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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 29 July 2017
Bought this after hearing northern sky played alot on radio 4. Nice easy listening music. Drake didnt get recognition he deserved when alive. Brilliant track
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on 17 September 2017
Luxury listening
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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.
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I bought the late Nick Drake's original LPs as they came out in the early seventies, having been overwhelmed by the grave beauty of his debut Five Leaves Left, with songs like Way To Blue and Time Has Told Me small miracles of condensed songwriting of a very high order from this sad young man.
But it's his flavourful, more upbeat follow-up that I find myself playing more often these days. The orchestral arrangements by the very fine Robert Kirby (an unsung hero of the Nick Drake legend) are exactly right for the songs they adorn, and Nick's impressively subtle and articulate guitar work is still enough to the fore.
With three delightful, concise instrumentals, and seven superlative songs, this is a lovely album which seems to be suitable for any and all seasons, though I tend to think of it as summery, albeit in a bittersweet way. (Five Leaves Left, to indulge the analogy, was perhaps autumnal whereas the downbeat, valedictory Pink Moon was positively wintry.)
The thoughtful At the Chime of a City Clock is followed by the musically upbeat One of These Things First. Both are wonderful songs.
The unusual song Fly is a favourite of mine, while Poor Boy is almost a soul number, and all the more intriguing for it, with a great arrangement and with suitably soulful P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy singing on the catchy chorus.
The two very different Hazey Jane songs are vintage Drake, and Northern Sky is utterly beautiful.
He's something of a legend now, a golden boy who died far too young, leaving a legacy few could match (apart from Sandy Denny or Tim Buckley, both of whom were near contemporaries, both dying tragically young).
All three of his records, along with the compilation Made To Love Magic - if only for its gorgeous title track - are essential.

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never heard emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky
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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!
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on 29 June 2015
I'm new to all this 180 gram vinyl, being more of an original press person... But of course, a title like this is impossible to find in the original - certainly at any affordable price.

So I thought I'd give this a go (especially as it was only £9!).

I have a recent remastered CD of this (IMCD 71), and wanted to see how it compared on vinyl.

The sleeve is a nice single disc textured card (I think I used to have wallpaper like this!), with little by way of sleeve notes, but then, it is simply presented as an authentic copy of the original press, so it was that way in the first instance... and the inner sleeve is a bit of a head scratcher, as it's a thick glossy, white paper/card sleeve with a full size scan of an original blue island inner sleeve (wrinkles, faded edges, and even an island label showing through and all!) on both sides, which confused me for a moment. But since so much effort has been made to reproduce the vinyl and sleeve with such quality, would it kill Universal to put a proper, decent poly-lined inner sleeve in there?

...I therefore treat the supplied inner sleeve as a curiosity, or an insert, and recommend you transfer the disc to a poly-lined one yourself.

Which brings me to the vinyl itself.

Being somewhat old-school, in that I like to actually take my vinyl out of the shrink wrap and play it (I know, crazy eh?!!!), I was not disappointed with this... a lovely thick piece of vinyl, wonderfully pressed, with replicas of the original pink -rim Island palm tree labels firmly affixed.
And the Audio was great to match too... absolutely silent vinyl in the quiet areas (The reason I opted for this over the other two albums first, as the nature of the first two, being more sparse and introspective, would be more revealing of noise between the music), but the denser arrangements of the strings and other additional instrumentation on this album are nicely spaced, and defined (On the CD, these various elements can confound one another a little in places).

The sound is a little more evenly mastered than my CD, and it's better for actually picking out Nick Drake's actual guitar work on a song like: Sunday (Rather it picks itself out better).

The song that most benefits from this vinyl edition is Northern Sky, where on the CD, the organ can be a little stodgy, and overwhelm the other elements.... everything here has it's own space.

So there is more Nick Drake here to notice than previously was the case.

