Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Under The Covers with Nick Drake

This is the debut post of our debut weekly feature. Every Wednesday we’ll highlight the music of an artist as interpreted by his peers. So dive under the covers – they’re ready and waiting. Soft, warm, and bed-bug free, we guarantee only sweet dreams and lullabies. That’s right – once a week The Canals will be your personal tooth fairy, delivering glorious sounds straight to your deserving ears. And best of all, we don’t even ask for a tooth in return – just your unwavering loyalty and maybe a comment or two.

"Time has told me/You came with the dawn/
A soul with no footprint/A rose with no thorn"

Day Is Done – Nick Drake
Day Is Done – Norah Jones
Day Is Done – Elton John

Two great covers here, and so different from each other. The up-tempo, driving feel of Elton John’s version highlights the desperation of the song, and Norah Jones’s relaxed, earthy jazz style brings out the melody. I really like the saxophone on hers, and it’s also one of the only tracks here officially released on a studio album (Come Away With Me).

Northern Sky – Nick Drake
Northern SkyDenison Witmer

Simple acoustic version. It loses the feel of the original, but nice to listen to, I guess.

Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Pink Moon – Beck
Pink Moon – Damien Jurado

Two more simple acoustic covers. I was excited for Beck’s take on it, but I thought it was pretty boring. I liked Damien Jurado’s guitar on his, it sounded like he was tweaking some of the original chords.

River Man – Nick Drake
River Man – Til Bronner

Really liked this cover. Bronner added some nice touches. If there’s one Drake song perfectly suited for this kind of improv style, it’s River Man.

Time Has Told Me – Nick Drake
Time Has Told Me – Kelly Willis
Time Has Told Me – Elton John

Elton John’s cover is great again here. He pretty much just spices up the rhythm and adds some vocal runs, but it’s a fun listen. Kelly Willis offers a somewhat bizarre country-ish version, but is also the only artist here to try adding strings and vocal harmony.

Which Will – Nick Drake
Which Will – Beck
Which Will – Lucinda Williams

I liked this Beck cover more than “Pink Moon,” but I still don’t get why he didn’t “Beckify” the music at all. With the second cover, Lucinda Williams manages to turn the song into a cheesy, boring ballad.

I wasn’t planning on being so critical, but I was pretty disappointed by most of these covers. I was surprised at how sparse they all sounded. Nick Drake’s strength was not his melodies, but his instrumentation and delivery. He wrote sweeping string and wind arrangements that gave his songs a distinct mellow but brimming-with-music quality. He created unique soundscapes for each song, where the vocals and virtuosic guitar just seemed like a final touch or last-minute thought.

I realize that covers are meant to interpret and not imitate, but I feel like most of these stripped so much from the music without adding anything of their own. That being said, a few were really good, and all of them put the originals in a new light. Plus, it’s always good to see the Drakonian influence in action.

Look forward to a more concise, less critical “Under The Covers” next Wednesday…



Anonymous said...

awesome. you got youre first fan.

Katie said...

That distinction has already been claimed

jacob said...

Nick Drake looks like Chazz Michael Michaels

Sughosh Varadarajan said...

While I agree that his guitar playing adds a LOT to Drake's songs (Pink Moon never really felt like an album with just one guitar...the songs sounded rich and full), the string parts for the first two records were scored (and brilliantly , at that ) by Nick's college mate, Robert Kirby.

Don't think I'd want to hear a Nick Drake cover though...I can't imagine anyone doing anything better with those songs...the best has already been done