FAMILY TREE Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
For years now, the reel-to-reel demo recordings that Nick Drake made in 1967 and 1968 prior to the release of his 1969 debut, Five Leaves Left, have circulated as crummy bootlegs mastered at the wrong speed from seventh- or eighth-generation cassette tapes.
The 28-track Family Tree disc (out June 26), assembled by Drake's sister Gabrielle, presents his intriguing home recordings in their best-ever fidelity, corrects the speed problems, fixes the composer credits and throws in a few unexpected bonuses.
While it's interesting to hear how Drake's idiosyncratic guitar style is already well developed as he makes Blind Boy Fuller's My Baby's So Sweet, Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Bert Jansch's Strolling Down the Highway and four bluesy numbers by Jackson C. Frank all sound like his own, it's hearing Drake croon an early compositon like Blossom -- a template in theme, tone and structure of things to come -- that will send shivers up your spine.
And for those wondering about the real source of Drake's sound, the last piece of the puzzle is provided by his mother, Molly Drake, accompanying herself on piano singing the closer, Try To Remember. Mystery solved.