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4.0 out of 5 stars "...A Rare Find..." - Tuck Box by NICK DRAKE (2013 Island 5CD Box Set), 10 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Tuckbox [Limited Edition CD Box] (Audio CD)
There are two ways of looking at this 5CD release - for longtime NICK DRAKE fans it's a pain (buying what you already own) - but for newcomers or just the curious - "Tuck Box" is a treasure trove of beautiful music presented in a really rather lovely way. Released Monday 9 December 2013 on Universal/Island 0602537538546 - "Tuck Box" consists of 5CDs in repro card digipaks with 5 accompanying fold-out colour posters - the press-released full-page adverts for each album. The box sticker and rear details clearly state that this is previously released material.

The first 3 CDs are his officially released catalogue before his tragic loss in 1974. These CDs are NOT DIFFERENT to the 28 June 2000 CD remasters done by Simon Heyworth and John Wood (the album's original engineer). Disappointingly the altered album artwork on those reissues has also been copied here and the booklets are exactly the same too (filled with lyrics and some photographs). The sound quality on all three sets is exceptional - carefully remastered - and the music is magical - in fact listening to "Cello Song" even now reduces me to shivers. Here are the breakdowns...

Disc 1 "Five Leaves Left" (Debut Studio LP - 41:45 minutes):
1. Time Has Told Me
2. River Man
3. Three Hours
4. Way To Blue
5. Day Is done
6. `Cello Song [Side 2]
7. The Thoughts Of Mary Jane
8. Man In A Shed
9. Fruit Tree
10. Saturday Sun
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Five Leaves Left" - his debut vinyl album was released 1 November 1969 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9105 - reissued on remaster CD in June 2000

Disc 2 "Bryter Layter" (2nd studio album - 39:26 minutes):
1. Introduction
2. Hazey Jane II
3. At The Chime Of A City Clock
4. One Of These Things First
5. Hazey Jane I
6. Bryter Layter [Side 2]
7. Fly
8. Poor Boy
9. Northern Sky
10. Sunday
Tracks 1 to 2 are "Bryter Layter" - released 1 November 1970 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9134

Disc 3 "Pink Moon" (3rd and final studio album - 28:30 minutes):
1. Pink Moon
2. Place To Be
3. Road
4. Which Will
5. Horn
6. Things Behind The Sun [Side 2]
7. Know
8. Parasite
9. Free Ride
10. Harvest Breed
11. From The Moring
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 3rd and final album "Pink Moon" - released 25 February 1972 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9184

Disc 4 "Made To Love Magic" (Compilation - 41:52 minutes):
1. Rider On The Wheel
2. Magic
3. River Man
4. Joey
5. Thoughts Of Mary Jane
6. Mayfair
7. Hanging On A Star
8. Three Hours
9. Clothes Of sand
10. Voices
11. Time Of No Reply
12. Black Eyed Dog
13. Tow The Line
"Made To Love Magic" is a posthumous 13-track CD/LP compilation of unreleased outtakes and alternate versions (including 5 tracks from his never-finished 4th album). It was issued 24 March 2004 and features John Wood and Simon Heyworth Remasters/Remixes with additional help from Jeremy Gill.

Disc 5 "Family Tree" (64:34 minutes):
1. Come In To The Garden (Introduction)
2. They're Leaving Me Behind
3. Time Piece
4. Poor Mum (Performed by Molly Drake)
5. Winter Is Gone
6. All My Trials (Performed by Nick Drake and Gabrielle Drake)
7. Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio (Performed by The Family Trio)
8. Strolling Down The Highway
9. Paddling In Rushmere
10. Cocaine Blues
11. Blossom
12. Been Smoking Too Long
13. Black Mountain Blues
14. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
15. If You Leave Me
16. Here Come The Blues
17. Sketch 1
18. Blues Run The Game [Jackson C. Frank cover version]
19. Milk And Honey
20. Kimbie
21. Birdie Flew By
22. Rain
23. Strange Meeting II
24. Day Is Done
25. Come Into The Garden
26. Way To Blue
27. Do You Ever Remember? (Performed by Molly Drake)
Tracks 1 to 27 are "Family Tree" - another posthumous compilation on CD and LP released 9 July 2007 and featuring 27 tracks recorded between 1967 and 1969 (prior to his debut).

Each album is now in an oversized card digipak with a small booklet using the 2000 CD reissues artwork (shame they didn't revert to the original album looks) - the two posthumous compilations use their original art. The only discernible difference is that the "Five Leaves Left" CD label now sports an even more garish PINK label than its predecessor. The digipaks are all inset into the box in a hollow with Nick Drake's lyrics typed around the edges of on the box on the inside. There's no stand-alone booklet unfortunately - nor it would seem any new remasters - these are the JOHN WOOD versions carried out in 2000 for the three studio albums. The sound is glorious it has to be said - especially as much of the music is acoustic based with the double-bass acting as a rhythm section. There's clarity, warmth and presence - its all here.

The first album is astonishing - great tunes, cool trippy backing and those sad as a river string arrangements on stuff like "Fruit Tree" and "Way To Blue". The irrepressible "'Cello Song" gets me every time and Alexis Korner became the first person I know of who covered a Nick Drake song - the album finisher "Saturday Sun" - he did it on his "Alexis Korner" album from July 1971 on RAK Records.

The hiss levels increase a tad on "At The Chime Of A City Clock" and on the lovely instrumental "Bryter Layter" while "Northern Sky" still exudes romantic `magic' (and has been used in movies for just such a purpose). My favourite is the gorgeous "One Of These Things First" and the jazzy "Poor Boy" sounds like a male-fronted Fairground Attraction decades before their time.

The album that no one bought - the solo "Pink Moon" is probably every fan's crave - beautiful and ethereal like John Martyn's "Solid Air" which in itself would arrive a year later (February 1973) also on the mighty Island Records). Relistening to its stark and bare songs (just him and a guitar) - history would have us ask why Island never released "Pink Moon" or the lovely "Place To Be" as 7" singles - maybe capture the airwaves like Labi Siffre and Cat Stevens had?

The first compilation "Made To Love Magic" is a triumph - all the material receiving serious digital polishing from John Wood and Jeremy Gill. The orchestration they put on "Magic" is from his own notes - so we hear now the stunning song - as it would have been. The trio of - "Hanging On A Star", "Joey" and "Clothes Of Sand" are simply stunning (complete with playing mistakes) - an indication as to how good his songwriting had become ("something has taken you so far from me...")

Having said that - if you're new to Drake and his wonderful soft singer-songwriter beauty - then this is a lovely way to kindle a romance that will stay with you like Joni Mitchell lyrics work their way into your consciousness. But in a 'starry night' kind of way - you just can't help thinking that someone as beautiful as Nick Drake deserved just a little bit more effort than this... And the cool "Tow The Line" was his last recording. And as `interesting' as much of "Family Tree" is ("Winter is Gone" and "Blues Run The Game") - the huge hiss levels and poor quality of the recordings means that most of it is a curio at best.

So there you have it - 3 released albums of near perfection - one quality posthumous compilation and another after-the-fact set that I'd argue should have stayed in the can. But oh what a legacy his music is - I just wish it was ongoing - and not that horrible full stop in 1974...
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Dec 2013 13:34:00 GMT
A Customer says:
Mark, thanks again for yet another insightful review! I always read your reviews with pleasure and interest and mostly find them to be very helpful. I pre-ordered this set and cancelled it shortly before release, as I suspected it wouldn't contain anything new. I was hoping it would include the latest remasters (used for the recent vinyl re-releases), but if that would be the case, it would surely have been advertised.

You state that the remasters are identical to the 2000 remasters. I haven't heard those. I replaced my 1986 version of the "Fruit Tree" CD Box Set for the 2007 remastered version (I kept "Time Of No Reply" though). Do you perhaps know if there's any substantial difference in sound between the 2000 and 2007 remasters, and if so, which one sounds better?

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Dec 2013 13:51:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Dec 2013 05:14:41 GMT
Mark Barry says:
Hi Barbina

First - thanks for the compliments.

"Fruit Tree" was first issued as a 4LP box set as far back as 1986 - it was reissued onto CD in 1991 and has seen a few re-releases ever since. Although I don't own it - I'll bet that the 2007 reissue has again got the 2000 remasters. As far as I know - John Wood (the original engineer on the Island sessions) is the keeper of the flame on all things Drake - and he's done the remasters once (carefully) and that's it. I'll bet if you check the booklet - it doesn't actually say they were re-done in 2007? I could be wrong on this of course and am open to correction.

The thing about the "Tuck Box" is that it gives you everything - the 5CDs instead of the 4 from "Fruit Tree". I know the "Time Of No Reply" compilation LP that is in the "Fruit Tree" box (the 4th CD) is an almost perfect compliment to the 3 studio albums - another gem in itself. My beef with "Tuck Box" is that with a little more effort it could have actually celebrated the man's life - instead its ended up feeling ever so slightly exploitive by people who swore blind they'd never let this happen to him or his musical legacy ever again. If you already own the superb "Made To Love Magic" and "Family Tree" CD compilations and the 3 studio albums - then what's the point? £22 for five posters...

Let me know if that 2007 issue of "Fruit Tree" actually states dates and names in the booklet attributed to a '2007' remaster?

Take care...

Posted on 14 Dec 2013 18:11:35 GMT
thank you Mark for a proper appraisal of what is really on offer here -your reviews are extremely useful always

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 19:41:59 GMT
A Customer says:
Hi Mark,

Well, thanks for your quick reply! I think you're right on two things. First, my first CD-box (containing 4 CD's in an LP-sized box) dates from 1991, not from 1986. Second, although my 2007 CD-box contains quite a substantial booklet, indeed it nowhere states anything specific attributed to a new ('2007') remaster. So I guess it's 'just' a compilation of the separate 2000 remasters -- as apparently is Tuck Box. Although I must agree with you that there is nothing wrong with these remasters, as I found them to be huge improvements over the 1991 sound.

