I have to admit, I was a little hesitant to approach The Endless Coloured Ways, let alone review it. I have long been a fan and admirer of Nick Drake and his songs are dear to me, so to discover this month a 22-track compilation of covers from artists left me with my reservations. However after making an effort to appreciate this album for what it is, it’s clear that this is a thoughtful and sensitive tribute to an artist with an endearing legacy.
Even if you haven’t heard of Nick Drake, your favourite musicians perhaps have. That old adage rings true in the peculiar case of young Nick who sadly never got his due in his twenty seven years of life. Writing near the end of the 1960’s, his music was too folky to be jazz and too jazzy to be folk and it didn’t sell well, but nevertheless over three LPs he built a world that was truly his own – one full of magic, wonder, and charm, but on the foundations of a deep melancholy. The Endless Coloured Ways reassesses his timeless catalogue through the lens of contemporary UK artists. With a varied lineup of relatively well known acts, this tribute offers a new perspective on Drake’s musical imagination, introducing his music to a new generation while honouring his legacy.
The album starts off arguably with the best cover on here, ‘Cello Song’ done by Irish post-punk outfit Fontaines DC. This number takes on a whole new dimension when imbued with raw visceral energy. As the tracklist unfolds, the familiarity of each song gives consistency to the kaleidoscopic variety of styles on offer here. The diversity of genres and interpretations showcased on The Endless Coloured Ways is a testament to the enduring relevance of Nick Drake’s music. From indie rock bands adding their own spin to folk-influenced ballads to electronic artists exploring new ground, each cover offers a unique and stylised take on Drake’s compositions, for better or worse, really that’s up to you.
I would say that while a decent amount of the tracks on the compilation maintain a high level of quality and creativity, there are numerous instances where the reinterpretation strays too far from the essence of the original, potentially alienating a few listeners. The Emeli Sandé cover of ‘One of These Things First’ for instance didn’t sit with me very well. However, the spirit of love and creativity was always there and carried me through what was ultimately a delightful trip into a beloved repertoire.