The paradigm of the willowy, sensitive artist remains both endlessly false and eternally true. That's why Nick Drake can sell Volkswagens and cut to the essence of human loneliness with the very same tune. He so successfully taps into fragile psyches and souls that Fruit Tree — a 28-year-old box set that compiles his three albums (1969's Five Leaves Left, 1970's Bryter Later, and 1972's tour-de-force Pink Moon) — has just been reissued for the third time. (A disc of outtakes, a 108-page booklet, and a DVD documentary are also included in this latest version.) Drake's celebrated arrangements are all about atypical acoustic guitar tunings that cover the spectrum from delicate chamber pop to stark silence. His drug-related death in 1974 at age 26 has been romanticized by gloomy college kids all over the world. But as Fruit Tree proves time and time again, Drake's unruffled singing and poised lyrics transcend mopey melancholy and speak to more universal truths.
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