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Nick Drake - A Treasury

Review: Jack Foley

NICK Drake is now considered a touchstone for any singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, yet he was largely ignored during his brief lifetime.

A Treasury is being billed as the definitive collection from the artist, who died on November 26, 1974, at his parents' home, following an overdose of antidepressant medication.

It features 16 classic songs from the Drake back catalogue, including the recent single, Magic, which entered the chart at number 32, a few weeks ago.

It's impossible to properly gauge Drake's influence, but a cursory round-up of contemporary acts who cite him as such includes REM, Paul Weller, Travis, Portishead, The Coral, Coldplay, David Gray and The Super Furry Animals.

His songwriting brilliance was recently highlighted in a Radio 2 documentary that was narrated by Hollywood film actor and long-time Drake fan, Brad Pitt.

What is for sure, however, is Drake's uncanny ability to build strong melodies and breathy vocals around acoustic-based tracks that contain an orchestral sweep.

Take Hazey Jane I, for instance, which certainly seems to have been the inspiration for some of REM's more melancholy ballads, or the shimmering brilliance of Pink Moon, which probably finds the artist at his most naked.

The Daily Mirror once wrote about Drake that he has become 'an icon for lonesome minstrels beating a retreat from the excesses of the modern world'.

And, certainly, many of the themes that permeate throughout his songs tap into the melancholy that surrounded his short life, having been inspired by failed romances, a growing sense of mortality, and the depression lurking just beneath the surface.

He produced three albums during his lifetime - Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972) - that have only became realised as classics posthumously.

Yet, much of Drake's failure to attract a wide following stemmed from his own reclusiveness and psychological frailty, given that he had an almost pathological reluctance to perform live.

Indeed, the sense of disappointment he felt at the commercial failure of his first two albums is achingly exposed in his final effort, which is brilliantly summed up in biographies as 'one of the most naked and bleak statements in all of rock'.

Casting the tragedy aside, however, A Treasury seeks to celebrate the brilliance of the troubled artist, and does so admirably, providing a timely and telling reminder of his skills, as songwriter, singer and musician.

This talent shines through in tracks such as Northern Sky, Fruit Tree, Black Eyed Dog and From The Morning.

The most lasting impression, however, comes in the form of lyrics such as 'I was born to love no one, no one to love me', which aptly illustrate the irony of Drake's life and death.

The love he so desperately sought in life has only really arrived in death.



Track listing:
1. Introduction
2. Hazey Jane II
3. River Man
4. Cello Song
5. Hazey Jane I
6. Pink Moon
7. Poor Boy
8. Magic
9. Place To Be
10. Northern Sky
11. Road
12. Fruit Tree
13. Black Eyed Dog
14. Way To Blue
15. From The Morning
16. Plaisir D'Amour

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