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Friday, October 28, 2011

"Northern Sky"

Nick Drake - Northern Sky (1970)

Described by NME in 2009 as "the greatest English love song of modern times".

Nick Drake - Northern Sky. Watch more top selected videos about: Nick Drake

I've listened to some Nick Drake. So have you, a Volkswagen commercial ten years ago made sure he rose in the popular consciousness. This has the same backbone as many of the other songs we've heard; it's the same tuning to his guitar, and he's got the same whispering/murmuring/telling-your-heart secrets voice he usually does. What makes the song special are the differences. There are three different keyboard instruments at work here. Laying down a bass line the others dance on is an organ. The piano is the one doing most of the light touch work. It plays the fewest notes and yet has the loudest sound in the mix. They use it to do accents. The interesting keyboard is the celesta. It's an upright piano looking instrument, that sounds like a glockenspiel mixed with a vibraphone. You can hear it through the whole song, it's the one that sounds like church bells ringing. All three keyboards were played by John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground. Another important piece of why this song is so enjoyable is the drums. Very few sources mention the oddity of drums on this album. Nick Drake doesn't often use drummers, and in fact they are almost non existent on his final album Pink Moon. In this song the drums are nothing crazy, just a steady beat that keeps the song going, high hat, snare, maybe some tambourine or a wooden block. The drummer was Mike Kowalski, who was at the time, the drummer for The Beach Boys. Even more unsung is bass player Dave Pegg. His bass playing in this song is very background, but he was a pioneer in the electric folk sound for bass players. He went on to join Jethro Tull in the 80's. This song's got quite the pedigree.

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