Nick Drake’s recording career was so short that we now view just about everything in it as a highlight of British progressive folk of the day. But this is a special anniversary, because it’s the day of Drake’s ‘Five Leaves Left’ landmark.
The English singer-songwriter’s first album was released by Island on September 1, 1969. It’s the one featuring such timelessly haunting pieces as ‘Time Has Told Me’ and ‘River Man,’ with contributions from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention, on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass and others, plus the beautiful arrangements of Robert Kirby and the production of Joe Boyd.
‘Five Leaves Left’ has come to be internationally revered as a classic, landing at No. 280 in Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and 85th in a 2005 poll by Channel 4 TV in the UK of the 100 greatest. Before both of those, NME ranked it No. 74 in their all-time list. Yet, unthinkably, neither this nor any recording that Drake made during his lifetime ever touched the UK or the US charts.
His only appearance to date on the British bestsellers came with a top 30 showing for the 2004 compilation ‘Made To Love Magic’ which, as we reported last week, is soon to be reissued in a special vinyl edition which you can pre-order in the uDiscover store here along with other desirable releases. They include the vinyl box set of ‘Five Leaves Left’ itself.
The public’s apparent indifference to Drake’s singular talents was not for lack of some critical approval. Mark Williams, reviewing ‘Five Leaves Left’ for the International Times, made the point that the newcomer’s voice would be compared with Donovan’s. “But Don would get nowhere without his songs and Nick will get nowhere without his,” he wrote. “They are beautiful, gentle breezes of cadent perfection which carry along reflective poems like dancing, golden leaves.”