Album no. 150/1001
Nick Drake was an English diamond in the rough who found little success while he was alive, but went on to become a cult folk hero in the years since his incredibly early death in 1974 – he was only 26(!!!).
This is his first album – written when he was only 20 years old (my god) – and he recruited a few folk mates from other English bands Pentangle and Fairport Convention.
He’s certainly a fan of the acoustic guitar, and had a pretty significant influence on the folk scene in the nineties when everybody realised he was actually pretty bloody good, and got a rough deal when he was alive.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR AGES TO GET TO SOME NICK DRAKE AND I AM SO EXCITED. But no, I haven’t heard this particular album from my friend Nick, so I’m very much looking forward to it.
NK: I’ve never really heard much Nick Drake. I’ve heard ‘Which Will’ because I heard a comedian talking about it, but that’s about it.
CL: Hey! I’ve heard ‘Cello Song’ before! LOVE IT – excellent guitar work. I liked almost all of the songs on this. ‘River Man’ is just wonderful as well. Those strings could EASILY appear on a Radiohead song.
NK: I think you’re right, ‘Cello Song’ is the standout here. It’s really good. Would have been fine without the bongos, but it’s still a cracking track.
CL: I also reeeeeally like the opener ‘Time Has Told Me’ and ‘Three Decades’ AND ‘Man In A Shed’. All EXCELLENT.
NK: I didn’t go for ‘Time Has Told Me’, the country guitar put me off a bit. And I didn’t like ‘River Man’ much, but apart from that this was pretty consistent.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: Considering I’ve heard his last (and arguably best) album Pink Moon – which we’ll get to in just 23 short weeks! – this is REMARKABLY upbeat in comparison. It’s a good early-morning album, when you don’t want to hurt your head.
NK: I can see a lot of these songs over the movie montage when somebody is recovering from a breakup. Struggling to get out of bed, not doing the dishes, falling behind at work, but gradually getting better, cleaning the house, getting a haircut, going out with friends etc. Quite a re-buildy vibe.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: It’s simple but so complex. The guitar is AMAZING. It’s raw as well – there’s no sheen to it. His voice isn’t anything special either, but gosh it’s emotive. A lot of people compared Nick Drake to Tim Buckley, but I don’t think they’re similar AT ALL.
NK: I can hear why people would say that. ‘The Thoughts of Mary Jane’ (drug reference?) with the bloody flute took me back to some of the forest enthusiasts. This is a bit more focused and restrained, less nonsense going on. No songs about minotaurs for example, can’t knock him for that.
CL: My gosh, Jose Gonzalez certainly took a lot of inspiration from our friend Nick Drake didn’t he? Nothing wrong with that of course, it’s just VERY, very obvious.
Will you be listening again?
CL: Yes. yes yes yes. I really enjoyed this. I wouldn’t say it’s AMAZING – just because of some of the (in my opinion) superfluous orchestral inclusions – but it’s still really good.
NK: Maybe? I didn’t mind it, but he’s got a couple more coming up. I might hang out and wait for those.
Listen to Five Leaves Left on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.