From the Vault...


Nick Drake
"Way To Blue: An Introduction To Nick Drake"

© Island Records

Year of Release: 1994

track listing
  • Cello Song
  • Hazey Jane I
  • Way To Blue
  • Things Behind The Sun
  • River Man
  • Poor Boy
  • Time Of No Reply
  • From The Morning
  • One Of Those
    Things First
  • Northern Sky
  • Which Will
  • Hazey Jane II
  • Time Has Told Me
  • Pink Moon
  • Black Eyed Dog
  • Fruit Tree

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    Nick Drake
    "Way To Blue: An Introduction To Nick Drake"

    Nick Drake -- not a familiar name to many, but to others, he was (and still remains) a cult favorite. He only lived 26 years, his music involved how he lived -- dark, lonely, depressed. His album Way To Blue: An Introduction To Nick Drake is a "best of" -- The title says it best: It is an introduction to his music, as he only released 3 albums during his lifetime, and had a few songs that could have been part of a fourth album.

    Nick Drake suffered from depression, especially towards the end of his life. His lyrics definitely incorporated this. Upon his third album, he moved away from live performances and recording, as he moved to his parents' home in Warwickshire, England. On November 25, 1974, he died from overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant. He was only 26 years old. Was his death an accident or suicide? We will never know.

    From the liner notes of this week's review: "The phone calls from people wanting to do a book or film on Nick Drake used to come in about twice a year. Now it's twice a month. Nick died 20 years ago [1994], but his music seems more beautiful, more apt, attuned more than it did when it was first recorded." -- Joe Boyd, March, 1994 -- Joe Boyd noticed that Nick Drake had a great talent, especially from the first two albums. By the third album, Nick's life had suddenly began to darken, as his life would be cut short afterwards.

    The 16 songs are previous recordings from his three albums, and from the 16, two were unreleased. The only "complaint" is that the songs were not in chronlogical order. With that in mind, let's review the tunes in chronological order...

    From his 1969 debut, Five Leaves Left: Track 1:, "Cello Song" is a fantastic tune, with his "Moody Blues" vocal style, and "yet positive" lyrics, where even if there is darkness, you tend to look on the brighter side: "So forget this cruel world/Where I belong/I'll just sit and wait/And sing my song./And if one day you should see me in the crowd/Lend a hand and lift me/To your place in the cloud."

    Track 3: "Way To Blue" This sad sounding tune asks questions of what we know, and to tell others: "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?" (Despite its sadness in sound, maybe this was a warning tune -- Trying to find answers, whether we knew or not.)

    Track 5: "River Man" is another "moody" track, as Nick sings the story of "Betty": "Betty said she prayed today/For the sky to blow away/ Or maybe stay/She wasn't sure." Again, sounding like "Betty" wanting to find her way of life. A lost soul, looking for answers.

    Track 13: "Time Has Told Me" -- This particular song has Drake's singing style to that of Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The lyrics: "Your tears they tell me/There's really no way/Of ending your troubles/With things you can say//And time has told me/Not to ask for more/For some day our ocean/will find its shore." At the end of the long dark tunnel, there just may be hope.

    Track 16: "Fruit Tree" is a good track. "Fame is but a fruit tree/So very unsound./It can never flourish/Till its stalk in the ground./ So men of fame/can never find a way/Till time has flown/Far from their dying day."

    His second album, Bryter Layter was released in 1970. From it, five songs appear here.

    Track 2: "Hazey Jane I" -- with its "Moody Blues" sounding style, is it another song of long lost hope? "Do you feel like a remnant/Of something that's past,/Do you find things are moving/Just a little too fast./Do you hope to find new ways/Of quenching your thirst,/Do you hope to find new ways of doing better than your worst./Hey slow, Jane, let me prove,/Slow, slow, Jane, we're on the move."

    Track 12: "Hazy Jane II" has a more upbeat rock feel. Finding Hope. "What will happen in the morning when the world it gets so crowded that you can't look out the window in the morning."//For Hazey Jane/SHe's back again in my mind/If songs were lines/In a conversation/The situation would be fine."

    Track 6: A very interesting sounding "Jazz" tune, "Poor Boy." The background singers tend to sound like the chorus of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Definitely a self-lost soul: "I'm a poor boy/And I'm a rover/Count your coins and/Throw them over my shoulder/I may grow older/Nobody knows/How cold it grows/And nobody sees/How shaky my knees/Nobody cares/How steep my stairs/And nobody smiles/If I cross their stiles."

    Track 9: "One Of These Things First" -- A folkish sounding tune, yet different. I can't really explain how. Maybe this is how the song lyrics are. "I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook/A real life lover, could have been a book/I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock/As simple as a kettle steady as a rock/I could be/here and now/I would be I should be/But how?/I could have been/One of those things first/I could have been/One of those things first." Yep, woulda, coulda, shoulda.

