Nick Drake ‘Family Tree’ LP for release

Nickdrake

After his death in 1974, Nick Drake‘s parents Rodney and Molly Drake began to receive visits from fans at their Tanworth-In-Arden house – fans compelled by Nick’s music to understand more about its source by travelling to the place where he lived and died.

For Rodney and Molly, this was no invasion of privacy. Aware that this might be the beginning of the recognition that their son had longed for in his lifetime, they invited those fans in, improvised meals, even prepared beds for the night. And, of course, when Rodney and Molly mentioned that the young Nick had recorded music on an early reel-to-reel recorder, it seemed only natural that perhaps they might play some of those songs to the rapt young pilgrims who had journeyed here. Often fans left with their own cassette tapes of those songs. Unlike Nick’s albums, which contained only his own material, these tapes, compiled by Rodney Drake, were comprised mostly of other people’s compositions: the folk and blues tunes used by many a young guitarist in the 60s, attempting to master the fretboard. Nick played Jackson C. Frank, Bert Jansch, Dave Van Ronk and, of course, Bob Dylan. This much we know because, inevitably, those tapes soon found their way into the wider public domain.

Though the quality of these recordings – many appeared to be umpteenth
generation copies – was usually poor, the growing interest in Nick’s
work, the unquenchable thirst for the source to yield more, meant that
for some fans, these were no less Nick Drake albums than the ones
released by Island between 1969 and 1972 – Five Leaves Left, Bryter
Layter and Pink Moon. Their creator wouldn’t have planned it this way.
But then, so much else has happened that Nick Drake couldn’t possibly
have planned. Even if the lyrics of Fruit Tree hinted that success
might come posthumously, Nick Drake surely wouldn’t have dared to
believe that in 2007, his records stand alongside those of The Beatles,
the Stones, Marley, Pink Floyd, Hendrix – and more recently, Radiohead,
Nirvana – as set texts for anyone passionate about music. There have
been biographies, documentaries and, of course, those bootlegs – lent a
sheen of propriety by the names their compilers have chosen to give
them: "Second Grace"; "The Complete Home Recordings." As Nick’s sister
Gabrielle puts it, "That, my darling Nick, is the price of fame I’m
afraid.  And even your obstinate integrity could not have prevented it."
For Nick\’s estate and those charged with the job of managing it – Gabrielle Drake, Cally Callomon – the continuing proliferation of these bootlegs presented them with some of their toughest decisions to date. Given that these recordings were out there, wouldn\’t it at least be preferable to present them in a more suitable manner? Applying 21st century digital technology to 20th century recordings would have been a relatively straightforward procedure. But for Gabrielle and Cally, the challenge in putting together Family Tree was to assemble something worthy of his legacy. The mark of their endeavours is at once made manifest in Family Tree.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Inspired in part by Ewan MacColl\’s Radio Ballads – and, perhaps less obviously, The Everly Brothers\’ evocative musical family album Roots – Family Tree tells a story of sorts; the story of Nick Drake\’s musical development in the years prior to Five Leaves Left. Given the circumstances in which they took place, the relaxed fluency of Nick\’s early performances is unsurprising. You only need to hear Nick and Gabrielle\’s exquisite blood harmonies on All My Trials – or Nick playing clarinet with his aunt and uncle on Mozart\’s Kegelstatt Trio – to realize that this was a house whose inhabitants entertained themselves and each other by playing music. With an entire room dedicated to such recreation, the Drakes were late to yield to the allure of a TV. So much of what seemed to spring fully formed and without precedent on Nick\’s albums can, in fact, be traced to the hours spent in that room. The inclusion of two songs written and performed by Molly Drake bears testament to her influence, conscious or otherwise, on her son – in particular the quintessentially English melancholia of Poor Mum – one of her later songs, written in response to Nick\’s Poor Boy.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>What gradually transpires with every performance on Family Tree is the sense of a major talent incubating in relative isolation. The joy of musical discovery and self-discovery is evident on Winter Is Gone – learned, in all probability, from a version by John Renbourn – and Bert Jansch\’s Strolling Down The Highway. Up until 1967, when Nick left Far Leys to spend a year in Aix-En-Provence, the songs on Family Tree can be seen as fascinating co-ordinates on a relatively shallow learning trajectory. Had he stopped developing at this point, Nick would have still been an exceptional stylist. But in Aix, the separate strands in his musical life — his classical upbringing, his mother\’s writing, his mastery of folk and blues guitar – seemed to intertwine. Quite simply, in Aix, he found his sound.\u003cbr /\>”,1]
);

//–>
For
Nick’s estate and those charged with the job of managing it – Gabrielle
Drake, Cally Callomon – the continuing proliferation of these bootlegs
presented them with some of their toughest decisions to date. Given
that these recordings were out there, wouldn’t it at least be
preferable to present them in a more suitable manner? Applying 21st
century digital technology to 20th century recordings would have been a
relatively straightforward procedure. But for Gabrielle and Cally, the
challenge in putting together Family Tree was to assemble something
worthy of his legacy. The mark of their endeavours is at once made
manifest in Family Tree.

Inspired in part by Ewan MacColl’s
Radio Ballads – and, perhaps less obviously, The Everly Brothers’
evocative musical family album Roots – Family Tree tells a story of
sorts; the story of Nick Drake’s musical development in the years prior
to Five Leaves Left. Given the circumstances in which they took place,
the relaxed fluency of Nick’s early performances is unsurprising. You
only need to hear Nick and Gabrielle’s exquisite blood harmonies on All
My Trials – or Nick playing clarinet with his aunt and uncle on
Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio – to realize that this was a house whose
inhabitants entertained themselves and each other by playing music.
With an entire room dedicated to such recreation, the Drakes were late
to yield to the allure of a TV. So much of what seemed to spring fully
formed and without precedent on Nick’s albums can, in fact, be traced
to the hours spent in that room. The inclusion of two songs written and
performed by Molly Drake bears testament to her influence, conscious or
otherwise, on her son – in particular the quintessentially English
melancholia of Poor Mum – one of her later songs, written in response
to Nick’s Poor Boy.

