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Nick Drake
Five Leaves Left FIVE LEAVES LEFT (Island 1969)
Produced by Joe Boyd
Despite being recorded when Nick was only 20 years old and still a student at Cambridge, his debut is a dreamy, atmospheric collection of visionary songs. River Man's sweeping arrangement owes a debt to Debussy, while elsewhere Drake recruited college friend Robert Kirby to flesh out songs as Day is Done and The Thoughts of Mary Jane. Throughout, Nick's guitar playing is already a tour de force of fingerstyle technique on a collection of songs imbued with pastoral longing and a certain adolescent innocence.
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Bryter Layter BRYTER LAYTER (Island 1970)
Produced by Joe Boyd
Drake may have been shy, but he certainly wasn't retiring when it came to expressing opinions about his music - his second album took nine months to record. Bryter Layter is often characterised as Drake's London album, and certainly the spirit of the metropolis informs At the Chime of a City Clock. Overall the tone is more upbeat, with brass and jazzy piano augmenting Robert Kirby's understated strings. It also contains possibly Drake's best known song, the achingly lovely Northern Sky, and the desperatly poignant Fly, both arranged with admirable poise by ex-Velvet John Cale.
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Pink Moon PINK MOON (Island 1972)
Produced by John Wood
For many hardcore fans, this remains Nick's finest achievement. It was also the last full album released during his lifetime. Less than half an hour long, it's also stripped of the lush orchestrations and baroque textures of his previous albums. Apart from a slight piano line on the title track, Drake is accompanied solely by his acoustic guitar. Some songs rank among his finest, even if their unflinching emotional candour is sometimes desperately poignant. Place to Be is a heartbreaking plea for acceptance in a world seemingly without comfort, while Parasite is a stark portrayal of urban alienation. The final track, From the Morning, is a promise of resurrection and hope. Fittingly, its lyrics are engraved on Drake's gravestone.
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Way to Blue WAY TO BLUE - AN INTRODUCTION (Island 1994)
A fine primer to the uninitiated, giving a decent overview of all three studio albums plus some tracks from Time of No Reply, as well as warm sleeve-notes from Joe Boyd and tasteful packaging. On it's release in 1994 Way to Blue sold more records than any other Nick Drake release had ever done, and sparked a resurgence of interest in his back catalogue.
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Time of No Reply TIME OF NO REPLY (Hannibal 1986)
A posthumous collection of previously unreleased alternate takes and new songs, including the final songs Drake recorded before his death, Time of No Reply lacks the consistency of the original albums but is a satisfying coda. Five Leaves Left The last songs could easily have fitted into Pink Moon, although the tone is often unremittingly bleak - Black Eyed Dog is possibly the most harrowing track in Drake's canon as he confronts the depression which was consuming him.
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Fruit Tree FRUIT TREE (Hannibal 1986)
Originally released as a box set containing all of Nick's original albums, and later expanded to include Time of No Reply, Fruit Tree is where to go if you want it all. With a comprehensive booklet containing a good essay on Nick, plus lyrics to all the albums, it was one of the first box sets released for any artist, and was mainly responsible for the revival of interest in Nick Drake when it was first released in 1979. If you want to immerse yourself in Nick's music, you could do a lot worse than start here.

Reviews by Mick Fitzsimmons
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Stuart Maconie
Stuart Maconie

Find out more about Stuart's Saturday show featuring The Critical List.
  Nick Drake Home
  About the Programme
  Essential Albums
  Nick Drake Influences
  Further Info
  Fan Comments
  R2 Music Home
MORE INFO ON BBC.CO.UK

Made to Love Magic
Read a review of the new album at the BBC's Music website.

Brad Pitt
Why did Brad decide to present the show? Find out here.

Bryter Layter
The full story behind Nick Drake's classic second album from The Critical List.

BBC 4
Information on BBC Four's Nick Drake documentary.


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