A Treasury

Nick Drake

It’s hard to resist the diaspora of emotions flowing from the music of Nick Drake. An obscure English troubadour of the early 70s, Drake has, of late, been gaining some much-deserved recognition for his unique blend of brooding, melancholy folk pop. Unfortunately, the gloomy singer-songwriter’s depressive mood apparently got the best of him, and in late 1974, he died from an overdose of antidepressants. It's easy to assume he committed suicide, but family members and friends say it was an accident. Perhaps, there was a hopeful, optimistic side to Nick Drake. The 14 tracks comprising A Treasury maintain a balance of Drake’s darker and lighter excursions. Covering the best of three albums, with a couple of miscellaneous numbers tossed in for good measure, this special 5.1 Surround SACD hybrid provides a suitable insight into Drake’s disconsolate, yet intoxicating style -- a certain elegance that stretches beyond the Donovan comparisons and wanders down some barren roads. “River Man,” a dramatic, somewhat refined piece of music, encapsulates Drake at his most serene. “Cello Song” and “Way To Blue,” the other two from the debut Five Leaves Left, are equally tranquil and masterful in their delivery and execution as the strings gently shimmy up against the singer’s stoic, beatific voice.

Drake’s sophomore effort Bryter Layter boosted a slightly more commercial bent largely due to support from bassist Dave Pegg, drummer Dave Mattacks and guitarist Richard Thompson — all members of Fairport Convention — as well as Velvet Underground’s John Cale. Indeed, the upbeat resolve of "Hazey Jane II," "Poor Boy" and "Northern Sky" underscore Drake’s attempt at accessibility, but it was not to last. Stripped down to the bare essentials of guitar, voice and occasional piano, the songs from the morose Pink Moon, Drake’s third and final album, probe much deeper into the psyche of the singer-songwriter. “Pink Moon,” which logged airplay as the soundtrack for a Volkswagen commercial, as well as “Place To Be,” “Road,” and “From The Morning” are as starkly luminous lyrically as they are instrumentally. Still, the coziness and warmth emitted from much of A Treasury, which also includes tracks from the 2001 rarities compilation Made To Love Magic, makes one wonder if Drake was really as tormented as it has been suggested. The legacy of Nick Drake will be forever enshrouded in mystery.

~ Shawn Perry

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