Solitude, self-pity, alienation, poetry
Nick Drake was a man of many shadows. Intense, aloof and sensitive are perhaps three words to describe him, whose brief career resulted in three extraordinary albums, each of which are wondrous reminders of Drake’s unique gifts as a singer/songwriter. However his was a talent that went largely unnoticed, despite the support of fellow musicians and producer Joe Boyd who, perhaps more than anyone, championed Drake’s music and did all he could to help and promote the sad and forlorn troubadour.
Originally included as part of the revised 4LP Fruit Tree box set, Time Of No Reply was released in 1986 as an album in its own right, offering fresh insight into what must have seemed at the time as music from another century.
Consisting of outtakes and alternate recordings, Time makes for a compelling listening experience.
Opening with the mesmerising title track, seven of the album’s songs were new, including four tracks from his final recording session in 1974. Overall there is very little in terms of what one could describe as filler, since every track presented here is imbued with Drake’s unique personality.
Along with the aforementioned “Time Of No Reply”, the next three tracks are outtakes off Drake’s debut, the inimitably charming Five Leaves Left. Of these, “I Was Made To Love Magic” and “Clothes Of Sand” are the most notable, where Nick’s intimacy as a performer comes through in the most immediate way. The version of “Made To Love Magic” here remains in its original form (i.e. sans the posthumous string arrangement added in 2004), but still has a certain magnetism, thanks to that voice, one which resembles no other.
“Man In A Shed,” also from Five Leaves Left, is an alternate version, while the playful “Mayfair” was taken from a 1968 home demo. “Fly” is another private recording, and stands in contrast to the version which later appeared on his second album Bryter Layter. Also recorded at his home in Tanworth is the blues cover “Been Smoking Too Long,” and the folky “Strange Meeting II.”
“Thoughts Of Mary Jane” is another alternate take from his debut, but it was no doubt the remaining tracks which garnered the most attention from devotees.
During his search through the vaults at Island Records, combined with Drake’s final recording session, Joe Boyd compiled enough material to release what was intended to be the last will and testament dedicated to the late musician.
“Rider On The Wheel” and “Voice From The Mountain” continue where 1972’s Pink Moon left off, but it’s the haunting “Black Eyed Dog” and affecting “Hanging On A Star” which will no doubt deeply touch the listener. Especially the former, where Drake’s fragile voice and guitar possess a wraith-like quality beyond anything he had previously recorded.
The Made To Love Magic compilation might boast superior sound and better production overall, but there is still enough on Time Of No Reply to merit its existence in any fan’s collection, due to some of these songs’ mixes/versions etc remaining unavailable on any other album. Produced under careful supervision by Joe Boyd, and in consultation with Drake’s family, Time Of No Reply provided rare and valuable insight into someone whom Paul Du Noyer once described as a “genuine genius.”