21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2004
When I heard that there was to be a 'new' collection of Nick Drake songs, I was quite surprised. Having heard the three studio albums that were released during his life time, the previous out takes collection 'Time of No Reply' and the bootlegs of home recordings such as Tamworth in Arden, I wondered what else there could be to hear. The rediscovered song 'Tow the Line' is the obvious attraction to the die hard fans to whom this collection would appeal to the most. There are some other surprises to be had. The newly orchestrated songs by Drakes ex Cambridge University friend Robert Kirby are worthy additions to the cannon, along with alternative versions of songs such as 'Three Hours' and thoughts of 'Mary Jane'.
Like many compilations of this nature though, there are songs which would have been better left in the can. Nick Drake had a very high degree of quality control but Mayfair is a terrible song by anyone's standards. I have also found it difficult to work out the differences between the versions of 'Black Eyed Dog' on this and the one contained on 'Time of No Reply'. Unlike other compilations of this nature, there seems to have been a good deal of care having gone into this release. The quality of the majority of the songs contained within it does help. Similar albums of unreleased material by people such as The Beatles, Prince and Jimi Hendrix have all suffered from tinkering, lack of good material and a feeling of trying to cash in. As far as I am concerned, none of these apply to this release.
The single of 'I was made to love magic' reaching the top 40 in the charts shows that the fan base for Nick Drake is strong and no doubt growing year on year. For those who have heard about Nick Drake and are looking to start your collection, I would recommend the collection of songs called 'Way to Blue - an Introduction to Nick Drake' as a starting point. For those who have everything else, this is a excellent addition to the collection. Now all we need is the home recordings to receive the attention they are due and then the Nick Drake recording legacy will be complete.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Indispensible really for anyone who owns the trilogy of Drake albums released in his lifetime. Features some great tracks that presumably Nick would have been happy to release - Rider on the Wheel (one slight vocal fluff), Time of No Reply, Black Eyed Dog, Magic and his final recording Tow the Line - the only one not available before in some form. They feature his great guitar playing, distinctive voice and enigmatic poetic lyrics and on the whimsical Magic , the gorgeous but, perhaps, excessive orchestration, more subtly done on Way to Blue. Black Eyed Dog is extremely moving in the context, the darkest of blues. Other tracks are weaker songs eg Joey, Mayfair or the painfully strained Hanging on a Star, or alternative versions - Three Hours, Thoughts of Mary Jane and River Man, all interesting takes. Understandably not a cohesive or homogenous album but good clean (remixed?) versions. Let's just be grateful for that.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2004
As any fan of Nick Drake will tell you, the word 'average' was not in his vocabulary. This isn't strictly true - he may have been flawless 99.9% of the time but let's face it, we could all live without "Man in a Shed" and "Mayfair" - but whereas most 'rarities' compilations are usually cobbled together moments of over indulgence that were previously unreleased for a very good reason (ie. Syd Barrett's "Opal"), there was little doubt among the Drake hardcore that this was going to be an absolutely essential collection and fortunately for us all, it is.
The one never-before-heard song "Tow the Line" is the main attraction here but after a few listens, it's some of the unreleased performances of songs that we know and love that excite me the most. The live version of "Three Hours" with it's 'free jam' feel and superb flute part, the early solo version of "River Man" and the alternate takes from the final session are the real highlights here, all of them totally amazing.
My only concern is the tracks that have been revisited. I personally feel that you should only return to 30+ year old master tapes for the purpose of remastering and I'm generally against giving such classic material as this the 'Pro Tools treatment'. That said, at least it's been handled by Robert Kirby and John Wood (Nick's arranger and engineer respectively) who have done a sympathetic/faithful job that doesn't scream cash-in but personally, I prefer the original versions.
