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Bryter Layter

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Bryter Layter
Studio album by
Released5 March 1971[1]
StudioSound Techniques, London
ProducerJoe Boyd
Nick Drake chronology
Five Leaves Left
Bryter Layter
Pink Moon

Bryter Layter is the second studio album by English folk singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Recorded in 1970 and released on 5 March 1971 by Island Records, it was his last album to feature backing musicians, as his next and final studio album, Pink Moon, had Drake perform all songs solo.

Content and production[edit]

Like Five Leaves Left, the album contains no unaccompanied songs: Drake was accompanied by part of the British folk rock group Fairport Convention and John Cale from The Velvet Underground, as well as Beach Boys session musicians Mike Kowalski and Ed Carter.[6] Arranger Robert Kirby says that Drake intended the instrumentals to evoke Pet Sounds.[7] Initially scheduled for release in November 1970, with UK promotional copies being sent out at the time, dissatisfaction with the artwork meant that the album was held over into the New Year.[1]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[9]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[10]

Contemporary reviews were mostly positive. In Sounds Jerry Gilbert called the album "superb" and said, "On their own merits, the songs of Nick Drake are not particularly strong, but Nick has always been a consistent if introverted performer, and placed in the cauldron that Joe Boyd has prepared for him, then things start to effervesce." Gilbert praised the "splendid arrangements" of Robert Kirby, and said that the songs "take time to work through to the listener, with help from the beautiful backing which every track receives".[13] Lon Goddard of Record Mirror was also impressed by Drake's guitar technique and Kirby's arrangements, and "Nick isn't the world's top singer, but he's written fantastic numbers that suit strings marvellously. Definitely one of the prettiest (and that counts!) and most impressive albums I've heard ... Happy, sad, very moving."[14] "The Disc Panel" in Disc and Music Echo stated that Drake "sings his own very personal songs in a strange, deep vaseline voice, probably more suited to crooning, accompanied at times by really funky backing" and called the record "an extraordinarily good hefty folk album".[15] However, Andrew Means of Melody Maker described the album as "late-night coffee'n'chat music" and said, "This is a difficult album to come to any firm conclusion on", stating that the reaction depended on the listener's mood and that "the 10 tracks are all very similar – quiet, gentle and relaxing."[16]

Mojo called the album "certainly the most polished of his catalogue".[17] Alternative Press called it "[one] of the most beautiful and melancholy albums ever recorded".[18]

In his book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 – The Year That Rock Exploded, David Hepworth described the song "At the Chime of a City Clock" as "the perfect soundtrack for the dispensing of a cup of tea in a polystyrene cup, marrying sound and image in a way that made me unsure whether I was watching a commercial or actually in a commercial".[19]


In 2000, Q placed Bryter Layter at number 23 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[20] It ranked at number 14 in NME's list of the Greatest Albums of the '70s.[21]

It was voted number 306 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[22]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 245 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[23]

The guitar Drake holds on the album cover is owned by Nick Laird-Clowes of The Dream Academy, whose "Life in a Northern Town" was written as an elegy to Drake.[24]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The cover of the North American version of the 2003 album Akuma no Uta by Japanese metal band Boris pays tribute to Bryter Layter.
  • The song "Fly" was featured in Wes Anderson's 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums.[25]
  • The song "One of These Things First" was featured on the Grammy award-winning Garden State soundtrack, compiled by Zach Braff.[26] The song was also used in the 2008 film Seven Pounds starring Will Smith.[27]
  • The song "Northern Sky" was featured in the 2001 film Serendipity, is frequently featured in the show This Is Us on NBC, and was chosen as a track by Sue Perkins whilst on BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.[28]
  • Bryter Layter features prominently in the 2020 novel Summer by the Scottish author Ali Smith, when the character Grace hears Bryter Layter ("pretty flute, very 1970s") being played on a cassette machine in a church, leading to a conversation about Nick Drake with the carpenter.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Nick Drake

Side one
2."Hazey Jane II"3:46
3."At the Chime of a City Clock"4:47
4."One of These Things First"4:52
5."Hazey Jane I"4:31
Side two
6."Bryter Layter"3:24
8."Poor Boy"6:09
9."Northern Sky"3:47


Album credits adapted from Bryter Layter liner notes.[29]

  • Nick Drake – vocals (2-5, 7-9); acoustic guitar; electric guitar (8)
Additional musicians

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalogue
United Kingdom 5 March 1971 Island LP ILPS 9134
May 1987 CD CID 9134
26 June 2000 IMCD 71


  1. ^ a b Drake, Gabrielle, Nick Drake: Remembered for a While, Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
  2. ^ "Albums". Disc and Music Echo. 13 March 1971. p. 19.
  3. ^ The following sources label the album "folk-pop":
  4. ^ Terich, Jeff (21 January 2014). "Review: Nick Drake - Tuck Box". American Songwriter. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Great Moments in Folk Rock: Lists of Author Favorites". Richieunterberger.com. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  6. ^ Bryter layter: Nick Drake's Gabrielle Drake sheds a little light on her late sibling. SF Bay Guardian Online. 27 September 2007.
  7. ^ "An interview with Robert Kirby". Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  8. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Nick Drake – Bryter Layter". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  10. ^ Entertainment Weekly. 12 May 2000. p. 24. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Greene, Jayson (22 January 2014). "Nick Drake: Tuck Box Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  12. ^ "How to Buy '70s Brit Folk". Q. No. 250. May 2007. p. 135.
  13. ^ Gilbert, Jerry (13 March 1971). "Albums". Sounds.
  14. ^ Goddard, Lon (20 March 1971). "Reviews". Record Mirror. p. 19.
  15. ^ "Albums". Disc and Music Echo. 13 March 1971. p. 19.
  16. ^ Means, Andrew (13 March 1971). "Nick Drake – Bryter Layter". Melody Maker. p. 16. Reprinted in The History of Rock: 1971 (2016). Time Inc. p. 41. Retrieved 14 May 2020. Via – World Radio History.
  17. ^ Chapman, Rob (July 2000). "The feast of St Nick". Mojo. p. 99.
  18. ^ Alternative Press. March 2001. p. 88. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Hepworth, David (2016). Never a Dull Moment: 1971 – The Year That Rock Exploded. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-62779-399-5.
  20. ^ "The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever!". Q. No. 165. June 2000. pp. 59–93.
  21. ^ "Glitter Ye Not! The Greatest Albums of the '70s". NME. 18 September 1993. pp. 18–19.
  22. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 127. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  23. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. 937. 11 December 2003. pp. 83–178.
  24. ^ "The Dream Academy's Nick Laird-Clowes talks to SDE". SuperDeluxeEdition. 21 February 2024.
  25. ^ "The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack is the film dork's secret musical weapon". The A.V. Club. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  26. ^ "The Garden State Soundtrack". gardenstatesoundtrack.com. August 2004. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  27. ^ Seven Pounds (2008) - Soundtracks - IMDb, retrieved 10 January 2024
  28. ^ "Desert Island Discs, Sue Perkins". BBC. July 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  29. ^ Bryter Layter liner notes. Nick Drake. UK: Island Records, 1971. ILPS9134

External links[edit]