    Track 10: "Northern Sky" -- A better folk sounding tune, rather than "One Of These Things First." I think this song is trying to determine one's identity: "I never felt magic crazy as this/I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sun/I never held emotion in the palm of my hand/ Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree/But now you're here/Brighten up my Northern Sky.//Would you love me for my money/Would you love me for my head/ Would you love me through the winter/Would you love me 'til I'm dead/Oh, if you would and you could/Come blow your horn on high."

    Now to what would become Nick Drake's last album, from 1972, Pink Moon.

    Track 4: "Things Behind The Sun" -- another "moody" track, but not as in "the Moody Blues." It tells another story of hope and trying to find it: "And open wide the hymns you hide/You find reknown while people frown/At things that you say/But say what you'll say/About the farmers and the fun/ And the things behind the sun/And the people round your head/Who say everything's been said/And the movement in your brain/Sends you out into the rain."

    Tracks 8 and 11: "From The Morning" and "Which Will" have the good, folkish sound. Again, both songs show lyrics of hope. "From The Morning": "And now we rise/And we are everywhere/And now we rise from the ground/And see she flies/And she is everywhere/She see flies all around/So look see the sights/The endless summer nights/And go play the game that you learnt/From the morning." "Which Will": "Which will you go for/Which will you love/Which will you choose from/From the stars above/Which will you answer/Which will you call/Which will you take for/For your one and all/And tell me now/Which will you love the best."

    Track 14: "Pink Moon" -- this song was used in a television commercial for Volkswagon, from late 2009. I think from there, Nick Drake became more famous. Musician Ian McDonald, a member of the famous band King Crimson, said it best: "During the early Eighties, I drifted away from the music scene. When I returned, I was surprised to find that Nick Drake was becoming famous." (Remember, Nick Drake had passed away in 1974.)

    The last two tracks, #7 and #15 were unreleased: Track 7: "Time Of No Reply" and Track 15: "Black Eyed Dog." By this time, Nick Drake's like was in deep depression, as he states in his lyrics. From Time Of No Reply": "The sun went down and the crowd went home,/I was left by the roadside all alone,/I turned to speak as they went by,/But this was the time of no reply." From "Black Eyed Dog": "A black eyed dog he called at my door/The black eyed dog he called for more/A black eyed dog he knew my name//I'm growing old and I wanna go home/I'm growing old and I don't wanna know/I'm growing old and I wanna go home."

    Man.... This songwriter spoke from his heart, as sad as his stories tell, Nick Drake was trying to find himself, through his depression and pain. His accoustic guitar playing (heard basically in every song) was superb. His singing was good too. He wasn't the best singer, but he could hold a tune, some songs better than others. His life reminds me of Syd Barrett, one of the original members of Pink Floyd. They both had one thing in common: They both wrote incredible lyrics. The only difference, Nick Drake was a far better singer than Syd Barrett, especially during Syd's "solo years."

    "Way To Blue: An Introduction To Nick Drake" is a great beginning for those who are not familiar with his name, nor his music. As you read his lyrics, many would want to learn and hear more. It's a shame his life lead the way it did, as his death we'll never know if it was accidental or intentional. He left his music behind for many generations to discover, and enjoy. Maybe there will be a book or film based on his life. Who would play him? Truthfully, I never heard of his music, until a friend I mine I used to work with pointed him out many years ago. His music is gentle to listen to, despite his desperate cries in his lyrics. There were never videos of him, as he was shy, and kept to himself. Joe Boyd was right: He did see a "hidden talent" in Nick Drake, and it's too bad he wasn't helped. But that is the story of most rock and rollers, not getting help, and then it becomes too late, as their lives get cut short, to the demons of drugs and/or alcohol. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Belushi, the list goes on and on. Speaking of Jim Morrison, the pictures of Nick Drake do have a slight resemblance to the Lizard King. They both had one thing in common too: The gift of writing poetry, and placing it to music. Well, Jim and Nick are singing together somewhere up there in Rock & Roll Heaven.

    I give this album 2 stars, only because of the lyric content. His ability to write music, play guitar, and sing, definitely deserves the 3-star rating. Despite the nature of his lyrics, listening to the music of Nick Drake is a discovering experience. I agree, he was gifted. It's just a shame that his life lead to depression, and not correcting it, and living longer, and writing more music, which could have improved over time, if only he had recovered.

    © All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records and is used for reference purposes only.

    Previous Review: #1379
    Michael W. Smith--Worship
    Next Review: #1381
    Dion--Deja Nu