Nick Drake

Nick Drake

Way To Blue

Island

Way To Blue is subtitled “An Introduction To Nick Drake,” and it will be as sufficient an acquaintance as some will wish to have with him. Or it will be the starting point on a journey that will only end when they have acquired every single item in his catalog. He seems to be that kind of guy.

Me, I find my estimation of Drake growing every single time I play this record, but I don’t see becoming a serious fan. I mean, meet me at my best of 2003 list to see if I’m right, but at the moment, there just seems to be too much of a same old, same old feeling to many of the tracks. Yes, Drake’s gentle, reflective vocals and the intimate, autumnal settings of his songs set the mind to wandering, but they never really got their tendrils around me (I’m resisting. Yes, they did, I just don’t want to admit it for some reason, which may tell you as much about Drake as anything I could say).

Even the best songs — “Cello Song,” “One Of These Things First,” Northern Sky,” “Which Will” and “Time Has Told Me” are different angles on the same case study. “Black Eyed Dog,” though, stands apart as a stark folk-blues. But for the most part Drake specialized in a kind of folk-rock not entirely dissimilar to that popularized by such groups as The Mamas & the Papas around the same time. Though where their style was dubbed “sunshine pop,” Drake’s might better be described as rock for a rainy day.

It’s easy to see, from a cynical point of view, why Drake ended up a cult figure of considerable influence upon the alternative rock scene. Being a sensitive singer-songwriter type who accidentally (?) took his own life at the age of 26, in some ways it could hardly have been otherwise for him. Interest has greatly grown in the nearly 30 years since his death, and in 2000 he achieved a dubious posthumous honor: One of his songs was used in a car commercial.

Of course, it helps that the music ain’t terrible; though as I say, it might have used a little more variety. Yet even as I say this, I have to admit that when a little does turn up, it seems out of place. Such as on “Hazey Jane II,” which anticipates such sophisti-pop artists as Everything But The Girl (admitted Drake fans) but sounds like anything but Nick Drake. But too, if you’re in the mood for a Drake CD, you don’t have to program it to skip very many jarring songs. That consistency of tone can also add to his appeal.

So here it is, then: The sound of the poet who nobody knows about…but most people. Increasingly worthy of your attention and respect.

Nick Drake: http://www.nickdrake.com/

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