13 rarities from across the all-too-short career of Nick Drake. River Man and Mayfair were recorded while he was at Cambridge; Joey and Clothes of Sand were recorded in '68 but not used for his Five Leaves Left LP; 1974's Voices and Black Eyed Dog finally receive proper mixes, and Tow the Line hasn't been heard since Nick recorded it in '74. Precious glimpses of a star that burned out too soon.
All the world's a stage and folk legend Nick Drake--a frail, reclusive romantic whose music was sad but beautifully emancipating and who died young in 1974 in mysterious circumstances--was one of life's reluctant players. As epithets go, the lyrics to Made to Love Magic
("I was born to sail away into a land of never, not to be tied to an old stone grave") aptly convey how Nick Drake's legend continues to gather no moss, even some three decades after his lonely tranquilized farewell. Enthusiastic newcomers should start with any of Drake's three studio albums (Five Leaves Left
, Bryter Layter
, Pink Moon
) and Patrick Humphries' definitive biography but Made to Love Magic
is, nevertheless, essential. Consisting of rare and unheard tracks (many of which have even avoided the mucky paws of the keenest bootlegger) and compiled by those closest to him (sister Gabrielle, engineer John Wood, and fellow Cambridge University student and string-arranger Robert Kirby) the album is a labor of love. Lost amateur recordings of Nick Drake at University in Cambridge, outtakes from the Five Leaves Left
album, Robert Kirby's unused string arrangements for "Magic" and "Time of No Reply" finally restored, an early rendition of "Three Hours" featuring Rebop Kwaku Baah ( Traffic, Can) on percussion and remixed versions of those despairing final songs from July 1974, including the newly discovered "Tow the Line." This is surely the final word on Nick Drake; unless, of course, those Aix-en-Provences tapes and that mythical lost Peel session from August 1969 ever make themselves known. --Kevin Maidment