on 30 January 2004
Its not often you find an album that works perfectly from beginning to end as a complete body. Hearing this for the first time, i was so very concious of the outright 'sensitivity' of the music lyrics & voice- I found it thouroughly engaging. Upon the 2nd & 3rd listen i was gobsmacked at just how beautiful these arrangements were & just how ridiculously talented this person was. Technically-the musicianship is outstanding, acoustic guitars, flute, piano, strings etc.. There is a fairly big orchestration compared to his other 2 albums, the difference being that all of these tracks stand up in their own right. Its an original sound - sort of folky & jazzy at the same time. They set a romantic - reflective mood that is somehow tinged with the slightest bit of sadness- but is ultimately totally uplifting!
Its hard to comprehend someone so young being so developed in his art, 20 - 21 i believe- really! - to be able to articulate his vision & express himself in such a way so as it can be universally experienced; this is what sets him apart from so many.
I cant say that there is a stand out track in particular, with catchy hooks that reel you in- this music doesnt work that way- all i know is that i dont mess around with the 'skip' button at all- but by no means is this just 'background fodder'. The lyrics are beautiful & reflective without being trite or cliched, & reveal a sense of vulnerability & a sense of wonder of himself & the world around him. Its powerful in its understatedness, beautiful & heartfelt. Some may prefer PMoon- a much more sombre minimal affair, withjust Nicks breathy vocals & acoustic guitar- some with a Robert Johnson bluesy feel. Five Leaves has some outstanding tracks but fails to be as consistent as BLayter- my favourite.
If you want a gentle uplifting album to make you reflect the hours away, i cant reccomend this enough. An album i know ill always connect with & for that .. well... its priceless!
The cinematic instrumental, Introduction, opens this treasure trove of an album, and is followed by Hazey Jane II, a lilting dreamy pop number. At The Chime Of A City Clock has its jazzy moments with lovely sax, while One Of These Things First, with its lively piano, is the closest Drake comes to happiness. The wistful and spacious Hazey Jane I is followed by the title track, an elegant breezy instrumental, and the sublime Fly. This version, with its fuller instrumentation, is my top favorite Nick Drake song, displaying the man at his best in its exquisite spirituality. Poor Boy is a jazzy/R&B song with soulful backing vocals, while John Cale's celeste, piano and organ contributions on Northern Sky make this track a classic. Like two of his collaborators, Richard Thompson and Cale, Nick had his own poetic voice from the beginning, and his legacy is being rediscovered by a new generation of musicians. This album is the perfect entry point to investigate Drake's magic. So many styles, but so coherent. Bryter Layter's variety, sympathetic production and breathtakingly beautiful songs make it my favorite by this gifted artist.
on 13 May 2005
I have owned this record for over 30 years and still rate it as one of the most satisfying pieces ever made by anyone, JS Bach included! Northern Sky is achingly beautiful but I can't pick out just one track.
Every time I listen, it is with a sense of occasion. If you don't own it you have a huge, gaping omission in your musical life. No recommendation is too high.
on 3 January 2000
`Bryter Layter` is the second of Nick Drake's three studio albums and on the face of it seems like his least substantial. 1969's `Five Leaves Left` has more classic tracks while 1972's `Pink Moon` best showcases Nick's melonacholic depression which, rightly or wrongly, is what attracts many people to his legacy as we enter the new Millenium. But careful listening reveals `Bryter Layter` to be a more varied and more complete album than the other two. `Five Leaves ...` is more a collection of ten songs than a complete album while `Pink Moon`, for all its brilliance, is rather limited in theme. `Bryter Layter` is also his most likeable record. The instrumental `Introduction` leads us into the jazzy warmth of Hazey Jane II`. It is by far the most positive track on the album and it is interesting that, when sequencing the album, he chose to follow it with its bleakest track, `At The Chime Of A City Clock`, Nick's tale of dropping out of Cambridge to become a musician. This song contains the morbid but haunting line, `The sunny boy/ With smokes for sale/ Went to ground with a face so pale`. However the mood soon lifts with two of Nick's finest melodies, `One Of These Things First` (also one of his best lyrics) and `Hazey Jane I`. After the instrumental title track we have the shortest vocal track on the album, `Fly`, a stunningly simple boy meeting girl song which is in my opinion shamefully neglected by those compling Nick's epitaph. `Poor Boy`, by contrast is something of an acquired taste. A biting story of a moaning, sorry for himself, street urchin - the `poor boy` of the title. At six and a half minutes it is rather too long and if I had to lose one track from the album it would be this one. It's not bad, it's just not my favourite and I find the backing vocals slightly grating. There are two more tracks on the album but the final instrumental `Sunday` feels something of an anticlimax after the gorgeous, soaring `Northern Sky`, `Bryter Layter`'s most widely acknowledged masterpiece. Put simply, it is one of the greatest love songs ever written. To summarise, `Bryter Layter` is one of the most loved records in my large collection. And if you have put up with my ramblings so far, let me leave you with four final words on `Bryter Layter`. Buy it, buy it.
