Thursday, 11 April 2013

Various Artists - Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


Ah, the tribute album; a notion fraught with danger. We've just had Stereophonics and Simply Red recreating The Beatles' 'Please Please Me'. I haven't dared listen. Are straight covers the way to do it? Or total reinventions? Easy Star All-Stars total overhauling of Pink Floyd on 'Dub Side Of The Moon' was inspired., but for an artist like Nick Drake, a fragile and precocious talent with personal issues that would tragically end his life at just 26? Sure, musical sacred cows can be ripe for a bashing, but Drake exists beyond that. Anything but a fitting, respectful tribute would be in bad taste and most likely be received in a similar manner to finding out Thatcher's death was a late April Fool's joke.

Nick Drake is a sacred cow and for every good reason. His short career was near faultless and his songs some of the most beautiful ever committed to tape, so 'Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake' had to be carefully considered and correctly executed, but at the same time a celebration, not a wake. The cast for this record (which is made up of live recordings) consists of contemporaries such as Danny Thompson, Vashti Bunyan and Robyn Hitchcock, although the latter was just starting out at the time. Many other players weren't even born during Drake's brief lifetime, and there's the odd curveball like Green Gartside. Some of these artists appear on multiple songs, giving a cohesiveness to the album. Importantly, Drake's original producer Joe Boyd is at the helm to ensure the correct treatment is given. What comes across strongest is just how good some of these compositions are.

Australian duo Luluc's version of 'Things Behind The Sun' is stunning, as is their take on 'Fly', Scott Matthews' 'Place To Be' aims to be as faithful as possible and this proves to be the correct choice. Gartside's vocal style is different but works well with 'Fruit Tree' and the emotion is palpable. The backing vocals on Shane Nicholson's 'Poor Boy' are sublime, even if the song is a little smooth on the whole, as is Krystal Warren's 'Time Has Told Me', but these are minor quibbles. It would be easy to dissect each track, but that's best left to the listener. A few other especially high points are (unsurprisingly) Robyn Hitchcock's 'Parasite', Scott Matthews' 'When The Day Is Done', the ever lovely Vashti Bunyan's take on 'Which Will' and Teddy Thompson & Krystle Warren taking on 'Pink Moon'. What we can say is that this tribute is heartfelt, fitting and reinforces what we already know: Nick Drake was one of the finest songwriters these shores have ever produced.







For more info on the project head here

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