Thursday, August 02, 2007
For Nick Drake fans
It was a long hot summer when I was first introduced to the music of Nick Drake. In those days most people had never heard of him and although he was a voice from an earlier generation, we claimed him as one of our our. We lazed on lawns, smoking, staring at the sky, listening to the Thoughts of Mary Jane. I could never understand why such a great songwriter remained an obscure word-of-mouth artist, but fortunately Drake has been belatedly acknowledged as a genius and now has an international following that includes Brad Pitt and, more importantly, Goncalo Veiga.
I thought I'd heard everything by Nick Drake, but last month a new album was released called Family Tree. There are 28 tracks, most of which are original songs by Drake, however there are also a couple of songs written and sung by his mother and two duets with his sister Gabrielle. These recordings were all made before Nick Drake secured a recording contract and the quality is pretty poor, but that's part of the album's charm. Family Tree sounds amateurish but in the best possible way, giving us a privileged insight into an incredibly talented artist and his family.
In her sleeve notes Gabrielle Drake acknowledges that her brother probably wouldn't have wanted to let these recordings see the light of day, but unfortunately there are so many bootleg versions - the result of Drake's parents generosity towards fans who asked for copies of their tapes - that a commercial recording was inevitable. Family Tree may be scraping the bottom of the barrel but oh, what a barrel.