45 years ago on November 25, legendary singer-songwriter Nick Drake passed away, aged 26. To mark his anniversary, we’re revisiting Adrienne Murphy’s reflections on his legacy, originally published in Hot Press in 2004, following the release of Drake’s compilation album, A Treasury.
It’s thirty years since Nick Drake passed away from an overdose of anti-depressants, aged 26. At the time of his death the reclusive Drake was barely known outside a circle of devout admirers. Yet today he’s every second musician’s favourite musician. Like the poet William Blake, whose work he adored, Drake’s reputation for innovative genius only flourished posthumously.
A Treasury is a compilation of songs taken from Drake’s three albums, Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972), along with a couple of tracks that he recorded shortly before his death. This is deep, beautiful music that rewards repeated listening; songs that you want to learn so you can carry them in your heart. Drake’s husky, gentle voice – a balm for the soul – and intricate finger-picking guitar style have been imitated so many times they’ll be familiar to newcomers. But here is the original, with the high lyricism and musical knowledge – hear those classical string and jazzy brass arrangements! – that carry Drake’s particular brand of folk towards the celestial blue.
“I was born to use my eyes/Dream with the sun and the skies/To float away in a lifelong song/In the mists where melody flies.” Drake seems to yearn for eternity. In classic romantic poetry, he sings of mortality in a way that hints at his own demise. His songs would break your heart, but there’s a flip-side of irrepressible joy and wonder. A Treasury provides an excellent starting point from which to explore the work of this man, whose extraordinary sensitivity was both his shining star and the black dog that chased him, too young, from this world.
British Folk Rock 1967-1973 – the tip of the iceberg but an interesting and varied collection from the Grapefruit genre anthology series.
And that’s despite the confession of folk brigand Eliza Carthy (Louder Than Words festival interview, Manchester, 2018) that she can’t stand Folk Rock and has never knowingly listened to a Fairport Convention album.
She’ll not be interested then to hear how sixty tracks gather together the familiar with the less so. Songs that you’ll know from the folk tradition and plenty of others which again, might be less so. If there’s anyone who could lay a claim to knowing all the bands and all the songs then you perhaps deserve a place at the head of the table if not the Eggheads team. Steeleye Span, Ralph McTell Continue reading →
Groundbreaking British DJ John Peel once called him “the best kept-secret in the world of music,” but Richard Thompson has been flatpicking raging guitar solos for more than 50 years.
Groundbreaking British DJ John Peel once called him “the best kept-secret in the world of music,” but Richard Thompson has been flatpicking raging guitar solos for more than 50 years. He burst onto London’s swinging music scene in 1967 as the teenage singer and guitarist for Fairport Convention, the seminal folk-rock band that married traditional English songs with an infectious rock groove. In the ’70s, he began singing hypnotic duets in harmony with his then-wife Linda; their best-known album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, was released in 1974.
In the early ’80s, the singer-songwriter went solo and has regularly put out albums ever since. Though he remains relatively under the radar, the press takes regular notice of him: In 2011, Time magazine listed his 1991 fingerpicking masterpiece “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” as one of their All-TIME 100 Songs, and in 2015, Rolling Stone put him at #69 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for his musical contributions.
Last September, he released 13 Rivers, his 18th solo album. It features 13 thundering, mostly minor-key songs that Thompson vaguely describes as having been written during a dark time in his life. He brings the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, with drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, to the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Feb. 14. Pasatiempo reached him by phone at his rented house in New Jersey, where he was resting up in advance of his 2019 tour.
Pasatiempo: The songs on your new album have been described as having a “grim urgency” and an “unflinching gaze,” which could also characterize much of your songwriting over your career. In the first verse of the opener, “Storm Won’t Come,” you sing, “I’m longing for a storm to blow through town/And blow these sad old buildings down/Fire to burn what fire may/And rain to wash it all away.” Are these songs for troubled times, or is this just business as usual for you?
Richard Thompson: It’s not that bad if you really listen to it. [laughs] I don’t think I’ve written literally about anything. I’ve been in this parallel world of song fiction. I’m sure all these traumas that my son has been through are reflected in there.