Nick Drake

Tanworth-in-Arden 1967/68

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Long circulating as a tape among hardcore fans, the 18 solo acoustic songs on Tanworth-in-Arden 1967/68 were recorded by Nick Drake at home; most or all of them were probably laid down before he had ever entered a studio. The sound quality is fuzzy, but given how little Drake recorded before his death, and how absolutely no unreleased material exists other than the four CDs included on his Fruit Tree box set, this is a Holy Grail (or at least a silver goblet) of sorts for Drake fanatics. Most of the material is in a far more traditional acoustic folk and blues vein than his official releases, which show a big leap in both songwriting maturity and instrumental sophistication. Here Nick sounds much like very early (acoustic) Donovan, covering traditional folk songs, "Summertime," "Get Together," and early Dylan; his originals are often quite derivative of these influences (and several compositions credited to Drake on the liner notes are in fact covers, or extremely derivative of existing standards). The best cuts -- "Winter Is Gone," "The Reason of the Seasons," "To the Garden" -- show the emergence of a more idiosyncratic talent. Minor complaints: four songs from the original tape are missing (two do appear on Fruit Tree), and some entertaining between-song banter has been eliminated.

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