So, a job well done by Island but one that won't appease the serious fans for long - this needs to be followed up by the long overdue remastered box set that will hopefully contain the first official release of the Tanworth-in-Arden/Time Has Told Me bootleg material. Until then though, this will do nicely.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2004
Nick Drake, besides Bob Dylan and Nirvana (before I go on, I'd like to reassure you that I'm not going to mention Nirvana and Kurt Cobain again in this article. NME's review of this album compares Nick to Kurt less than favourably, stating that his albums would never have gained popularity if he hadn't died - I assume that writer never listened to Nick Drake, and shares the usual masturbatory glee most NME writers have when writing about Nirvana) is perhaps the most name-dropped act by fellow musicians. Yet until very recently he was practically unheard of by the public. I'm not quite sure of the reason for this - Joe Boyd said in a program recently broadcast on BBC Radio 2 that of all the people he had lent one of Drake's CDs to, one or two had come back to him saying it was "okay". The rest, he said, had gone out and bought all of Nick's material shortly after hearing one of his album.
With only three "real" albums, then, you would think they would have sold brilliantly, but alas most people never get to hearing a single Nick Drake CD. Even the diehard fans have a lack of extra material without having to resort to crackling bootlegs - the posthumous "Time of No Reply" being the only other official release.
"Made to Love Magic" uses six tracks from Time of No Reply as is, with only remastering to improve them. This is unfortunate, as "Magic" is short at only 13 tracks (most less than three minutes long), and could have been improved with other rarities. But what of the "new" songs? Two ("River Man" and "Mayfair") are taken from a tape recorded by Drake's arranger, Robert Kirby in Cambridge, and from those, "Mayfair" really stands out. Worse recording quality than the "Time of No Reply" version, yes, but a much more exuberant and joyful version. Another two tracks are also taken from Time Of No Reply, but have been given the original orchestration intended for them. Of these, "Time of No Reply" is the best, and probably the standout track on this album; made lush and truly joyful by the new arrangement.
There is also an alternative version of "Three Hours" with respected percussionist Kwaahkuh Baah and an unknown flautist and a new version of "Hanging on a Star", which I feel has a better guitar track than the original but a rather thin vocal.
That leaves us with the brand new song, found on the tape of the final session. Entitled "Tow the Line", it is a quiet but propulsive track with a droning bass string giving a backbone to the music. It is beautiful, evoking "At the Chime of a City Clock" from "Bryter Layter" and is a fitting addition to the officially recognised canon of this British musical genius.
In summary then, if you've heard Nick Drake then you'll have bought this anyway, if not it's probably best to start with "Five Leaves Left", but if this catches your eye, definitely buy it - even a newcomer will be blown away by the raw beauty present on "Made to Love Magic".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2006
This Cd holds the last official track to be released by the Nick Drake Back catalogue, "Tow the Line" which is well worth the price on its own though, it does shown Nick at his most Cynical, and there is an edge of desperation in the song(not that there's anything wrong with that kind of songwriting).
There are many more wonders to behold, like the Many alternate takes,"Rider on the wheel"( the guitaring is so diffrent) sticks out, as does the complete version of "Mayfair" the only other version of it Nick forgets the words half way thru. this CD also contains the "other" Take of "Made to Love Magic" apparently the version on this album is the version that Nick wanted to be released, where as the version on the CD "Time of no reply" is the version he was unhappy with releasing both are diffrent only in the String arrangments, I personally prefer the version on time of No reply, i supose it could come down to which version you hear first. at any rate this album comes highly recommended, there are a couple of rehashed tunes on there, but mainly, diffrent arrangements of studio quality music, is the order of the Day.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2011
There has been many examples of posthumous releases of artists, which really didn't have any bearing and in worst cases brought discredit to the artist work. With this release of Nick Drake one can with relief note that here we're dealing with people and producers with enough respect for the artist to avoid that trap - thanks for that.
There of course a couple of tracks which isn't completely up to par, but all in all this is good material, so good that a majority of these selected songs could have been released back then.
I do only have only little critical remark: On the song "Time for no Reply", which is absolutely a real gem - the string arrangement (a super nice arrangement indeed) is very strangely mixed... the stereo perspective is awkward... Nick Drake's vocal and guitar is placed in the left side and string arr. mainly in the right side, this unfortunately tends to drown Nick's voice & guitar :o( - Voice & guitar should have been the main focus in the center - BACKED by the beautiful string arrangement, more placed in the background - then it would have been perfect.
Otherwise this is a highly recommendable release.
PS: You can also get the song "Time for no Reply" without the string arrangement on the self-entitled CD.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2004
AS you would expect, this is a towering achievement and a welcome addition to the Nick Drake canon.
