Nick Drake Appreciation - Album By Album & All Things Nick Drake*

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by lemonade kid, Aug 29, 2018.

  1. Buddys Dad

    Buddys Dad Forum Resident

    Location:
    melton mowbray
    My first encounter with the music of Nick Drake didn't end well.
    Late 69, Island released a sampler album, Nice Enough To Eat.
    Being an impoverished youth these had great appeal as they were priced at around $1 (under £1)
    Maybe it was being sandwiched between Forty Thousand Headsmen, Traffic and 21st Century Schizoid Man, King Crimson that did it, but Time Has Told Me just didn't hit the spot.
    To my eternal shame & regret I saw both these bands live in Manchester, but turned down seeing Fotheringay.
    Who were supported by Nick Drake.
    :shake:
     
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  2. mkolesa

    mkolesa Forum Resident

    These are the sins of youth, aren't they? I've got plenty of similar stories of sticking my nose up at music I thought old fashioned or cheesy or not cool or twee, which I now know was just a reflection of my age and inexperience. Still, it sounds like you lived in heady times to have those kinds of musical choices available!
     
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  3. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    Possibly. Would be interesting to know if so. I don't know if Gabrielle had any connection to Hammer/Elstree productions myself, I only know of her from UFO and similar tv.

    River Man was released on a single (2004) with the two versions... Kirby on one side, Robinson on the other... and the earlier one was on Made To Love Magic. I think I'd have to pick the Robinson arranged River Man as my favorite Nick Drake recording. I might try to get this piece of vinyl sometime!
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  4. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Harry Robinson was a "Pseudonym "as his real name is Hary Robertson ( Scottish composer / arranger 1932-1996 )had the studio band Lord Rockingham's XI. A bit of triva.:)

    "River Man favorite recording" yeah I think mines as well.
     
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  5. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    River Man

    Guitar capo on third fret.....my chords as heard in standard tuning.

    Opens with a C Major chord and then at :16 a minor drop to a C Minor chord. The chords descend whole steps to B flat minor and then A flat major. Beautiful melody follows the chords somewhat. The C Major chord returns at :32. Incredible simple but effective modal mixing and minor drop that creates a haunting musical story of changing emotions. The minor drop occurs again and the verse repeats. At 1:00 a chorus like section enters with somber strings. The trills at 1:44 create some tension and the descending strings that follow are devastating. The verse returns at 2:16 and the strings descends with the chords and Nick vocals fill out the sound with some bottom. At 3:36 the coda enters and Nick adds in a 7th to add tension and a lack of resolution. The chord drops to minor 7th for the final lyric and the song ends on the somber minor mode.

    A fantastic song with a brilliant use of the minor drop that imbues the song with desolation. Once again, genius use of modal mixing including a mode (phrygian) that is not very common. Fantastic use of dissonance as well at times. Last but not least, the song is in 5/4 which gives the song an uneasy feel. Devastatingly sad song for me. I have to be in the right mood to listen to it. I don't listen to it with others around.
     
  6. PJayBe

    PJayBe Forum Resident

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  7. Buddys Dad

    Buddys Dad Forum Resident

    Location:
    melton mowbray
    November 2015 Rough Trade Nottingham.
    Gabrielle Drake launches her book, Remembered For A While.
    There should have been a showing of A Skin Too Few, but the technology wouldn't play ball.
    The good news was this meant we could have a much longer Q&A session and talk individually to Gabby, Cally (below) and Julian Lloyd (Nicks 1st photographer)

    During this discussion, she confirmed that the 1st she knew that Nick was even recording was when he threw a finished copy of FLL on her bed and mumbled "here you are"


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    The most likely conclusion is that as producer, Joe would have chosen Harry Robinson.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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  8. Buddys Dad

    Buddys Dad Forum Resident

    Location:
    melton mowbray
    If you want to know what else Robert Kirby did, check out this CD
    Features a track by Vashti Bunyan who sang at the 1st Way To Blue concert.

    When The Day Is Done - The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby

    Also on there, a track by Shelagh MacDonald...if you like Nick her albums have a similar vibe.

