Five leaves left...the message Rizla use to let you know you have nearly run out...is the title Nick Drake used for his debut album. He was to only produce two more in his short tragic life, but in my opinion this is probably his best. The songs all have a haunted melancholic feel, but like an Edvard Munch painting this is turned into a thing of great beauty.
It is quite common for an artist's debut album to turn out to be their best. After all, they come to the starting blocks with a lifetime of their output to hand. As soon as they sign a contract they are on a 12 month treadmill to repeat the same feat.
These languid, autumnal, acoustic guitar-led tunes snake their way through the album, joined along the way by some achingly beautiful string arrangements, particularly on the magnificent River Man...which has to be his finest moment...closely followed by Fruit Tree.
Drakes voice had a tender yearning and infectious calm that belied his inner torment, and awareness of his suicide adds poignant hindsight to the lyrics.
Similarities have been drawn before to stablemate John Martyn. This is not surprising... Drake was joined on the album by the great Danny Thompson on double bass, Tristam Fry on drums...both of whom played on Martyn's albums.
It's consistently strong album the quality remains faultless right through...and although I recommend this as a first taster to Drake, chances are you'll end up buying the other two...and they are all great great albums.
Five leaves Left remains a towering achievement from a sadly missed British artist of immeasurable sensitivity. Timeless.