Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poor Boy: Songs of Nick Drake

Poor Boy does not aim to be another nostalgic tribute that supposes to explore the chilling, sad beauty of Drake's songs, as an “icing on the cake,” or matching up Drake's rich musical ideas “in the musical cliches of the moment,” to quote Songlines label head and Poor Boy Producer Tony Reif. Reif wanted to elaborate on Drake's legacy, in order to suggest new perspectives and sometimes even abstractions of these songs, detaching the new interpretations from the bleak original versions, referencing them only briefly and stretching them into new terrains, but always honoring Drake's spirit.

Poor Boy was initiated five years ago after a tribute concert that was held in Vancouver, and this disc presents fourteen interpretations of Drake's songs by local musicians from the lively musical communities of Vancouver and neighboring Seattle, with one exception by Ian Masters (and his Friendly Science Orchestra), who resides in Japan. Some of the artists, like jazz vocalists Kate Hammett-Vaughan and Danielle Hebert or singer Jason Michas, confessed that they only became familiar with Drake's songs after they were asked to contribute to this project. Half of the songs in this tribute are performed by female vocalists, stressing the feminine side in Drake's writing.

The opening song, “Cello Song,” sets the atmosphere. The pure folky vocals of Aiko Shimada are backed by the guitars of Bill Horist, imitating Drake's odd tunings, with programmed pulsating percussion by Tucker Martine. Kate Hammett-Vaughan transforms “Clothes of Sand” and “Poor Boy” into dark jazz standards, abandoning the upbeat bossa nova of the original “Poor Boy” version, and backing pianist Chris Gestrin and bassist Simon Fisk suggest an instrumental free improvisation on themes of “One of These Things First.” Gestrin performs “Three Hours” with singer/songwriter Jason Michas, demonstrating again how Drake's distinct phrasing and the myriad musical influences that he absorbed can enable so many re-interpretations of his songs. The beautiful vocal duet of Robin Holcomb and Veda Hille on “Hanging on a Star” follows the fragility that Michas suggested. Clarinetist Francois Houle elaborates Holcomb and Hille's version of “Road” with a tasteful clarinet collage.

Tony Wilson arranged a 14-minute haunting suite suite with the only original composition here, ”For Nick,” integrating it with themes from Drake's instrumental “Horn,” backed tastefully by Francois Houle on clarinet, Brad Turner on trumpet, Jesse Zubot on violin, Peggy Lee on cello and Dylan van der Schyff on drums and percussion, culminating in a gentle funky performance of the short song “Know” by Danielle Hebert. Ian Masters' seemingly indifferent vocal delivery of one of Drake's soul searching songs, “Parasite,” with spooky background sounds created by Ishigami Kazuya, drains the song from its melancholic sentiment but floods it with unsettling feeling. Singer/songwriter Jesse Sykes performs a dreamy version of “River Man” and multi-instrumentalists Ian Moore and Eyvind Kang transform the original atmospheric “Black Eyed Dog” into an atmospheric Indian raga, with sitar, tremolo guitar and Randal Dunn's loops.

Sometimes it's too cerebral, leaving out other songs that seek such interpretations (”Time Has Told Me,” “Pink Moon” or even “Which Will”), but Poor Boy offers a thought-provoking perspective of Drake's legacy that clearly transcends his era and sometimes even his melancholic image.

01. Cello Song - Bill Horist & Aiko Shimada
02. Clothes of Sand - Kate Hammett-Vaughan
03. One of These Things First - Chris Gestrin & Simon Fisk
04. Three Hours - Jason Michas & Chris Gestrin
05. Hanging on a Star - Robin Holcomb & Veda Hille
06. For Nick/Horn/Know - Francois Houle 6 + Danielle Hébert
07. Poor Boy - Kate Hammett-Vaughan
08. Fly - Mike Dumovich
09. Parasite - Friendly Science Orchestra
10. Road - Veda Hille & Robin Holcomb / Francois Houle
11. Things Behind the Sun - Bill Horist & Sam Mickens
12. River Man - Mount Analog with Jesse Sykes
13. Black Eyed Dog - Ian Moore & Eyvind Kang
14. From the Morning - Mike Dumovich


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Blog!!! We need "Solo Flight" by Wizz Jones.

18 May, 2007 00:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a surprisingly good album, really good reinterpretations of Nick's songs which are well worth listening to. I would thoroughly recommend it to any Drake fans.

19 May, 2007 00:13  
Blogger S.J.Hirons said...

Any chance of a re-post of these zips (they're only 5 kb when I download them)?

23 May, 2007 01:19  
Blogger S.J.Hirons said...

Ah, I appear to be an idiot. Please ignore me.

No, wait. Check me out on myspace
Our top friend Emil Thompson has some good links to more vinyl sites, too.

25 May, 2007 06:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can i get the download link lizardson, i really like nick drake and some related to him.

11 June, 2010 10:45  

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