piano or harmonies, “Time Has Told Me” features a bluesier style than the album, some guitar licks coming over a little more delta — folk than British classical. “Voices”, however brief the snippet, is played at a quicker tempo, much more urgent than the final, released version.
♦ Tracks 19 ~ 23 are various ideas played on either guitar or piano. None of them seem to give a clear notification as to where Nick might have gone yet, more likely these are just snippets of ideas, formulas that Nick was practising with. To that extent, they are beautiful pieces, much like John Lennon’s work outs in the Beatles Indian period but much more complex obviously.
♦ Tracks 24 ~ 27 are from Nick’s final sessions. Battling depression and a weak will, Nick was far too gone to be able to play and sing proficiently at the same time so his guitar parts were tracked first. The difference here though is that the guitar track to “Black Eyed Dog” is much different to the ‘Pink Moon’ C.V. and “Tow The Line” does not feature the sound of Nick leaving his seat and putting down is guitar. Once again, they’re great to be heard without voice and serve to pin point Nick’s increasingly proficient works. They are from secondary studio tapes however so don’t expect studio clarity.
♦ The set is rounded off with Nick’s extra sessions, initiated by Robert Kirby, the first three tracks were recorded for the ‘Interplay One’ educational album. Along with an unknown female vocalist and Kirby himself, Nick played guitar on these sessions alongside banjo player, Rocking John.
♦ The final two tracks were again from a Kirby commissioned session for the Mick Audsley album, “Dark And Devil Waters”. As neither album exists on the CD catalogues, these are less pirated tracks, more grey — area. They are significant finds however are highly important in rounding out Nick’s story.
♦ I could have still written more in this review but the intelligently and thorough sleeves notes prevent me from doing more work. As a end point to the original catalogue and the three posthumous collections, this CD his hands~down the last word until collectors release their grip on the missing pieces to the puzzle. Also available an a luxurious LP set but approximately half the tracks found here, it’s far beyond desirable, this bootleg is essential.
Nick Drake Biography
∇ With every passing year, it becomes a little less accurate to say that Nick Drake has a cult following. Cults, by their very nature, tend to exist on the margins, the subject of their admiration unknown or even unloved by the vast majority of people. Mention Nick Drake to a certain generation of music fan and chances are you won’t have to explain yourself. Latterly, Drake’s name has become a byword for a certain kind of acoustic music. Gentility, melancholia and a seemingly casual mastery of the fretboard — in the minds of many listeners, any combination of these traits warrants comparison to Nick Drake. As a result, Drake is perpetually referenced across the reviews sections of every music title. That quite often the records in question bear no meaningful resemblance to Drake’s music speaks volumes. His legacy may, in one sense, be huge. But there’s painfully little of it: just three complete albums — Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972) and a final quintet of songs recorded shortly before his death. As his relevance increases, so does an insatiable communal yearning for their source to yield more. Hence the constant namechecks. Hence the constant repackaging and remixing of the same old bootleg recordings. Somehow we cannot quite accept the fact that this was all he left behind.
∇ Such a turn of events isn’t without a certain irony. Towards the end of his life, Drake appeared to long for the vindication that comes with commercial success. And yet he seemed incapable of compromising himself to the pursuit of recognition. His shyness made interviews difficult. Live performances became increasingly rare. When recording music, the only compass he used was his own intuition. For Five Leaves left, he asserted himself when he needed to — dispensing with the arranger suggested by Joe Boyd and replacing him with his old Cambridge associate Robert Kirby. Pink Moon was just Drake and a guitar, an exercise in intricate desolation, no less perfect for its stark brevity. ∇ Commercial success may not have vindicated him, but the intervening years certainly have. Ten years ago, he entered the Billboard 100 (and the Amazon Top Five) for the first time. Thirty seconds of Pink Moon used in a Volkswagen advert alerted America to the otherworldly magic of Drake’s hushed English tones. His friend and label~mate Linda Thompson recalls recently hearing the song in LA over a supermarket tannoy: “I couldn’t believe how amazing, how right it sounded. How did he know?” Writing about Drake, the late Ian McDonald attempted to put into words why Drake’s music should have achieved such a relevance in the century after its creator brought it into being. In a celebrated essay, McDonald posited the suggestion that songs such as River Man and Way To Blue reconnect us with a part of our selves that modern life has all but eroded away. Certainly, much of his music is endowed with a peculiar prescience. Over arrangements that seem to mimic the bustle of a world moving too fast, the prescient Hazey Jane II sees Drake impishly enquiring, “And what will happen in the morning when the world it gets/So crowded that you can’t look out the window in the morning.”
