Five Leaves Left

Five Leaves Left

5.0 3
by Nick Drake
     
 

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Released in 1969, when he was just 20 years old, Nick Drake's debut album reveals a singer-songwriter of stunning depth and maturity. Drake possessed a profound melancholy, however, which eventually claimed his life, and on Five Leaves Left, you can already hear the wheels of despair turning in his head. Most chilling is the song "Fruit Tree," on which the

Overview

Released in 1969, when he was just 20 years old, Nick Drake's debut album reveals a singer-songwriter of stunning depth and maturity. Drake possessed a profound melancholy, however, which eventually claimed his life, and on Five Leaves Left, you can already hear the wheels of despair turning in his head. Most chilling is the song "Fruit Tree," on which the doomed singer posits this theory: "Fame is but a fruit tree/So very unsound/It can never flourish/Till its stalk is in the ground." Still, the album is buoyed by Drake's delicate guitar playing, the lush string arrangements, and the sheer beauty of songs like "The Thoughts of Mary Jane," "Way to Blue," "River Man," and "Day Is Done." Five Leaves Left is unassuming, yet quietly intense -- a classic that went largely unrecognized until years after Drake himself was gone.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Ned Raggett
It's little wonder why Drake felt frustrated at the lack of commercial success his music initially gathered, considering the help he had on his debut record. Besides fine production from Joe Boyd and assistance from folks like Fairport Convention's Richard Thompson and his unrelated bass counterpart from Pentangle, Danny Thompson, Drake also recruited school friend Robert Kirby to create most of the just-right string and wind arrangements. His own performance itself steered a careful balance between too-easy accessibility and maudlin self-reflection, combining the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls on either side. The result was a fantastic debut appearance, and if the cult of Drake consistently reads more into his work than is perhaps deserved, Five Leaves Left is still a most successful effort. Having grown out of the amiable but derivative styles captured on the long-circulating series of bootleg home recordings, Drake imbues his tunes with just enough drama -- world-weariness in the vocals, carefully paced playing, and more -- to make it all work. His lyrics capture a subtle poetry of emotion, as on the pastoral semi-fantasia of "The Thoughts of Mary Jane," which his soft, articulate singing brings even more to the full. Sometimes he projects a little more clearly, as on the astonishing voice-and-strings combination "Way to Blue," while elsewhere he's not so clear, suggesting rather than outlining the mood. Understatement is the key to his songs and performances' general success, which makes the combination of his vocals and Rocky Dzidzornu's congas on "Three Hours" and the lovely "'Cello Song," to name two instances, so effective. Danny Thompson is the most regular side performer on the album, his bass work providing subtle heft while never standing in the way of the song -- kudos well deserved for Boyd's production as well.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/08/1992
Label:
Hannibal
UPC:
0031257443425
catalogNumber:
4434

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Nick Drake   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Vocals
Richard Thompson   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Kwasi "Rocky" Dzidzornu   Percussion,Conga
Tristan Fry   Drums,Background Vocals,Vibes
Paul Harris   Piano
Clare Lowther   Cello
Danny Thompson   Bass

Technical Credits

John Wood   Engineer
Joe Boyd   Producer,Re-Release Producer
Robert Kirby   Arranger,String Arrangements,Bass Arrangement
Harry Robinson   Arranger
Cally   Art Direction
Stella MacPherson   Lyric Transcription

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Magic. That's just, this whole album. I've never heard a singer/songwriter actually PLAY guitar so well! Granted, I'm only just getting into the genre, but still. I was blown away. And it's so clear to hear Nick Drake's influence among other acoustic artists of today, including John Mayer. Just a beautiful album, it has it's ups and downs. The lyrics are amazing, and the orchestral arrangements make this album all the more perfect. I highly recommend this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A slightly more melancholy album than his later efforts, Five Leaves sees Nick Drake coming into the musical universe fully clothed and with a head of hair. Not many debut albums are this good, it often makes me laugh when I see new singer songwriters' albums with labels such as "outstanding debut" on them. There are very seldom artists with such a well developed vision of music and lyrics. Tracks like Fruit Tree capture that matured spirit in full flower. Robert Kirby, a good friend of Drake's was drafted in to arrange the strings and his arrangements on Way To Blue and Fruit Tree are some of the best. Other musicians work very well along with Drake on the album, and the album is brilliantly multi faceted. My personal favourite song is River Man, the lyrics juxtapose the confusion and understanding of three charachters, each with their own longings and lives. The string orchestration works very well, almost to a magical degree when Drake sings "Betty said she prayed today, for the sky to blow away". Five Leaves is somewhat essential and like Nick Drake, overlooked. Buy this album, or you will never know what you've missed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago