Drake, Nick: Five Leaves Left LP
With every passing year, it becomes a little less accurate to say that Nick Drake has a cult following. Cults, by their very nature, tend to exist on the margins, the subject of their admiration unknown or even unloved by the vast majority of people. Mention Nick Drake to a certain generation of music fan and chances are you won’t have to explain yourself. Latterly, Drake’s name has become a byword for a certain kind of acoustic music. Gentility, melancholia and a seemingly casual mastery of the fretboard – in the minds of many listeners, any combination of these traits warrants comparison to Nick Drake.
As a result, Drake is perpetually referenced across the reviews sections of every music title. That quite often the records in question bear no meaningful resemblance to Drake’s music speaks volumes. His legacy may, in one sense, be huge. But there’s painfully little of it: just three complete albums – Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972) and a number of songs recorded shortly before his death. As his relevance increases, so does an insatiable communal yearning for their source to yield more. Somehow we cannot quite accept the fact that this was all he left behind.
Nick Drake's stunning 1969 debut album encapsulates a marriage between folk music and the singer-songwriter genre. Part Donovan, part Jim Webb, he articulated an aching romanticism at a time when progressive rock ran rampant. Beautiful melodies and fragrant accompaniment, in particular Robert Kirby's stunning string arrangements, enhance the artist's sense of longing in which warm, but understated, vocals accentuate the album's passive mystery. An aura of existential cool envelops the proceedings, accentuated by Danny Thompson's sonorous bass lines and Drake's poetic imagery. The result is a shimmering, autumnal collection that is reflective and eternally rewarding.
This vinyl reissue of Nick Drake's debut Five Leaves Left is pressed on audiophile 180g virgin vinyl remastered from the near-original master tapes by the album's original engineer, John Wood. Although the original tapes were unusable, Wood had made a safety copy of the album in 1969 and those reels were used for this latest session.