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Documentary about singer songwriter Nick Drake. The film traces his life story through his friends and colleagues vague memories of him, but all they have is an impression of someone they never really new.
A study, mostly chronological, of the life of Nick Drake (1948-1974). Gabrielle, his older sister, tells us of her brother's birth in Burma, childhood in Warwickshire, life at Cambridge and in London, then back to his parents' home in Tanworth. His parents describe his habits and personality. Two friends and the producer, arranger, sound engineer, and photographer for his three albums comment. His mother, a musician and poet, is an early influence. His quiet folk style made his one tour a disaster. His lack of success and gradual withdrawal end with his death at 26. Eleven of his recordings play on the soundtrack, usually as we see his room, a city, or the Warwickshire countryside. Written by
an eloquent and soft spoken portrait and insight into the man and his music
I first heard the music of Nick Drake at a tenant's apartment my mom was renting out to in 1995. His name was Matt, he was a musician just like me, and he owned the Fruit Tree lp set. We were in his kitchen and right before he played Five Leaves Left he said, "This is Nick Drake, I think you'll like him" and he was absolutely right. As "Time Has told me" was playing, on that cold damp grey morning, I immediately took to liking the music a lot and empathizing with this somber voice, plucking an acoustic guitar, and just knew it was great immediately.
Now, I didn't rush out to get the Nick Drake records since they were so rare to find, this was pre Amazon.com and e-bay folks. But then a couple of years later Rykodisc re-issued the Fruit Tree lp's on cd. I immediately bought it and devoured the music and listened to it endlessly and intensely. His life and music, have never left me since.
I often found a kinship and solace in what he was expressing and began to feel less alone with how I felt at times. Especially in my late teens and early twenties, when I found myself always on the outside of society's pressures of conformity, and the desire to express so much to people that I had conflict with in my life, or to women that enticed me, and not being able to find the right words to say.
On the surface, Nick Drake's music seems to be the perfect accompaniment to college life, cafe sitting, and or people watching at first listen. But if you dig a little deeper, his music begins to embody that tongue-tied, outcast feeling, yet, in his words and music, there was always this acceptance of it, for better or worse, and the glimmer of hope that something better was just beyond the horizon. You start to hear in his words and music his wants, fears, struggles, and desires and you begin to identify with this extremely vulnerable yet strikingly poetic man. And the lyrics, chord structure, and playing, are just superb and top-notch, mixing folk, blues, jazz, and classical so effortlessly.
It's a shame no one filmed Drake on his short and ultimately unsuccessful college tour as his producer Joe Boyd described. But in a way, that just adds to the mystique surrounding his life and music. I love the part where the producers behind Bryter Layter deconstruct "At the Chime of a City Clock" and one of them starts to bob their head to the jazzy groove of the song. The tape of Molly Drake, Nick's mother, played by his sister Gabrielle, provides a much needed insight into Nick's inspiration musically as well.
As a Nick Drake fan, it would've been great to hear more from Joe Boyd about what the recording of the song "Which Will" was like or at least to have used it in the film which I think was his best song. But all of his songs are great. It would've also been nice to hear from Richard Thompson from Fairport Convention who played lead guitar on Nick's first two records and hear his viewpoint on the myth surrounding Drake's life and music and what it was like to work with him in the studio.
It's so sad when his mother speaks about how he felt he had failed to reach the people he wanted to speak to with his music and that he couldn't write any more songs. It's just so completely the opposite to me because he succeeded tremendously in connecting his own trials and tribulations with other people's struggles and why people who discover his music pass the message of his life and music to others, because it means that much.
This review is more than just a review of a film of a folk singer. It's an homage to Nick Drake because his music has helped me and probably many others, young and old, with their own internal demons. If you haven't listened to Nick Drake, please do so and watch this documentary. If you're already a fan you won't be disappointed.
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