on 8 September 2000
This is Nick Drake's most balanced, beautifully played and sung and thus,best work. Whilst'Five Leaves' has some great stuff (and is highly recommended) I feel that as a whole it is quite cloyingly meloncholic.On the other hand I feel this album is very diverse, and is therefore never depressing. 'Pink Moon' could have been his masterpiece but the songs are still rough diamonds, like sketches rather then the finished article. It is also-lets be honest-very very bleak. 'Bryter Layter' is book-ended by instrumentals that give this an album an extra sheen. The album can be viewed as one piece rather then 10 songs. Nick's singing is at it's most alluring, his voice floating rather then forced. I particulary like the vocals on 'One of these things First'; soothing to suit the music. The playing is awesome and the combination of the said voice and the orchestra is a marriage made in heaven. I just feel that everything is beautifully understated. Imagine the album to be like a Seurat, the dots merging into an unforgettable image. A bit of flute here, a piano there. And what image does this album convey? This is why the albums a classic; everyone has their own opinion on why the album is so powerful. I listened to this album before I knew anything about Nick Drakes'tragic life; and it blew me away. How can someone have such a beautiful vision of the world? And convey it through such beautiful music? So the image I had of Nick was that of someone so at odds with the cynical world. Sadly naive. I was not suprised when I learnt about his downfall because hopeless romantics are often undone by a society which can't live up to there dreams. Nick wanted a better world and certainly the superlative 'Fly' and 'Northern Sky' take us to a place far far away, the sort of place you used to dream could happen to you oneday. This work sort of takes you back to the magic land of your innocence. Let it uplift you!
on 13 May 2006
I'd never listened to any Nick Drake before, but I'd read glowing reports in Total Guitar magazine's look at his life and work. I bought this album out of curiosity, and what a good choice it was.
From Introduction's simple guitar riff to Poor Boy's choral backing, this album never fails to impress. Nick Drake's true, unique style in terms of both his voice and guitar playing really have a great impact, even in the 35 years since his tragic death.
This album impressed me so much that I eventually bought his final album, Pink Moon, as well. Pink Moon was equally impressive.
Classic, timeless, folk perfection. You won't be disappointed.
While I prefer Drake's other 2 CDs (Five Leaves Left deserves 6 stars) this contains possibly his best (and most optimistic) love song Northern Sky and an altogether more positive mood typified by "One of these Things First" so that you wonder what went wrong when you listen to "Pink Moon". His poetic sensibilities are as strong as ever and while his brilliant guitar work takes a back seat for much of the time, his voice is excellent especially on Fly and City Clock. The arrangements are confident and inventive - Poor Boy with it's female backing singers, the minor to major key change on City Clock and the superb string, piano and wind accompaniment which is light, jazzy and creative. The instrumentals are very nice but you really miss Drake's wonderful voice and lyrics, so vulnerable and plaintive and yet never self pitying. Northern Sky alone is worth the admission price and it is work like that from Drake which will ensure that another 30 years on, unlike David Gray, good though he is, people will still be listening to him. Timeless magical poetical music. Essential.
on 3 May 2000
Nick Drake's second album is probably his best, with a greater variance in the style of the numbers and a greater floating quality to the vocals than the first. The musical contributions, including a couple from John Cale, and the arrangements by Robert Kirby are exemplary.
This album has three instrumentals on it, which persuade you into listening for the details and there is a flirtation with jazz on a couple of tracks including 'Poor Boy', but the best track for me is 'One Of These Things First' with its unusual chord progression, mournful lyrics and floating vocals. There is even some optimism on the exquisite 'Northern Sky'. It's not party music and it won't drown out the noise of your neighbour's dog, but for the thoughtful listener this is pure gold.
on 15 January 2006
Stunningly beautiful. I cannot believe that I have reached the age of 39 and not even heard of Nick Drake until yesterday, how did that happen? I just cannot stop playing Northern Sky, it is truly magical. The sound of Nick Drake's clear tones with the guitar and piano are just breath-taking. It is simple yet so very deep and meaningful. This is a must-have if you appreciate a true artist with genuine skills as a musician. Buy it today!
on 9 February 2006
Along with his other albums (Five Leaves Left, Pink Moon, Made to Love Magic) my most prized cds. Scale only goes to 5 but Nick is off this scale. Every song could have been recorded yesterday. Seems repetitive just to keep using the same adjectives everyone has used to describe his music, as after all language can limit. So-beautiful, breezy, mood evoking, enchanting, and enveloping, come to mind. Mainly, to become familiar with this artist's work is to learn more about yourself and the truly cosmic forces that keep us together. You will learn more, feel more, gain more intuition upon each playing. Perhaps others recommendations are more articulate, but when you hear his music, you'll get it. He himself says it best "If songs were lines in a conversation, the situation would be fine."