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    “My musical friend, a guy named Robert Kirby, is working quite hard on arrangements for some of my songs, and seems to be pretty competent. He’s a rather splendid fellow and looks rather like Haydn or Mozart or someone being rather short and stocky with long wavy hair and rimless spectacles. However, he’s quite hip to my sort of music being quite a proficient folk singer himself…”

    (Nick Drake in a letter home to his parents, Cambridge, Summer 1967)
     
  9. Buddys Dad

    Buddys Dad Forum Resident

    Location:
    melton mowbray
    I'm grateful this thread has encouraged some detective work to get past the guesswork that so often accompanies the "Nick Drake legend"
    This article clears up the choice of orchestrator for River Man and just who came up with Harry Robinson...

    River Man was the one song on the album that Robert Kirby could not come up with a deserving arrangement for. Drake wrote a mysterious guitar line in the odd meter of 5/4, played in grouping of 3-2. Danny Thompson had no trouble accompanying the song, but Kirby could not work around that odd meter. In an interview to Mojo magazine in June 2009 he said: “Dave Brubeck’s Take Five aside, that was the only time in my life I’d heard a piece of music consistently in 5/4. I could not for the life of me work out how to write a piece of music that didn’t stagger along like a spider missing a leg, how you crossed over and missed the bar lines”.

    In need of a quick alternative, John Wood, sound engineer on all three of Nick Drake’s studio albums, suggested that the string orchestration assignment be handed to Harry Robinson, a composer who’s specialty was film scores for various horror and vampire movies. Wood told Joe Boyd and Nick Drake that Harrison is a great mimic and all you had to do was name a composer you like and Harrison will provide an orchestration in that style. Drake was taken by the music of English composer Frederick Delius, who is known for writing strings parts with long, sustained chords and quiet endings to many of his compositions. Joe Boyd recalls in his book: “Nick and I went to visit Robinson at his house hidden in the middle of Barnes Commons, just below the tree that was to kill Marc Bolan ten years later. Having heard a tape, Harrison was already intrigued when we arrived. Nick played the song through, then strummed chords as the tape played, showing Harry the textures he wanted for the string parts. I had never heard him so articulate or so demanding. Harry made notes and nodded. The result was a track which – next to the Volkswagen ad’s ‘Pink Moon’ – is the most often played and discussed of all Nick’s songs. Whenever I saw Harry in later years, he would talk about the day we recorded it, with Nick surrounded by the orchestra, playing and singing while Harry conducted – just like Nelson Riddle and Frank Sinatra.”


    If there was a truly "golden era" for Sinatra it was his work with Nelson Riddle.
    I can think of no single greater accolade.
     
  10. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    Thank you! Can you remember what article (the source)?
     
  11. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    In addition to your fine overview, I like the additional bit by Robin Frederick (posted earlier). It gives me a better understanding of the the chords you describe (since I wouldn't have known a standard chord from a cluster chord:


    "...cluster chords add extra notes close to, or are clustered around, the notes of a standard chord. These extra notes introduce a dissonant sound, which when combined with the basic triad, generates a new chord with added complexity, depth and warmth. In River Man, Nick uses cluster chords while shifting between major & minor feels. It all works together to create a floating landscape filled with ambivalence and mystery. This is reflected in the lyrics in which seasons and people come and go, and the singer of the song veers between hope and despair as the river flows on while he is denied freedom." - Robin Frederick
     
  12. Buddys Dad

    Buddys Dad Forum Resident

    Location:
    melton mowbray
  13. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident

    Thank you so much recommending this wonderful article and blog! I've been perusing the blog and it seems to be a well-written and deeply personal musical love letter. Right up my alley.

    As for the string arrangement on 'River Man'...well, it haunts me. I listened to Five Leaves Left in the car this morning on the way to work which is always a risky proposition if I'm feeling fragile because it made me cry a bit. Dry the tears and into work!
     
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  14. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Think it's the descending strings. It's perfection personified.
     
