Very Stable Baron wrote:When I first heard Nick Drake -- I don't remember what song it was -- I knew it was perfect.
With that said, it has taken some time to decide that Bryter Layter is my favorite, and certainly wasn't always so (I had the same misgivings as everyone else who has them), but the basic positive, even ecstatic reaction to the music was immediate for me.
It's interesting, I came to Drake first via Pink Moon
, and was worried that the other records wouldn't share its melodic spareness and emotional directness. Certainly, I wondered whether they could capture the icantatory quality of many of the tracks- most notably "Road" and "Know" or the sheer bleakness of "Parasite".
Which they don't, to be fair, but they're arguably working at an even higher plane than Pink Moon
. I think Bryter Layter
is his best sounding
record, and probably his most emotionally rounded. There's even a fair share of hope on many of the tracks, whether it's the romanticism of "Hazey Jane II", the sardonic humour of "Poor Boy" or the yearning, desperate "Fly" (and Cale's contribution to that track is masterful, it gives the track a real sense of release). On a song-by-song basis, Five Leaves Left
might even have the advantage, but like The Slider, I have issues with some of the embellishments, in particular on "Time Has Told Me".
That said, it has moments of overwhelming sadness and beauty, particularly the haunting "River Man" or the ineffable "Way to Blue". It's certainly a record where the artist has set out its store, yet it doesn't feel quite as complete as Bryter Layter
(I think it trails off a bit near the end). So I guess I've talked myself into voting for Bryter Layter
by the most slender of margins, but all three are simply essential, magical works.
As for why he remains so feted: I think it's down to the intrinsic beauty in his melodies and the way they offset the more ruminative (and in the case of Pink Moon
downright depressed and despairing) aspects of his work, and vice versa. Simply put, he had memorable tunes and a memorable voice. There's a clarity to it.
It's before my time but I've been told, he never came back from Karangahape Road.