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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Classic Review: Nick Drake – Bryter Layter (1970)

I wonder if the sweet, otherworldly strains of Nick Drake have become somewhat derelict in all the buzz and bug-eyed excitement of contemporary music. I imagine him contently pulling at his guitar strings in a secluded corner, unperturbed and ignorant of the bedraggled neon maelstrom of the world swirling around him.

Bryter Layter certainly gives this impression of Drake. As a musician who is typically tied to the folk genre, he doesn’t limit himself to the traditional thin guitar and raw unfinished sound of the folk of Seeger, Dylan, or Cohen. Drake stakes his claim as a musician who will do whatever he wants with his art, and one who uses his influences as a contribution to his own talent and not as a one-way linear channel to his music.

Drake’s guitar work produces a soft, deep, wooden timbre which easily befriends the established dreamy ambience of leisurely oboe and clarinet, hocketing piano and the odd scat flute solo. Such is the departure from the common notion of folk that the album may feel more at home in one of the jazz sub-genres. The pulse and rhythm are positively riddled with jazz influence, and sometimes the only folkish ties that remain are the 2/4 time signature and one-man-and-his-guitar image on the cover, disguising the one-man-and-his-five-piece-band reality.

His unmistakable airy, golden voice seamlessly slides between acting as a third string instrument with the violins and guitar, and a piping woodwind with the flute and saxophone. So smooth is the harmony between voice and score that at times, his finely articulated lyrics get lost in the sonic forest around them.

Despite its 1970 release date, Bryter Layter may as well have been written and recorded today. The album has a timeless sound that failed to follow musical trends of the time that could date it, another testament to Drakes independent attitude. Let’s not forget about dear Nick, even if you’ve never heard him before, on first listen you’ll how much you’ve missed him.

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  1. PBtM says:

    1970? Sheez. I only have a… “borrowed” copy; I thought he *was* contemporary. I blame (thank) Garden State. Silly me!

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