What gradually transpires with every
performance on Family Tree is the sense of a major talent incubating in
relative isolation. The joy of musical discovery and self-discovery is
evident on Winter Is Gone – learned, in all probability, from a version
by John Renbourn – and Bert Jansch’s Strolling Down The Highway. Up
until 1967, when Nick left Far Leys to spend a year in Aix-En-Provence,
the songs on Family Tree can be seen as fascinating co-ordinates on a
relatively shallow learning trajectory. Had he stopped developing at
this point, Nick would have still been an exceptional stylist. But in
Aix, the separate strands in his musical life — his classical
upbringing, his mother’s writing, his mastery of folk and blues guitar
– seemed to intertwine. Quite simply, in Aix, he found his sound.
Featured on Family Tree are eight songs from the legendary "Aix tape" –  an informal half hour session on a Philips cassette recorder, which showcased just how far Nick had come as a performer. As his Aix contemporary – and writer of Been Smokin\’ Too Long – Robin Frederick notes, his version of Bob Dylan\’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time replaces Dylan\’s straight fingerpicking rhythm with a light, bluesy, swinging feel that adds forward momentum and bounce to the song. In 1967, Jackson C. Frank\’s Blues Runs The Game blazed through the folk guitar community like a forest fire. Alongside the elegiac sadness of Nick\’s version here is his treatment of Frank\’s Milk & Honey. To hear Nick sing this autumnal meditation with its unorthodox phrasing and allusions to nature is tantamount to seeing the final pieces of the picture put into place. It was as though this jigsaw had to be completed and scrutinised before Nick could set about rearranging it to reflect who he had become. Only then, could he start to write in earnest.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Indeed, by the time he left France to make a whole new set of friends in Cambridge, Nick had begun to amass a repertoire of original songs – among them They\’re Leaving Me Behind and Strange Meeting II. His final performances on Family Tree are the end of one story and the beginning of another. It was in Cambridge that Nick met Robert Kirby, the arranger who – in a letter to his parents – he described as "a rather splendid fellow, and looks like Haydn, or Mozart, or someone, being rather short and stocky, with long wavy hair and rimless spectacles." Included on Family Tree are two songs which Robert recorded when Nick came to him in search of possible arrangements. Performed on guitar and piano respectively, Day Is Done and Way To Blue mark Nick Drake\’s point of vertical take-off, into a place that few artists ever reach.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>From hereon in, the story is known to most people: three albums and, at the end, five final songs which portray a beleaguered soul trying to understand a world that has, in some way, failed him. After Nick Drake\’s death, his family also had to face the prospect of a world which had, in some way, failed them. Recorded some time in the early to mid 60s, Try To Remember finds Molly Drake singing about loss with a movingly prescient acuity. Here, the song\’s protagonist sings not just for their sorrow, but also for the laughter that once resounded throughout a happy, loving home. It\’s a laughter that resounds – sometimes literally – throughout the whole of Family Tree. And, in doing so, perhaps it brings us closer to who Nick Drake was than any other account given of his life so far.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Peter Paphides, March 2007\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>——\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);

//–>
Featured
on Family Tree are eight songs from the legendary "Aix tape" –  an
informal half hour session on a Philips cassette recorder, which
showcased just how far Nick had come as a performer. As his Aix
contemporary – and writer of Been Smokin’ Too Long – Robin Frederick
notes, his version of Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time replaces
Dylan’s straight fingerpicking rhythm with a light, bluesy, swinging
feel that adds forward momentum and bounce to the song. In 1967,
Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Runs The Game blazed through the folk guitar
community like a forest fire. Alongside the elegiac sadness of Nick’s
version here is his treatment of Frank’s Milk & Honey. To hear Nick
sing this autumnal meditation with its unorthodox phrasing and
allusions to nature is tantamount to seeing the final pieces of the
picture put into place. It was as though this jigsaw had to be
completed and scrutinised before Nick could set about rearranging it to
reflect who he had become. Only then, could he start to write in
earnest.

Indeed, by the time he left France to make a whole new
set of friends in Cambridge, Nick had begun to amass a repertoire of
original songs – among them They’re Leaving Me Behind and Strange
Meeting II. His final performances on Family Tree are the end of one
story and the beginning of another. It was in Cambridge that Nick met
Robert Kirby, the arranger who – in a letter to his parents – he
described as "a rather splendid fellow, and looks like Haydn, or
Mozart, or someone, being rather short and stocky, with long wavy hair
and rimless spectacles." Included on Family Tree are two songs which
Robert recorded when Nick came to him in search of possible
arrangements. Performed on guitar and piano respectively, Day Is Done
and Way To Blue mark Nick Drake’s point of vertical take-off, into a
place that few artists ever reach.

From hereon in, the story is
known to most people: three albums and, at the end, five final songs
which portray a beleaguered soul trying to understand a world that has,
in some way, failed him. After Nick Drake’s death, his family also had
to face the prospect of a world which had, in some way, failed them.
Recorded some time in the early to mid 60s, Try To Remember finds Molly
Drake singing about loss with a movingly prescient acuity. Here, the
song’s protagonist sings not just for their sorrow, but also for the
laughter that once resounded throughout a happy, loving home. It’s a
laughter that resounds – sometimes literally – throughout the whole of
Family Tree. And, in doing so, perhaps it brings us closer to who Nick
Drake was than any other account given of his life so far.

Family Tree – Released 18th June.

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