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  15. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    4. Way To Blue, Five Leave Left, Nick Drake


    UMG (on behalf of Island Records); CMRRA, BMG Rights Management,
    ARESA, Abramus Digital, and 6 Music Rights Societies

    Nick Drake, vocals
    Robert Keirby, arranger


    Way To Blue, Nick Drake

    Don't you have a word to show what may be done
    Have you never heard a way to find the sun
    Tell me all that you may know
    Show me what you have to show
    Won't you come and say
    If you know the way to blue?

    Have you seen the land living by the breeze
    Can you understand a light among the trees
    Tell me all that you may know
    Show me what you have to show
    Tell us all today
    If you know the way to blue?

    Look through time and find your rhyme
    Tell us what you find
    We will wait at your gate
    Hoping like the blind.

    Can you now recall all that you have known?
    Will you never fall
    When the light has flown?
    Tell me all that you may know
    Show me what you have to show
    Won't you come and say

    If you know the way to blue?


    Nick Drake
    Way to Blue lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 6, 2018
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  16. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    Have another listen with Robin's notes below in your head...

    4. Way To Blue


    UMG (on behalf of Island Records); CMRRA, BMG Rights Management, ARESA, Abramus Digital, and 6 Music Rights Societies


    Robin: The heart of the song is the resolving of the suspended forth to the major third. If you sing the word "amen" as it is sung at the end of a hymn, you will hear exactly that. This song is filled with the "amen" phrase. You'll find it in the chords at the end of the intro, in the chords accompanying the word "sun" and in each of the four measures after that. The vocal does the same on the words: "Tell me all that you know/show me what you have to show." The chords continue to weave the "amen" notes throughout the rest of the verse and all of this is repeated in each of the subsequent verses. This prayer-like quality is underscored in the lyrics; its metaphysical questions – "Have you ever heard a way to find the sun?" "Can you understand the light among the trees?" – hang suspended in the air, quietly demanding an answer that does not come. –Robin Frederick, Fruit Tree book.

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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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  17. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    An amazing recounting of the day "Way To Blue" was recorded...Nick had only played this on the piano for Joe, but he or Nick thought it should be just strings and no piano. So Robert was brought in for the strings, Nick on guitar and Danny on bass. Yeah, that worked just fine! –LK


    Robert Kirby: In the recording Danny Thompson played bass on "Way To Blue" and I remember he started off saying, "Oh god, it's a written part".

    "The session was from ten to one on a Saturday morning. Joe booked the session musicians for that. I met the players for the first time at quarter to ten. We knew the order we were going to do the songs in and the four that got onto "Five Leaves Left" were Nick's first choice. Four tracks in three hours (my thoughts...OMG, amazing--LK), ten 'til one from scratch. I'm pretty sure we must have done: "Thoughts of Mary Jane", then "Fruit Tree" because I believe the Oboe player was doubling as the flute player, so he could be booked for half a session and got rid of. When you're an arranger, for economy's sake you try to work it out so that not all the musicians are needed for the whole session. The we got on with the two string tracks. "Way To Blue" first because then Danny Thompson was finished with. Then it was just the string quartet on "Day Is Done"." –Robert Kirby. Fruit Tree book


    I'll just say wow and WOW...three hours, four songs.

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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  18. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident

    Way to Blue
    Goodness, goodness. Words fail, yet again. 'Way to Blue' is almost too beautiful to bear. The strings are dramatic but also warm and tender, cradling Nick's voice within them as he ponders and asks. Paste did a ranking of all of Nick's songs (I wasn't in a lot of agreement about the ranking order, but there was some good commentary). An excerpt from the 'Way to Blue' section (ranked #21 out of 31) reads:

    "Simple piano and mild strings are enough for this tender song from Five Leaves Left. “Way to Blue” is a reminder that Drake’s voice is so rich in vocal sweetness and honesty, that it could easily stand alone and elegantly deliver his messages. Forever reaching for that ephemeral “light,” this is another song about his quest. He understands universal emotional damage and wants to find answers for everyone, not just for himself."

    (Paste's 'Ranking Nick Drake's 31 Songs')

    I think that sense of empathy is a big part of the reason his work continues to matter to so many people and keep them coming back to his work. We feel a kindred spirit within him. I find some of Nick's lyrics to be a bit inscrutable (I have an easier time understanding L. Cohen and J. Mitchell) but I've always interpreted this song as being a quest for reason and understanding. Who out there can find happiness and meaning and purpose? Can you share those secrets with the rest of us, all still looking?
     
