33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Also my introduction to the joys of Nick Drake...,
This review is from: Way To Blue - An Introduction (Audio CD)
Nick Drake was and is one of those cult artists you hear about- see Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Mackenzie, Nico, Gene Clark- they all died of alcoholism or depression or drugs or in accidents or in suicide and so on. The dead cult singer tag- one that helps people classify and recognise certain artists from a posthumous vantage point, but of little use to the actual artist...& I loathe the idea that the allure of youthful death, or self-immolation holds some attraction towards artists like Nick Drake- but it probably does. The first things I heard about Drake were John Martyn's Solid Air and Dream Academy's Life in a Northern Town. A name to drop and an atypical example of a singer who sold very few records in his own, short lifetime- but who has gone on to find an audience, who recognise the beauty and sadness and everything else. A kind of music beyond time, or just out of time- forever apart from our universe- perhaps that's why it stands out & arrests people so when they hear it?
Way To Blue was a brilliant compilation from 1994, here in remastered form- a brief survey of the three-albums proper on Island (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, Pink Moon) & the outtakes album on Hannibal Records (Time of No Reply). I say this now, if you have the money- just get all the albums, or better yet, the Fruit Tree Boxed Set. When you listen to this, you'll want to (even the muddy recorded bootleg album I've heard is great...).
But Way to Blue compilation was my way to Drake, & it remains a brilliant budget priced primer into his back catalogue: great photographs throughout the booklet (he looks like he could have been in Ride or Supergrass in several pics!), a nice introduction by producer Joe Boyd & lyrics/credits: nice attention to detail, which you don't always get on compilations. These 16 tracks (two from Time of No Reply; five from Five Leaves Left; Five from Bryter Later & four from Pink Moon)are simply perfect- it's a collection of music just over an hour in length. One you could simply put on and KNOW...
Of course, I love every song here- Drake's voice and guitarplaying is hypnotic and compelling- & there are a number of guest players who add to the sound (Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg, PP Arnold, Richard Thompson & John Cale etc. Then there is producer Boyd, and arrangers such as Harry Robinson and Robert Kirby- the latter provides a stunning soundscape for Drake's vocal on Way to Blue...
Drake is not alone, one of those arresting singers- records like Over (Peter Hammill), Solid Air (John Martyn), the Sandy Denny compilation from the same series, Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) & Dream Letter (Tim Buckley) operate in similar climes. His influence can be found in many acts- Bonnie Prince Billy (I See a Darkness), Mark Lanegan (Field Songs), Gemma Hayes (Night On My Side), Mark Eitzel (Songs of Love, which features the AMC-song Western Sky- an American take on Drake's own Northern Sky) & the undervalued Sunhouse (Crazy on the Weekend- though track Crazy is most close to Drake & fitted well alongside him on the soundtrack to 24:7).
Sure, it's that doomed melancholic youth thing- but to discount that would also lead to a world without Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Leaving Las Vegas (novel), Rimbaud, Plath...and so on. The lyrics sound pure and timeless, now Nick Drake is out of time. Hard to pick out songs- they're all wonderful- the ones that stand out are the fragile Black Eyed Dog, the gorgeous Northern Sky, the orchestral lull of River Man, the ironic-soul inflected Poor Boy, the pure Time of No Reply & the otherworldly Things Behind the Sun ("It happened before"). The tracks from Bryter Later verge on pop, whereas Pink Moon is extremely minimal and Five Leaves more orchestral...Drake's sound is explored wonderfully here...
Way To Blue is a sublime record, and it's so strange that his songs turn up in strange sixties timewarp shows Heartbeat/The Royal...still, even banal entertainment can make people go "Who's that?". He was Nick Drake.
"They'll all know/That you were here when you're gone" (Fruit Tree)