Nick Drake
Bryter Layter


4.5
superb

Review

by sunflower2020 USER (36 Reviews)
August 19th, 2007 | 14 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Young, Gifted and Doomed (part 2)

Nick Drake was a rare talent. He had an ability to write songs that sound as they were written 400 years ago. His self taught guitar playing is also very original, and hard to imitate. And his voice is insecure, isolated and tender.

He reminds me of one great American songwriter but not so good singer: John Phillips, the guy who wrote «California Dreamin'» and the other hits with The Mamas and the Papas. He also released a solo album in 1970. Unsure of his singing, he buried his lead vocals in the mix. Phillips' record flopped despite there was no filler, unlike all The Mamas and the Papas albums. But John Phillips had already had Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and Mama Cass, great singers. Drake had himself, great, great songs, producer Joe Boyd, and a few good people in Island Records who believed in him. If Nick was alive today, I think he wouldn't get a record deal, because the music business is business more than ever and no one want to give a chance to someone who has self-confidence in quantity Nick had.

But people in Island believed in Nick. Although his debut had sold circa 5 000 copies, they decided to give more money for production. They added "proper" rhythm section (bass and drums), brass section and strings to Drake's sound. And that gave more colors to already great Drake's songs, not to forget his unique guitar playing. And who played on "Bryter Layter"? Well, creme de la creme, Richard Thompson (later successful solo artist), Danny Thompson, John Cale (ex-Velvet Underground), to name a few. Somewhere it is possible to hear traces of funk, jazz as well as folk. Also, his sophomore effort is poppier and warmer than the debut.

After a lovely one minute and half long «Introduction», the album kicks off with «Hazey Jane II», a friendly, up-tempo number, great single potential. Then comes «At The Chime of a City Clock», which sounds like «Forever Changes» outtake (in the best possible sense) and beautiful jazz ballad «One Of These Things First» - I believe that's Drake at his most personal and beautiful, along with the song «Fly». "Fly" has one of the most romantic and gentle melodies you'll ever hear. And great intro. «Poor Boy» is a little bit overlong, but guest vocalists added some dynamics. "Sunday" is not bad but too predictable instrumental, but "Nothern Sky" is a real treat (vibraphone and piano parts are particularly stunning).

The sales? They were even worse than "Five Leaves Left".

The problem is in Drake's voice: it is half whispering-half singing, smoky, isolated, insecure, maybe distant and not so convincing as his guitar playing or songs. Sometimes I have the feeling that his singing is too pedestrian for such delicate instrumental tracks. OK, he is better singer than, say, Lou Reed, but I think he sang on his records just because he couldn't find anyone else who'd do it instead of him. Maybe «Bryter Layter» should be done the same way Gram Parsons did his solo albums: to do duet with some great female vocalists. In Drake's case, I think Sandy Denny would have suited him well. Or Rod Stewart. Imagine «Fly», a great intro, strings, guitar and piano shining, with Stewart singing «Please...» part and Drake singing the quieter part. Or «Hazey Jane II» with Scott Walker. Maybe that would have given him a boost.

Another problem, well, Nick Drake was nerd. That's fine by me, sometimes I think that I am a nerd. But the first nerd who made it cool and funny was Elvis Costello, who released his debut in 1977, a punk Year Zero. Drake's songs were just too introverted for mainstream, and college rock wasn't existed in a way it did in 1980s and later. Also Drake didn't like to perform. He had stage fright, so he was without hit singles, had virtually no live performances, and there was no MTV or video spots to promote artists (Well, I can't imagine Nick Drake on MTV but no one knows).

Happily, his star would rise again, first he had been discovered by Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Robert Smith (The Cure), among others, and second, 26 years after his death, in 2000, after VW used his sparse song called «Pink Moon» for commercial. In two months period, he sold more records than he did in his lifetime.



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user ratings (562)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
MrKite
August 19th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Your review felt like you were more focused on why he wasn't famous than giving us descriptions of the actual songs. And when the descriptions were given they were a little to brief for my tastes.
Also, I find his vocals perfect for the music and in no way "pedestrian".

londoncalling457
August 19th 2007


2615 Comments


This is the only Nick Drake album I don't own, but I should be picking it up sooner or later. Pretty solid review although I would have to agree a little bit with MrKite.This Message Edited On 08.19.07

Doppelganger
August 19th 2007


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome album, except Hazey Jane II reminds me way too much of the M.A.S.H. theme for some reason. Not a good thing.

Ephex
August 20th 2007


730 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Definately agree with your rating.

sunflower2020
August 20th 2007


35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I believe that making of "Bryter Layter" was situation called make or break. And it wasn't successful when it had hit the stores. After that Drake became very depressed and quit music business for awhile. That's why I discussed so much about it.

I think that Drake is limited singer. Great but limited. He kicks ***** inside his (short) range. I believe that all this rich orchestration, although beautiful, just ate him up, he was sidelined by orchestra. So this is why I mentioned Scott Walker, Sandy Denny and Rod Stewart.

Everyone, thanks for feedback, different opinions and discussion.

jrowa001
August 20th 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i dont think i couldve enjoyed nick drake so much if he had other singers involved. i find his voice perfect for the style he played. its soothing yet sorrowful

FriendofTheDevil70
August 20th 2007


384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You spent over half the review talking about how Nick Drake isn't famous, and all his shortcomings as a mainstream artist. You seemed to hold him in a lower regard just because his album sales were low, even though your rating contradicts this. Who cares? If the music world and fans were perfect we would have Mike Stern, Coltrane, and tons of other truely great bands/musicians leading in album sales. But thats not the case is it? Its a bit pointless to point it out in a review of a specific album IMO.

Anyway, all things considered your review wasn't bad. Oh yeah, this album rules.

MrKite
August 20th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Check out Five Leaves Left first chickenfish. It's much better.

sunflower2020
August 20th 2007


35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Do it, sonictheplumber. Your current review about "Pink Moon" is pretty good (I voted), but if you feel that you can better it, do it.

MrKite
August 20th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He can do better.

MrKite
October 28th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Young, Gifted and Doomed (part 2)

:lol:

His worst album

MrKite
November 17th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It could also do without the instrumentals and Poor Boy.

MrKite
November 17th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, the way everything's done makes it seems like a few tracks are whoever feat. Nick Drake.

MrKite
November 18th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

FLL is what this would be if it was just as good as Pink Moon.



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