The late sixties and early seventies must have been quite a place. I would have loved to have visit, particular from a musical point of view, at a time when musical genius was swelling and it was actually being recognised. These days, at least in Britain, complicated music that is actually wonderful to listen to, is replaced on the radio by forced boy-bands with their over the top and fake love songs and so much shamefully simple pop. Back then it must have been great to be alive. There was 'free love' so to speak, and no-one was particularily bothered about image...and of course there was the musical genius' such as The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Beach Boys...and they were all being recognised. Wrong...
Nick Drake unfortunately died very young, but left behind three strokes of musical power that I am willing to bet good money, that we'll never hear again. The originality he put into his songs at the time must have been startling. It must have been VERY startling, because it is startling even today...and they just sound like they were written yesterday, or twenty years ago, that's how timeless Drake's music is. So I stand corrected in the fact that the title of this review is '...One Stroke Of Genius', when really it should be three. But for a debut this is truly a magical and mature experience. Combining folk, jazz and blues and making a hybrid out of them is a very difficult thing to do, but Drake pulls it of with ease. Just don't expect to be tapping your feet to any of this. This is indeed 'thoughtful' music.
Opener 'Time Has Told Me' is a lovely acoustic folk song, that is actually uplifting despite the unusual lyrics, as is 'Day is Done', ' 'Cello Song' carries on the line with adding, of course, a cello to the mix, but is actually a very mellow and almost mournful song. I read a review by a fellow reviewer saying that final track 'Saturday Sun' was played at a close friends funeral, and I must say to the person that I couldn't have chosen a better song myself. It's mellow, without being depressing, it's soothing without relaxing, and it's thoughtful without making you think too much. The only thing I am sorry for, is that it was played on such an occasion, and I'm sorry for that person's loss.
My personal favourite track, 'Way To Blue', consists of just two things. A string section and a magnificent vocal. Drake's deep, warming tones contradict the mournful string arrangements, set up by a close friend of Drake's, and leave you with an astonishing song that is sad, but won't leave you low. The great thing about Drake's music is that it is low-key music, but it won't make you feel low, unless you really are at the very bottom of all lows. And not only is this amazing, gently wilting music, it's also amazing that he was never recognised as truly as he deserved.
This is a superb and solid album by a pretty much-unheard artist that should have been classed up with some of the finest folksters that ever lived. I must also warn you....if you buy this, make sure that you're prepared with more cash in hand, because I promise you, you'll be back for his other two albums, 'Bryter Layter' and 'Pink Moon'. A fine example of late 60's/early 70's folk music. If not the greatest.