The selling point of this album is the new track 'Tow the Line.' An instrumental version of this track has already been released as the untitled track 10 on the unofficial 'Second Grace' album. It is great that this has now been identified properly.
As to the new version of 'I was Made to Love Magic' (Here titled simply 'Magic'), I think it is a big improvement over the rather awkward version with Richard Hewson's orchestral accompaniment that appeared on 'Time of No Reply'. It may anger Nick Drake purists, but it was Nick himself who gave Hewson the push in favour of his Cambridge friend Robert Kirby, who provided all subsequent arrangements (including the new one found here).
The sound quality has also improved dramatically over the 'Time of No Reply' compilation and the bootleg versions. Let's hope that the cult of Nick Drake will welcome many new initiates as a result of this release.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2004
As a new listener to the music of Nick Drake, i was not sure what to expect from yet another artist listed as "great" and "legendary" after a tragic end to life.
Like any sane person i started from the end, buying this, his latest release, as my cautious introduction. I have to say however that i was completely bowled over on first listenings, it is so refreshing to find an album's worth of material that seems so honest and touching. The backing tracks for most of his vocals are either accoustic guitar, or an ochestral score, and these both complement his lyrics and unique style of singing incredibly well.
If you are interested in my opinion, the tracks "Joey" "River Man" and "Tow the line" are three of the best on this album, but in all honesty, i really enjoyed them all and hope you do to.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2004
I must say that when I heard about the gathering of these recordings, I imagined it the work of vultures squeezing a few more pounds and dollars, out of material that might have been rejected earlier for good reasons.
I'm so glad to say that I was absolutely wrong!
Indeed, this album is comprised from outtakes, demos and alternate versions from his output -unfortunately limited by his suicide- yet the result is not the shameless hawking of sub par stuff. Quite in the contrary, it is more nectar from one of the most influential Folk singer-songwriters who ever lived.
Nick Drake's spirit is back in 13 gorgeous tunes -including even a new song, Tow The Line- reminding us of his keen talent for introspective moods, and tender melodies that could create an intimate moment even in a busy NYC subway trains.
After all, although Drake died so lamentably young at 26, he managed to influence several generations of young men and women who went on, in their own right to be distinct folk voices themselves. From Elliott Smith to Devendra Banhart, Damien Rice or Joanna Newsom, the sad and thoughtful touch of Nick Drake's universe has bore its influence.
I can only think of Tim Buckley, his graceful and doomed contemporary in the States as having etched a similar deep course in the new Folk scene.
If you haven't heard Drake before, this may not be the place to start -although I don't know how it could hurt- since those three albums, which he released while still alive, might offer you a better sense of what he was after and a beautiful example of the integrity and development of each of those song-cycles.
Gathered finally thirty years after his death, the songs included here, as different as they may be to the Drake-refined ear, still represent a stronger set than most contemporary Folk offerings.
Sadness well expressed, with the poetic depth found here, could never cease to speak to any age. Sadness turns beauty, when you are as talented as Nick Drake.
Enter this album expecting to be awed by its quiet marvel, and let your heart be educated by his timeless spirit.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2009
On the whole, this disc doesn't live up to the great music released by Nick Drake in his lifetime and it doesn't cast much light on the way he worked and developed his talent and individual songs. It contains mainly alternative takes that were aborted for obvious reasons plus one hitherto undiscovered song, which is rather weak and badly performed (the poor chap was clearly cracking up at this point and his voice is practically gone). One track, the otherwise outstanding "Time of no Reply", is wrecked by an overwrought orchestral arrangement dubbed on to the only known recording of the song, a BBC session which is available elsewhere in its original form, thank God. However, the alternative arrangement and performance of "Three Hours" is nothing short of astonishing, and there are a few other bright moments such as "Thoughts of Mary Jane", featuring Richard Thomson on guitar, and "Magic", also overdubbed with an orchestral arrangement by Robert Kirby, but this time it really works. Some of this material has has been out before (according to the sleeve notes this current disc features sonically improved version - but then they would say that, wouldn't they). Still, even during the weakest moment on this all too typical "flogging a dead horse" disc the genius of Nick Drake still shines though, which is why, all in all, I grant it three stars.