However, this confirms my suspicion that Tuck Box offers nothing of any value to me. I don't think that 'Made To Love Magic' adds much to 'Time Of No Reply' and as far as 'Family Tree' is concerned, I really don't think I will be listening a lot to nine year old Nick playing Mozart (although I love both Nick and Mozart, I find this a bit too trivial personally). Equally, I don't care about posters or an ugly oversized box that doesn't fit in my CD-rack (if I understand the second review correctly).

So... thanks again for clearing things up and keep up the good work!

Posted on 27 Dec 2013 13:41:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Dec 2013 13:44:53 GMT
Agnes Andrea says:
Just pointing out a few things for accuracy sake, about this bizarrely misleading (or maybe just hurried) review.

1) The meaning of the "Tuck box" is indeed mentioned on the box (back of the box, bottom lines);

2) If you already own all the CDs, you can purchase just the box & posters directly from Nick Drake's official site (they come for 10 quids). Again, this option is clearly stated on the outer box and on the official site;

3) "Some words written inexplicably around the edges" of the box, that you've got "no idea what any of it stands for or means" - actually turn out to be (fancy that!) Nick Drake's lyrics (Saturday Sun... Fruit tree... Northern Sky... OMG are you acquainted with his songs AT ALL?)

4) The CDs are not packaged in "digipaks" (yes, THAT would be hideous all right!), term which designates a completely different support, but in cardboard gatefold sleeves, sometimes referred to as "mintpacks";

5) If you have checked on Amazon, you must have noticed there's no way you can purchase the 5 CDs for less than £.12 - unless of course you buy them used, or you buy the not remastered versions pre-2000;

6) The "fantastic presentation" given to Sandy Denny's box had some serious, major flaws; for instance, the geniuses who compiled it couldn't be bothered to include some essential information such as recording credits (producers, engineers, recording studios) for any of the albums; the original artwork was not included - except for a tiny tiny picture of the front covers; (and let's not mention they chose to leave out, from the Fairport Convention records, the tracks in which Denny didn't sing, so you've been forking out for incomplete FC records).

On the contrary, Nick's Drake booklets manage to maintain all the original artwork and recording information.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2013 16:00:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Dec 2013 19:54:49 GMT
Mark Barry says:
Hi Agnes

Just to clear some points up. I didn't say 12p - I said £12 (which is accurate - and that includes three at 1p secondhand). As for the items being card sleeves as opposed to digipaks is merely a phrase - but you have me on that stupendous mistake. I really should chop my arm for that.

But I'll grant you this - the 'back' of the box does say that the posters are available on the website for a sum of money - so I'll add to the review. But that's the back of the box - which is not visible to Amazon customers. Nor is there any statement in the description provided by Universal to Amazon about this. They are not what's for sale here - nor are they available as a separate entry.

But the real point is this - what's the point? Where is the respect to Nick Drake in this crappy looking box that resells what fans already have? As for the booklets - they're precisely the same as the old CDs - so what's new there!

Anyway I will alter the review to reflect the posters point.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2013 10:49:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Dec 2013 17:36:54 GMT
Agnes Andrea says:
You're asking what's the point - here's what the point's about -
first, this release is not crappy at all. Second, any release which keeps Drake's legacy alive and well and helps spread the word is welcome. Third, you can choose to buy the full set, if you only own one or two of his records (or if you want to make a nice present), and £25 for the 5 records is rather good value for money (as I said, and I confirm, there's no way you can find the five records for £12 unless you buy them used or the not-remastered version) (And I expect in a couple of years this item will sell on eBay for at least five times its current price). Or you can choose to buy just the posters and box for £10. And I'm pretty sure the "Don't buy either" option is still available, so what's all this niggling about?
As for me, I didn't own the two posthumous records so I bought this set and I'm just happy I did.
Those two records are extremely interesting and rewarding, "Family Tree" included which despite its "home recording" nature has some stunning Far Leys and Aix-en-Provence intimate performances, prescient of things to come, and a beautiful booklet with moving memoirs of sister Gabrielle and fellow songstress Robin Frederick from the Aix days. So, really nothing crappy here. I also like having his records in these simple and elegant gatefold sleeves rather than the jewel cases version I already owned.
Thanks for answering anyway.

PS: if you do alter your review, please make sure you remove the "some words written inexplicably around the edges... no idea what any of it stands for or means" part.
It really hurts.
If you review an artist you should at least be acquainted with his work.

Posted on 21 Jan 2014 15:02:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jan 2014 15:02:56 GMT
As an extra bonus, you've room to jam in your Molly Drake CD as well...

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2014 15:53:33 BDT
Yeah, that was actually a decent release. Why the estate keeps putting out Nick Drake box sets I can't imagine. Why not release Nick playing at the BBC, or the tapes of him live at Aix

This is a pointless release. I don't know who this was released for. The 2007 Fruit Tree had a very nice book with it, as well as a nice dvd (only the 3 albums though). I would plunk for the earlier Fruit Tree release (on Rykodisc) that had a book and the excellent Time of No Reply release, which also had great liners/lyrics

The Molly Drake release was excellent. More of her Cally!

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Feb 2015 17:52:53 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 9 Feb 2015 17:55:10 GMT]
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