As quintessentially English as tea and toast, delayed rail journeys, and slight drizzle, Nick Drake’s music seems to be the kind of branch of folk that only the English could truly ‘get’. His second album Bryter Layter, originally released in 1970 has finally been reissued, available for a whole new generation of melancholic twenty-somethings and countryside ramblers.
A terrifically tragic individual, Drake died aged just 26 from an overdose of antidepressants. Struggling to deal with his lack of commercial success and his consequent withdrawal from live appearances, Nick Drake was clearly a troubled individual. Since his death, his music has ironically grown into a larger life than he could ever have achieved whilst he was alive, culminating in this reissue of his second album.
Where debut album Five Leaves Left revelled in his forlorn sensibilities, Bryter Layter seems a much more upbeat affair. The haunting Introduction leads into the breezy Hazey Jane II, and One of These Things First is the perfect soundtrack for woodland wanderings and lazy day drives.
His voice is soft and often monotonic, but this lends itself to his mysterious persona in a similar way to Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen. Where Nick Drake excels is in his arrangement of orchestral movements around his hypnotic, serene guitar lines.
The sound differs little from the original pressings, remastered just to add a little crispness, but with such a devoted cult following, it would almost seem like sacrilege to change too much of the late man’s finest work. However, it’s in the packaging where this reissue really wins. Packaged in original vinyl sleeves and featuring reproductions of original shop posters, handwritten setlists and master tape reels, this vinyl reissue is likely to appeal to collectors and devout followers more than the casual buyer. Also included are a selection of downloadable versions, including MP3 or Dubbed-From-Disc formats for the modern listener.
Whilst the music is very much a product of the rural environs it was created in, it doesn’t sound dated, with the original production actually being very neat for its time. The albums highlights are probably the moving title track and the relaxed Poor Boy, but Bryter Layter is undoubtedly one of those albums best experienced as a whole. As a collectors set, this reissue may not see too many new fans jump on the bandwagon, but Nick Drake would almost certainly be reconciled to know just how brightly his star burns this long after his death.