I’m a big fan of the Under Review series, and the latest installment I want to praise is on the subject of Nick Drake. The manic depressive is often a great artist and music is often the only way through which he can communicate. Rejecting the overwhelming American blues influences of the time, Nick Drake made music with a distinct “English fatalism” in a time when very few were even in the same orbit. This English flare in Nick Drake’s music perhaps finds its’ roots in the literary influences of writers like William Blake and Alfred Tennyson. Nick was also fascinated by the modal structures of musicians like Miles Davis, and the way in which they freed him from the traditional manner of playing jazz. Indeed, it was that modal jazz sensibility married with the folk technique that defined Drake’s style. It is particularly interesting to witness the examination of Drake’s unusual guitar style, and some of his influences such as Davey Graham, and Jackson C. Frank. His music is set apart by many things, not the least of which is by the time of his debut he already had a fully developed sound. Amid the massive cultural changes of 1967, Nick became a musician and came into his own while attempting to develop a career during his stay at Cambridge. It was during this time, that through a Fairport Convention connection, he met Joe Boyd, signed a deal and recorded his wonderful music. The pastoral “Five Leaves Left,” the more decadent “Bryter Layter,” and his final work “Pink Moon,” are all examined and itemized fairly extensively through various commentaries on this well thought out documentary.
Nick Drake:Under Review is full of lots of highlights, not the least of which is the praise of “Bryter Layter,” my favorite Drake album, but his most underrated as a result of the fuller band sound and the colorful pop influenced arrangements. Finally, the fragile beauty so evident in all of Drake’s music is surrounded in a murk that calls for quiet reflection, and is not just some pond of melancholia to wade through on the way to firmer shores. As the city envelopes the country, Nick Drake’s music will remain to evoke images of English gardens, long and winding roads, and breathtaking landscapes.