Released in 1994 and curated by Joe Boyd, the 16-track collection Way to Blue held true to its claim as An Introduction to Nick Drake. Though largely unknown during his lifetime and brief career, the beguiling English folksinger ascended to a kind of romantic cult hero in the two decades following his 1974 death. His name was known among artists and hardcore record collectors and thanks to Boyd's Hannibal Records label, his three lone albums along with the essential 1986 rarities disc Time of No Reply were all back in print. Artists like R.E.M., the Cure, and the Dream Academy had all cited him as an influence in the mid-'80s, but it really wasn't until the '90s that his gentle, austere music began to achieve the legendary status that it would enjoy well into the 21st century. A handful of other Nick Drake compilations had existed before this one, but Way to Blue remains the definitive primer for aspiring and casual fans. Compiled by Boyd, Drake's producer and initial champion, the tracks here are chosen and sequenced with great tenderness and care, offering key tracks from his elegant 1969 debut Five Leaves Left; his more colorful 1970 follow-up Bryter Layter; and his final record, 1972's spare masterpiece Pink Moon. Additionally, Boyd chose to include haunting "Black Eyed Dog" and melancholy "Time of No Reply" from the posthumous compilation of the same name, which was included in a later edition of Island's Fruit Tree box set and has since come to be considered a sort of prerequisite companion disc to Drake's brief catalog. As there is really no filler on any of his albums, Way to Blue is even further distilled, bottling up the absolute essentials that have helped to cement Drake's legacy as one of Britain's most influential and important artists. Although it took several years and some help from a now famous Volkswagen commercial that introduced "Pink Moon" to the masses, Way to Blue eventually went gold in 1999.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger