Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Nick Drake – Bryter Layter (1970)


Nick Drake was without a doubt an underestimated genius. Underestimated not by others, but by himself. He was a man of recluse and low self-confidence. He always thought he wasn�t talented musically, and it puzzles many how he could even think of himself as un-talented, nevermind actually believing it.

One would have no idea that he thought of himself like that after listening to Bryter Layter. This was probably his most orchestrated album, containing not only his soft-spoken voice, guitar and violin but also drumming, bass, piano and a brass instrument here and there (Such as the saxophone in At the Chime of a City Clock) even going so far to include a xylophone during the song Northern Sky. He definitely went all out on this album and it really shows.

Even with the use of so many wonderfully arranged instruments, it still seems simplistic enough to be a nice calming listen, but while retaining enough depth so not to come off as boring or repetitive. But when it comes down to it, what do people end up listening to? That’s right, his sweet gentleman tone of voice and his amazing finger picked guitar playing.

Songs like One of These Things First are easily a prime example of this, when ever you listen to it, you’ll initially be in awe of the majestic piano but by the end your attention always wanders back to Drake’s soothing voice and melodic guitar playing. Not only does his voice leave such as an impression, the lyrics he sings always have a very nice message.

Take Hazey Jane I for example, a song the seems like it’s about a woman so infatuated with a man that she passes by on so many other things in life she could be enjoying. But for some reason these songs never come off as being too depressing, unlike a lot of his other work. Again, this is probably contributed to the fact that the other instruments he experimented with on this album give it more of an upbeat feeling, no matter what the subject matter is.

However, these lyrics and messages are vital, mainly because one of the only let downs on the album (and it’s not really THAT big of a let down) is the title track, Bryter Layter. This instrumental track, clocking in at 3 minutes and 22 seconds sounds slightly dated and sounds like a cheesy intermission tune. Compared to the brilliant songs before and after (Hazey Jane I and Fly respectively) it comes of as being a little bit of a filler track, but it’s intended purpose was probably just for him to experiment on an instrumental song, and just try something out of the ordinary.

Even more out of the ordinary is the 6 minute song, Poor Boy. Easily one of the most epic songs in all of Nick Drake’s relatively short career it truly is a masterpiece. Using choir vocals in the chorus, and his own voice during the verses. It also features such wonderful arrangements for saxophone, piano and guitar.

Sunday is really the perfect way to close out an album, a calm flute melody played over a brilliant sounding guitar and later on, an organ. It just puts the whole album in perspective, despite it not being as powerful as the other songs on the album.

Quick Recap:
Pros- Amazing orchestration, brilliant lyeics and he has such a wonderful voice.

Cons- The instrumental tracks are nothing really to get excited about, when I listen to this album I usually skip Bryter Layter and rarely bother waiting through Sunday.

May 17, 2010 - Posted by | Nick Drake Bryter Layter |

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