94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2000
Having sampled Nick Drake's genius on "Way to Blue - An introduction to Nick Drake", I went out and bought all three of his main albums. They are all worthy of five stars, but while the stark "Pink Moon" perhaps has a couple of weak links and "Bryter Later" relies on some instrumental passages, I would say that "Five Leaves Left" stands as the ultimate monument to Nick Drake's brilliance.
It contains arguably his greatest songs, the lilting, yearning "River Man" and the harrowing, prophetic "Fruit Tree". There is playfulness too in "The Thoughts of Mary Jane" and "Man in a Shed" but all tinged with his trademark "wistfulness" Other classics are "Day is Done", "Saturday Sun" and the beautiful "Cello Song", which shows off his almost inimitable guitar technique. The whole album boasts an incredible range of interesting rhythms and melodies. If you liked Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" you'll certainly like this
Drake on this record was whimsical yet poignant, hopeful yet hurt. He sang in a whisper that spoke a whole encyclopaedia of volumes. He was one of this country's greatest songwriters and a great musician too. A lot of stuff I used to like now sounds clumsy after listening to this.
Phew! But that's enough. Don't take my word for it. Buy this - and the other two albums too.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2007
I resisted the pressure to buy a Nick Drake album for many years believing that his cult status was more the result of heavy promotion than unusual talent.
Curiosity finally overcame me, although I still waited for an album to be on special offer...
Listening for the first time I was fully prepared to be singularly undewhelmed. However, from the first beautiful acoustic note I was entirely captivated.
Few people, including myself, have the literary skills to do justice to this incredible album so you will simply have to experience the delight for yourself.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2007
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.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2000
Nick Drake was incredible; everyone who's heard him play will agree. "Five leaves left" was his first album, and was promptly ignored by critics and consumers alike upon its release; only relatively recently has his talent started to be properly realised. This is definitely English folk music, but equally has definite jazz, blues and occasionally classical nuances; given that Nick was a public-school boy, it's perhaps not so surprising that his deep, resonant voice has more than a little of an upper-class English accent.
Most of the songs on the album are accompanied by Nick on acoustic guitar, and many of them have string arrangements by his friend Robert Kirby. Nick's guitar playing has attracted attention from just about everyone; it was rare for him to write any song in a conventional tuning, and the work he put into retuning the instrument is apparent from the big, open sounding, slightly jazzy voicings you can hear throughout the album (Incidentally, I hate to be picky, but another reviewer says that he played 12-string guitar; he only ever recorded with one guitar, a Guild M20 six string acoustic).
I suppose the best way to describe the tone of the album would be to use the word "wistful"- there's no out-and-out depression here (as can certainly be heard in some of his later recordings), but sadness permeates all the recordings at some level. It's a hopelessly romantic, dreamy, incredibly beautiful album; anyone with a soul cannot help but fall in love with it.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2013
This is in reference to the 2013 Deluxe boxset.
The album needs no introduction, it's a 5-star job.
This deluxe boxset though, is a shame and a missed opportunity.
* The labels are way off the mark (wrong colour, wrong logo positioning, missing track details), so not as advertised
* Audible ticks on the pressing, especially Time has Told Me
* Box is not clamshell type as advertised
* Images on covers are low quality, slightly out of focus
* The vinyl is from a digital source (as explained by John Wood), but the box notes say it is the analogue original
Just a shame really, as the kind of people who are buying this boxset are the kind of people who care about cherished details.
Perfect album, less-than-perfectly presented.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2008
I bought this album after a chance encounter with 'Cello Song' in 2004. Although the song was good enough to make me go out and buy the CD, it is the least of what I discovered on this musical masterpiece. My first impression was that vocally Nick sounded a lot like early seventies Colin Blunstone, but after I listened to the album a couple of times it became apparent that neither Nick's vocal style or his music owed anything to anybody, and it is this that makes the music so timeless; it just doesn't sound like anything else. It is hard to believe that this incredible album was made in 1969 when Nick was barely 21. If it must be pigeon-holed, the music is English style folk from the period, which in this case is essentially acoustic based ballads, heavily scored, if you can call these songs simply ballads; though slow and beautiful they may be, the songs are filled with the lost chord of another existence.
This was his debut, yet it presents an artist at the height of his powers. Words like enchanting or mesmerizing only partly suffice. When I listen to 'River Man', the world slows down and I experience a peace that is not of this world or time. When I first heard 'Way to Blue', my favorite Robert Kirby score, I was filled with a sense of disbelief that thirty years after Nick's death in 1974, I had discovered such a rare musical treasure; in that moment I wanted to share the secret with the world. I also knew I was listening to music that time could not corrupt or leave a sticky label upon. The album is full of great songs that have grown in my estimation the more I have listened. In the early days I thought 'Saturday Sun' was a filler track, but it's now one of my favorites. I regarded the hypnotic 'Fruit Tree' as morose even by the standards of the rest of the album, but unbelievably it was written when he was in his late teens, and given that it is so sadly prophetic, it is hard now not to regard it as something special. Where had this music been all my life? I thought I'd heard everything that needed to be heard, but I was wrong, I hadn't heard Nick Drake.