∇ The manner in which Drake’s life ended has inevitably coloured the way his songs are perceived: among them, the haunting Black~Eyed Dog and the self~mocking Poor Boy. “Don’t you worry,” he sings on Fruit Tree, “They’ll stand and stare when you’re gone.” In the liner notes to 1994’s Way To Blue compilation, Drake’s producer and mentor Joe Boyd commented that, “listening to his lyrics… he may have planned it all this way.” His point — that the best music will always invite conjecture and speculation about its authors — is well made. But at the same time, it should be added that the sadness in Nick Drake’s songs was frequently the corollary of an all~consuming joy. As often as not, both extremes are to be found within the same song: the autumnal languor of I Was Made To Love Magic; the life~affirming brush~strokes of Northern Sky (“I’ve never felt magic as crazy as this”). Records born exclusively of misery and catharsis can do little other than depress their listeners. Their candour may garner critical bouquets but they rarely return to the CD tray. Drake certainly suffered from depression — most notably in the latter two years of his life — but his music was not a function of that depression. Richard Thompson who played on Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later remembers a quiet character, though not a miserable one: “I remember long silences, but they were never oppressive. With Nick, you sensed [that] very little needed to be said that couldn’t be said with a guitar in his hand.” As Drake puts it on Hazey Jane II, “If songs were lines/In a conversation/The situation would be fine.”
∇ Thirty three years have now passed since Nick Drake’s death. Original pressings of his records change hands for around £200. Dedicated fanzines and websites continue to interpret and second~guess every note and utterance. The bucolic village of Tanworth~In~Arden, where Drake grew up, attracts a steady trickle of visitors — somehow seeking to climb further inside the music. And yet as his father Rodney recalled, “And I remember in one of his reports towards the end of the time at his first school, the headmaster… said at the end that none of us seemed to know him very well. And I think that was it. All the way through with Nick. People didn’t know him very much.” It’s impossible to keep count of the contemporary artists who cite Drake as an inspiration, but a cursory round~up includes R.E.M., Snow Patrol, Norah Jones, Radiohead, Brad Pitt, Sam Mendes, Paul Weller, Keane, Portishead, Belle And Sebastian, The Coral, Coldplay, Heath Ledger, David Gray, Super Furry Animals and Beth Orton. Along with household names of his creative lifetime — the Stones, The Beatles, Marley, Hendrix — his albums have become an unofficial set text for anyone passionate about music.
∇ In 2012, he has become so much more than the sum total of his work. The greater our fascination with him, the more we reveal about ourselves. In this sense, maybe Ian McDonald was right. Perhaps his music allows us to feel a little less like, as Drake put it, “a remnant of something that’s passed.”
∇ Early recordings made at home and abroad before the Island Records era, including Nick’s earliest songs, plus covers of typical 1960s standards and traditional songs. Released in 2007 on Island Records.
FIVE LEAVES LEFT
∇ Nick’s first studio album, recorded in London whilst still a student at Cambridge University, augmented and orchestrated by his colleague Robert Kirby. Released on Island Records in 1969, and produced by Joe Boyd.
∇ The second studio album, also produced by Joe Boyd; by 1970 Nick was stretching out with ambitious arrangements and famous guest musicians. Released on Island Records to an initially indifferent audience.
∇ Nick’s penultimate album, capturing the zeitgeist of 1972, a stripped bare 28 minute masterpiece, but, at the time, his worst selling album. Co~produced by Nick Drake and John Wood and released on Island Records.
MADE TO LOVE MAGIC
∇ A posthumous compilation made from tracks for the fifth album; out~takes from the earlier ones and rediscovered new material. Originally released as ‘Time Of No Reply’ but further augmented, re~mastered, re~packaged and re~issued in 2004 on Island Records.
NICK DRAKE — A TREASURY
∇ A collection of Nick’s most requested songs taken across his short career. Originally released as ‘Way To Blue’ but further augmented, re~mastered, re~packaged and re~issued in 2004 on Island Records