Nick Drake
Five Leaves Left


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
November 7th, 2013 | 48 replies | 4,456 views


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You must hear this before you die.

There's always going to be an abundance of people in this world who want their slice of fame before they die. After all, you never really know when your life will come to an end, right? However, while I could understand a person's desire for attention and popularity, what many people never do is take it one step at a time. In many cases, instant fame has derailed once-promising careers. Remember when Susan Boyle was on top of the world after her live performance of "I Dreamed a Dream?" Most people do, but she is still pretty much gone from the public eye now because she couldn't really follow up such an explosion of popularity and expectations. Almost every American Idol winner can fall into this category as well, for that matter. On the other side of the spectrum, we've got the English singer-songwriter Nick Drake; despite dying at a very young age, he remains a glowing example of how something so small can erupt into something so large at some point down the line. In this case, his career was that "something small" and his influence is what erupted into something so massive. Even more surprising is the fact that his debut album Five Leaves Left could also be considered his magnum opus.

Five Leaves Left is what you may call the middle ground bridging his two other albums Bryter Layter and Pink Moon; you get the complexity and slightly more upbeat nature of the former, and the emotional intensity and stark moments of the latter. This combination opens the door for a lot of variety, and Drake balances every style and mood perfectly. With "Three Hours" and "Cello Song," there's a clear emphasis on his guitar ability (particularly finger-picking); with "Way to Blue" and "Fruit Tree," you get thick layers of melancholy and even nostalgia; with "River Man," there's a dreamy atmosphere created by the orchestral strings, which form a mesmerizing backdrop behind a melody played in 5/4 time; the list of different moods and sounds goes on. What makes this album work, however, is how it's all tied together. The overall atmosphere of the record is part-hopeful and part-hopeless, and the placement of each song ensures that no emotional moment is out of place. For every bleak number like the string-driven "Way to Blue," there's a sigh of relief like the bluesy closer "Saturday Sun."

Now keep in mind that there's no exceptionally happy song on here, but some are definitely more hopeful than others (unlike the majority of Pink Moon). Additionally, the album has aged gracefully unlike many of its contemporaries; by having his lyricism avoid being a product of the times and not relying on cheap gimmicks, Drake has crafted an album that could have easily been created just yesterday. It definitely helps that his backing musicians add so much to the experience, most notably Danny Thompson on the upright bass. He and the percussionists bring a sense of liveliness to certain tracks and help support the low end while Nick does his acoustic guitar work over the top; "Three Hours," in particular, benefits from the subtle chemistry between Drake's swift finger-picking and the underlying congas. There's also a distinctly baroque-sounding vibe surrounding many of the tracks, primarily due to the string arrangements in songs like "Way to Blue" and the brief "Day is Done." As I said before though, emotional and musical focus is maintained throughout the album, and the relatively short runtime makes sure anything unneeded is cut out.

Very few albums have reached the perfection of Five Leaves Left. Its instrumentation, lyricism, atmosphere, and overall balance are executed brilliantly. It's sad that Nick Drake died so early, and with only three albums under his belt; who knows what other work he could have created? Despite initially low sales, Drake's influence has surely spread further than he probably would have ever expected. And you know what? He really does deserve to be recognized. If he was alive today, I'm sure he'd look back on the reception of his three classics and be smiling. If you haven't listened to this album yet, be prepared for something truly special. Five Leaves Left is a folk masterpiece and an experience that you won't be forgetting anytime soon.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2013



9619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The only thing I didn't mention is Nick's vocals, so I'll probably edit something about them in later.
This will probably be my last 5/5 review for a while

Also, I think I'm gonna continue this shorter length for reviews. I think my shorter reviews turn out
better than my longer ones :P

ethos
November 7th 2013



1743 Comments


nice review. haven't heard this yet, pink moon's cool but i feel like he's got a lot more personal stuff further back in his dicog so i'm real hyped to check it out

is this your fav album?

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2013



9619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's one of my favorites. Definitely in my Top 10. I folk music anyway, but Sounds of Silence, The
Wild Hunt, and this album are the only three (unless you count Ghost by Devin Townsend) folk albums
that I've 5'd so far

wacknizzle
November 7th 2013



12600 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Keeewwwwlllllllllll

Digging: Burrow - The Collapse of Time

ethos
November 7th 2013



1743 Comments


cool, gonna try to hear it tonight then

tommygun
November 7th 2013



23536 Comments


fuck yea

Digging: Obliteration - Black Death Horizon

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



19937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing album. I prefer Pink Moon though.

Time Has Told Me might be my favourite Nick Drake song though.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2013



4378 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice review, Brendan.

I agree with Jamie, "Time Has Told Me" is the highlight here for me as well. Definitely my favourite track next to "Saturday Sun" and "Way to Blue". "Poor Boy" from Bryter Layter is my favourite from him of all though.



Jethro42
November 7th 2013



12365 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album rules. Excellent review.

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2013



10823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice username change. this album is fantastic.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



19433 Comments


that was fast lol, will read shortly :D

Digging: Musk Ox - Woodfall

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



19433 Comments


excellent review man, i'll try to obtain this asap!

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2013



5974 Comments


albums hould have been named necrotica

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



19937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is a great review btw, although I never would have expected a reference to Susan Boyle in a Nick Drake review.

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2013



9619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, guys :] Yeah Jamie, I guess that's like me putting an Avenged Sevenfold mention in my Trvth review :P

zxlkho
November 7th 2013



3460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is my least favorite Nick Drake album actually

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



19433 Comments


so far i like this better than pink moon but i'll have to give each more time

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2013



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nick Drake is one of those artists I really enjoy, but know I'll probably come to love once I've devoted enough time to his records.

That middle paragraph is a bit hefty, but other than that good work!

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2013



9619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for the feedback btw. Yeah Ali, I'm experimenting with some new reviewing styles to switch things up a bit. I'll probably break that paragraph into two later on.

LilLioness
November 8th 2013



2496 Comments


I "River Man" so hard. That is my go to sad jam.



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