03 April 2013 (gig)
11 April 2013
I can’t believe that despite living in London all my life I’ve only just discovered Wilton’s Music Hall. What a beguiling and enigmatic place this last surviving grand music hall is! Well worth a visit to the bar for a pint of Organic Porter and some canapés amid the vaudeville décor alone. Tonight, the wonderful and unique surroundings were augmented by the unassuming presence of record producer extraordinaire, Joe Boyd, as he hosted a celebration of Nick Drake’s musical legacy whilst promoting a new album release of a recent project that Joe Boyd pulled together - gathering an eclectic bunch of artists to record unique renditions of some of Drake’s songs.
Joe Boyd worked with just about anyone who was anyone in the late sixties/early seventies. From Dylan to Pink Floyd, I also recently found out that he worked with Stanley Kubrick producing the music for Clockwork Orange, as well as supervising the infamous “Duelling Banjos” on the movie Deliverance. Boyd has a long and respected history in music, and is one of the key reasons Nick Drake ever came to be known. Apart from this famous connection, Boyd’s tales alone are interesting enough, and tonight he shared a number of stories from what remains a fascinating time of musical history, one with which Joe Boyd was at the centre of. However, he remains forever linked as one of the key people in the life of the now legendary Nick Drake and to hear him speak of the time they spent together was rather enchanting. Of course, it has been said that looking back through the lens of time is often like looking through a prism where reality becomes distorted with so many varying shapes and colours. But being in the presence of the man himself, recounting these times with humility and respect, it was hard not to feel moved and nostalgic by what is now past.
The question as to whether Nick’s music should be tampered with was answered by Boyd who - championing his music maybe above and beyond anyone else – believes that Nick Drakes’ song writing transcends the existing recordings, and hence, warrants further renditions. Certainly, the examples that Boyd gave tonight, played through his laptop and projector from the recent gig at the Barbican justified this and for me brought a fresh and exciting reawakening to a man whose music I thought I knew inside and out after 25 years of listening to him and trying to mimic on my guitar.
A story that Boyd recounted highlighting the fact of Drake’s song writing talents followed his first meeting with Drake and the 4 track demo that he had left for Boyd to listen to. The demo opened with ‘Time Has Told Me’, and Boyd recounted how Roberta Flack had recently had a big success with her version of ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’. Boyd was so struck with Drake’s demo that he ordered an acetate to be made and then shipped off to Flack’s people across the pond, believing that this song must be her next hit. History tells us it never happened, and fame ‘infamously’ continued to elude Drake until many years after his death. Still, forty years on, the young voice of Krystle Warren picks up beautifully what Flack left alone, providing one of several highlights on the live CD, ‘Way To Blue’ that Boyd is releasing.
Tonight wasn’t only a ‘multi-media event’, (as Boyd joked whilst fumbling with his lap top) but a number of musicians - some already involved in the Way to Blue project, and others ‘guesting’ for the night – took the stage to complement the evening with a few classic Nick Drake moments. Neill MacColl provided some fine alternatively tuned guitar (much to my envy!) along with Kate St John playing the Cor Anglais, to renditions of ‘River Man’, ‘Parasite’, ‘Fruit Tree’ and ‘Northern Sky’ - sung by Olivia Chaney, Robyn Hitchcock, Green Gartside (Scritti Polliti)and Paul Smith (Maximo Park) respectively.
All in all, a delightful night at a delightful venue, and certainly an event that did do justice to the Nick Drake legacy.
‘Way To Blue’ – The Songs of Nick Drake is released on Navigator Records soon.