One gripe about the package is the Back To Black Voucher, which, although a nice bonus, allowing you to go to the site and get a choice of high quality MP3 or FLAC versions of this (One recorded from the Drake Family's "Gramophone Player", directs you to a site that no longer exists as www.backtoblack.com, but something called ulocker, and I have so far been unable to get that to work (had to get support which I'm waiting to hear from). But hey, I can record the Vinyl to CD myself, and no loss there.

Finally, as regards the delivery, I got this from Amazon stock, which had a rather open ended delivery estimate, but ordered on a Wed, with a view to a couple of weeks time frame, but got email it was in the post next day, and got it by the same Saturday... so top marks to Amazon.

... and at £9, I call that a Bargain!
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2010
I came upon the work of Nick Drake by accident, having picked up a copy of this album in Fopp records sat nicely in the bargain basement area. I'd found the cover a kind of curiosity and had heard some positive reviews, so thought what the hell...

What then followed has been a kind of gradual realisations that Nick Drake is one of the most important song writers of our times. This album is a perfect example, which, like all of his work is to be taken as a whole rather than a collection of outstanding tracks.

Basically it's Nick, his guitar and some session musicians playing some of the most sublime, dark folk music that you will ever hear and it just flows like a dream from the beginning to the end.

I have a compilation of his work, which is fine and of course, faultless, but in truth, you need, and I mean need all three of his studio albums. No one bought them at the time through Nicks perpetual stage fright and a lack of coverage at the time. But that is no excuse now.

Buy all three albums, stick them on your ipod and listen to them through in a quiet setting with a bottle of wine. I guarantee you'll smile, be transported to a calm and beautiful place and will find the odd tear in your eye, knowing that we may never see the likes of Nick Drake again.

Beautiful is nowhere near close to describing this.
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on 2 September 2008
Aw no, not another hippy. Not another counter-culture lifestyle mullah. Ok, it looks that way but first, let's check Nick Drake's hippie-dom credentials:

1, Centre Parting ? - Check.
2, Floral Shirt/Dungarees ? - Check.
3, Being on Island Records ? - Check.
4, Standing in the woods with an acoustic guitar looking meaningful ? - Check.

So, he meets the criteria, but does he have a pleasing, cynic-bashing, soulful music, designed (in a genuinely conspiratorial sense ) to make your wobbling correspondent eat his facetious words with side-orders of tofu and quorn?
Of course he does, 'Bryter Layter' is yet another excellent surprise.

This one is screaming 'winner' before you even get to the music: the sleeve reveals he has John Cale and Richard Thompson (who is rapidly becoming one of my all time heroes) in tandem, so you instinctively know he's running from the winning blocks.

Drake's from the Cat Stevens school of smoothy folk-pop but he's far from drone and earnestness. He's got torrential strings, ringing guitar - and more impressively - good songs in abundance.
A big music (in a small sense) but it compliments his sweet lyrics and melodies without swamping them.

Thompson's influence is immeasurable; not just here but in music generally. He's enriched works from Sandy Denny to David Thomas, and his enigmatic-isms are seized on by Drake who uses them as a platform for his own successes; a building-block to his own particularly pleasing house of tricks.
On top, he's got the best use of flute and strings since Tull's sumptuous 'Reasons For Waiting',(which a fair block of 'BL' is very like) and a vital, vibrant album results.

Sure, Drake looks all Woodstock, wet and wimpy (and his shoes are a disgrace!), but his voice has a sandpaper smoothness, and his songs very definitely have depth, insight and unity.
He ticks the creative boxes much more than the (deliciously) sarcastic ones above, and therefore he emerges with kudos and no shortfall of credit.
He's nowhere near the genius Roy Harper is (See? That Thompson again!), but 'BL' is firmly on the right track, and can fight its corner with vim and plenty of pride.
So, puns well and truly on the back-burner, (and isn't it cute the way that my reviews are circular?) one last condition..

Does Nick Drake have a deserved 5-star brilliant album ? - Check.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 18 May 2001
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.
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