I believe that this is the first box set that my random number generator has selected for writing about on here. What a good choice! Even though Nick Drake albums are akin to The Catcher in the Rye in terms of items that every self-regarding young fellow has to hand to demonstrate his sensitivity, that doesn’t stop them from being really very good indeed.
Fruit Tree collects three Nick Drake albums – Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, Pink Moon – and bundles them together with a DVD and a booklet into a substantial, glossy-finished box. It’s an extended repackaging of a collection that was originally released by Island in 1979; this version came out in 2007 and I think that I received it as a very welcome Christmas present shortly after its release.
There’ll be enough existing commentary on Nick Drake and his work across and beyond the internet, so I won’t labour the point here as I expect he’s unlikely to be an unknown name to anybody reading this. In brief, though: anybody with even the vaguest interest in music beyond mere entertainment, or in a sometimes intense, always intimate glimpse into the musical output of a very interesting person, should know these records. I’d hesitate to call Nick Drake a ‘tragic figure’, as that suggests that the tragedy is more interesting than his music – it’s true that he had a sadly short life, and that (it seems that) much of it was spent dealing with mental illness. Regardless, he had a way with a tune, and a lyric, and could encapsulate emotions and the telling of stories in music very effectively. There were a lot of ‘sensitive folkie’ musicians around in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, and while it’s hard not to reflect on Drake’s depression or mental illness when listening to his music, it shouldn’t be the case that it’s used as a signifier of some kind of genuineness.
The packaging of Fruit Tree is nice: a sturdy, shiny box (hence the inevitable reflection of me taking its photograph here), containing three facsimile-type recreation albums, and the other items nested in an inner hollow. The cover design is very similar to the 1979 version of this box, albeit with the jaunty Mistral typeface used for its title back then replaced with a more sober-looking bold Baskerville-esque choice.
The band I was in during the late 1990s used to cover Nick Drake’s ‘Know’ (from Pink Moon), reworked into what we would have thought of as a freeform Can-like rhythmic exploration. I’ve got a tape of a recording of this somewhere – I now want to find it and have a listen…