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Saturday 23 January 2010

Nick Drake Tribute

Along wih students of many generations I was at the Barbican last night for "Way To Blue", a concert dedicated to the songs of Nick Drake.

An extra dedication was to Nick's arranger, Robert Kirby, who sadly died late last year after being involved in the first of these concerts in Birmingham last May. It is dedication and tribute he thoroughly deserved. For me it is the combination of his arrangements and Nick's voice that makes "Bryter Layter" one of my favourite albums of all time.

The concert was very enjoyable. The low key nature of most of Nick's songs means it was never going to be an occasion for high emotion and adrenalin rushes, but the ensemble did a good job in capturing the spirit of them. The band and string section were excellent, with stand-out performances by Danny Thompson on bass and Zoe Rahman on piano.

There was a cast of thousands handling the vocals including such relatively well-known names as Robyn Hitchcock, Vashti Bunyan and (for the younger generation) Scott Matthews. Individual highlights included Green Gartside's "Clothes Of Sand", Krystle Warren's "Time Has Told Me" and - best of all - Lisa Hannigan's mildly demented take on "Black Eyed Dog". But if I had to give a Man of the Match award for overall contribution it would probably go to Teddy Thompson, who in his own understated way brought everything he was involved in to life.

Here are a couple of covers of songs from Nick's 1972 album, "Pink Moon". You are probably familiar with the first one, which comes from Big Lucy's "Sweet Old World" album, but hopefully the second may be new to you. Tir Na Nog were an Irish group signed to Island Records at the same time as Nick, and this is taken from their 1973 album "Strong As The Sun", which may make it the first ever cover version of a Nick Drake song. Sacrilege I know, but I think I prefer this to the original.

"Which Will" - Lucinda Williams (1992)

"Free Ride" - Tir Na Nog (1973)

The concert last night was being recorded so will no doubt appear on DVD in due course. In the meantime, here is Nick's Uncle Charlie:


  1. Technically, the Elton John demos precede the Tir Na Nog effort, but that was the first Nick song I heard. Happily, it was followed by two tracks from Pink Moon, (on a white label Island sampler that I still have somewhere) or I might not have investigated further... I quite like Tir Na Nog, but can't say I'm keen on this version, which takes out all the despair.

  2. Not being a reflective type the despar never did much for me. I just like the nice noises.

  3. Never mind Uncle Charlie, here's his sister: