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Our Music Year No. 56: Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’

By From page B5 | February 25, 2013

Artist: Nick Drake
Title: “Five Leaves Left”
Year: 1969
Format: Digital (Spotify)
Grade: A

I worked my way backward through Nick Drake’s three-album output, beginning with 1972’s “Pink Moon” and winding up now with his debut, “Five Leaves Left.”

Listening in this order gives a window into his progression as a songwriter. “Five Leaves Left” sets a number of its arrangements on a bed of strings, a technique Drake would abandon by the time he got to his final album.

Drake’s voice has a weight to it, filled with aching and longing. It’s informed in an unfortunate way by his passing at such a young age.

“Way to Blue” is a melancholy masterpiece, with Drake’s pained voice as a counterbalance to the drama of the string arrangements.

Other instruments give flavor. A flute punches up “The Thoughts of Mary Jane.” Piano ages “Man in a Shed.” Richard Thompson’s electric guitar fills give “Time Has Told Me” a country twinge.

He ditches the strings on “Three Hours,” the longest studio track he released while alive, a layered work that is aided by a lively bass line.

Drake only made three studio efforts in his lifetime, but they’re all worth checking out.

Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
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