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2023 Albums Thing 114 - Nick Drake “Bryter Later”

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For Nick Drake’s second album producer Joe Boyd was aiming for a more upbeat, poppier sound. This was achieved by the introduction of an actual rhythm section and some lush orchestration. So we get appearances from the Fairport’s Dave’s Mattacks and Pegg on drums and bass with Richard Thompson again making an appearance on guitar. John Cale guests on a couple of tracks and Pat (aka PP of Small Faces fame) Arnold and Doris Troy (who had previously sung with the Stones and Pink Floyd) supply soulful backing vocals. That’s a heavyweight cast for an album that failed to sell !

After the short instrumental “Introduction” first song proper “Hazey Jane II” is a bouncy, country blues/latin bopper, almost in the style of Love, most unlike anything from his debut album. What follows that is one of Nick Drake’s classics. “At The Chime Of A City Clock” is a superb song, heavily orchestrated and featuring some Jazzy saxophone barking by Ray Warleigh. David Hepworth wrote that the song was "the perfect soundtrack for the dispensing of a cup of tea in a poly-styrene cup, marrying sound and image in a way that made me unsure whether I was watching a commercial or actually in a commercial"

Over on Side 2 we kick off with the title track, an instrumental, and then John Cale’s addition of Viola and various keyboards on “Fly” and “Northern Sky”, the former being as close as we get here to the atmosphere of “Five Leaves Left”. “Poor Boy” is gloriously lifted by the vocals of Ms. Arnold and Troy, their performance instantly conjuring the sound of “the coloured girls” in Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” without them ever going "Doo do doo do doo do do doo…”.

Overall “Bryter Layter” does have a Jazzy feel about it (think “Astral Weeks” jazzy) especially the songs featuring Ray Warleigh and Chris McGregor’s piano. Commercially the album was another flop. Reviews were mixed, Record Mirror lauded Drake as a "beautiful guitarist—clean and with perfect timing, accompanied by soft, beautiful arrangements”. Conversely Melody Maker branded the album  "an awkward mix of folk and cocktail jazz" which honestly isn’t unfair apart from the “awkward” bit. Joe Boyd succeeded in lightening up Drake’s sound but shortly after this he upped sticks and moved to America leaving Nick Drake without his mentor and slipping deeper into depression.

Poor Boy - https://youtu.be/TLJFSj3b4q0

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