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  19. inaptitude

    inaptitude Forum Resident

    "Nick Drake, guitar, vocals"? I've always heard this as just his vocals and the strings, am I somehow missing his guitar? Either way, the way his voice floats above the strings is such a beautiful thing. The softness in both just accentuates the softness in the other. The strings really make up for the lack of range that Nick has in his voice, hitting some higher highs and lower lows. "We will wait at your gate hoping like the blind." Damn he had a way with words.
     
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  20. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    Yep, no guitar. But Danny is there it says on bass...will have the mods change this. Sorry for the confusion. Sometimes the music muddles my emotions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  21. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    Nick is NOT on guitar...sorry!
     
  22. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing Thread Starter

    Location:
    MidCoast...Maine
    Nick on piano only...the way Joe first heard it. Simple but so effectively emotional.
    And Island Records,UK provided some wonderful footage of Nick in his youth in this video

    Way To Blue, Family Tree


    UMG (on behalf of Tsunami); Abramus Digital, CMRRA, BMG Rights Management, UBEM, ARESA, and 3 Music Rights Societies
     
  23. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    Way to Blue

    No guitars. The chords are somewhat implied and approximate from the strings.

    The chords are exposed in the intro. The verse starts and the chords in the first line are E minor-A Minor -B Major 7th and are folk based. The second line has the chords change to E-Minor-A Minor-C-E suspended 4 and then E....a major lift.....trademark Nick. At :31 the chorus like section stays in E Major with a B sus4 and B chord following. At :45 the verse re enters but is cut in half and goes straight to the major lift that was hinted at in the first line of verse.....brilliant use of the dominant B chord common in the minor and major modes of E. The verse returns at :58 and everything repeats. Nick's melody changes to fit the major lift as well throughout the song. The melody is not used freely among the verses.....a trademark of British Folk music. At 1:40 a bridge enters based on E major but Nick sings a melody based on the mixolydian mode which adds a feeling of sadness. Beautiful descending pattern that follows the chords. E Suspended 4 chords are used again before the final E chord. A beautiful interlude follows at 1:57 based mostly on the verse chords but with a diminished chord that adds a tone of apprehension. The pauses add to the tension. The verse returns and the chorus follows. The post chorus follows and the song ends in E major on a somewhat brighter tone.

    The fourth amazing song from the album. Rooted in British folk but with trademark Nick flourishes...major lifts, suspensions and use of modal mixing.

    A technical comment you might find interesting..... the OP's post discusses how the song uses the "amen" drop from the fourth. However, the way Nick uses this is more rooted in British Folk than traditional church music. Church music uses what is called the "plagal cadence" for "Amen". The difference is, the church music uses the IV chord and then follows with the tonic chord. Nick does not go this far.....instead he uses the same chord but just the suspended fourth note before resolving to the tonic chord without the fourth. It softens the change and adds a sound of stronger uncertainty....a feeling to me that haunts most of Nick's music. Portraying that emotion is somewhat easy to do lyrically but bringing it out in the music, well, that is where we separate the fine songwriters from the brilliant songwriters. IMO, Nick falls into the latter category.

     
  24. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    Thanks.
    When I discuss the chords, my descriptions are limited to just the basic structure of the chords. However, with Nick's tunings, the chords become much more complex with dropped and added non diatonic notes. Polytonal clusters result that he uses to pivot between mode changes.

    The description by Robin Frederick says it a lot better than I can.
     
  25. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    Was going to add after checking my copy of Joe Boyd's whitebicycles book that John Wood was who brought in Harry Robinson, to fulfill Drake's desire for Sibelius style string arrangements,, but someone's already done that, so will just add that 'Robinson' had an earlier gig as the leader Lord Rockingham of British television's 6.5 Special house band Lord Rockinghan's Eleven.

    Way To Blue is another great recording I hear new things and possibilities in seemingly with each listen, but you'd have to rate the album 8/10, as eight of ten tracks would be essential in my opinion on any kind of 'best of' list for Nick Drake.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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