I have since acquired Nick's other two studio albums, 'Bryter Layter' and 'Pink Moon', and all of his compilation albums like the excellent 'Treasury', 'Made To Love Magic', and the very different 'Family Tree'. although they are all great in one way or another, it must be said that Five Leaves Left is the best album he made, or anyone else has made come to that. Like many before me who have fallen under his spell, I have read a great deal about Nick's life and enigma, and I sort of wish he was just starting out, because nowadays great music can reach a mainstream audience without any need to promote it with gigs or tours, which by all accounts was something he couldn't face. Perhaps the success he deserved - and in his own way craved - during his lifetime, would have overcome the depression that stole him from us. He left so little, but what is left is as precious as anything I have known.
I believe that even now his music would become massively popular on the back of a modern advertising campaign, which would be great because the mainstream consumers who worship some of the multi-platinum rock legends Nick inspired, should be made aware of this guy. Why should Nick Drake remain a relative secret known only to those who look beneath the surface? Some might say postumous mainstream success now would somehow dispel the myth or debunk the enigma. For me Nick's spell was his music, which is far more important than myths or enigmas, but no matter how many people discover him he's never coming back, so the mystery value, for what it is worth, would simply grow. It is well known that he was a complex character, with this level of genius it often goes with the territory, but it isn't hard to understand why depression would ultimately consume him. Nick was quite simply the greatest artist never to have enjoyed success in life. He was a musical genius above so many artists who have known huge critical and commercial success, so I would defy anyone not to be crushed by the failure of three such brilliant, ground breaking albums. The failure of this album alone would have finished me for sure.
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2006
For anyone who hasn't listened to Nick Drake's music before, this is probably the best place to start. Listen to this and I guarantee that you will buy 'Pink Moon' and 'Bryter Later' within weeks - if you do you won't be disappointed. Both in their own way are as good as this and that's saying something! 'Five Leaves Left' is simply a masterpiece. There isn't a bad or even a mediocre track on this album. Every single note is imbued with a beauty that few artists ever attain, yet this was Drake's debut! From the wonderful opener "Time Has Told Me" to the bluesy "Saturday Sun" the album maintains excellent quality. All Drake's guitar playing and singing is fantastic but what really makes this album one of the greatest albums ever made are the collection of melancholic string-laden songs that make up the meat of the album. "Way To Blue", "Day Is Done" and "Cello Song" are masterpieces, simply stunning. Listen to them and be beguiled. Once you've heard these tracks you will forever compare them to anything you listen to and mostly find everything else wanting. Yet THE standout track on the album rises above even this. "Fruit Tree" just has to be one of the saddest songs ever recorded especially in view of what eventually became of Nick Drake - utterly prescient. 'Five Leaves Left' is truly one of the best albums I've ever heard. If you haven't heard it yet, get it. It'll be the best thing you ever do! Couldn't be anything but 10/10
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2003
It is difficult when listening to this album to believe that Nick Drake was only 19 years old when he wrote such deep songs such as fruit tree. The album is truly special much more up beat than his final album Pink Moon although still extremely profound which probably reflects his life. My only criticism (for want of a better word) is that in some instances I believe the songs could be even more powerful with less instruments although this is probably because I started my Nick Drake collection with Pink Moon and prefer the tracks where it is just Nick and his guitar however on songs like Way to blue the violins are perfectly used. The album really is something special and any true music fan who listens to this album could not disagree and in my view this album is where you should start your nick drake collection not because in my opinion it his best but because it sets the standard and tone.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2006
This, Nick Drake's first album, is one of the most beautiful CDs that I have ever heard - the autumnal lyrics of endings and gentle sorrow, the astounding and brilliant technical accuracy of his guitar work and the sweeping sadness of the strings combine to create an absolute delight from beginning to end.
I cannot overstate how good this CD is - there is genuinely not a single dud track - they're all strong, they're all well stuctured lyrically, played with finesse and sung in Drake's gentle slightly upper-class voice that insinuates itself gently between the guitar and strings.
Listen to this while looking out the window at the sunset, possibly in mid-October. You will cry.
Best Track: All of them. Ok - if I had to pick one, it would be 'Day is Done'. And 'Three Hours' and...
It is such a tragedy that we only have three CDs of such a great talent. Keep the memory alive.
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2005
My introduction to Nick Drake was around the early 90s through a friend who had been introduced to him by his father - a guitarist. It's strange how Nick Drake's music often spreads like that. I so adore this album, it has one of my favourite tracks of all time "River Man" on it but I also love his other two albums as well. I've re-written what I wanted to say about Five Leaves Left and Nick Drake so many times, but I can't review / explain him. You simply have to take the plunge and experience Nick. I would say one word though - Genius - a much paraded word and I hate using it, but Nick was a very great and rare natural ability. He produced music with a deceptively simple sound but constructed with much complexity in composition, playing and emotion. Nick Drake's music can bring a tear to my eye, and no-one else's music does that. Just buy his three albums, after buying one you will probably buy them all eventually anyway, and it it'll be your life's best purchase. Like me you'll fall in love with his gentle musical genius, and everyone you play the albums to will do too.