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WILLIAM D. DRAKE

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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William D. Drake biography
Singer-songwriter and keyboardist William D. Drake first came to the attention of fans of progressive and unusual music as a keyboardist and occasional composer for cult favourites Cardiacs back in 1983. He remained with Cardiacs until 1991, before deciding it was time to explore other musical avenues. After flitting in and out of various other bands and projects (including Cardiacs spin-off group The Sea Nymphs) he released his first self-titled solo album in 2003.

Ostensibly working as a singer-songwriter, both this and his subsequent albums (with the notable exception of Yew's Paw, a suite of classical piano instrumentals) have seen Drake weave his carefree way through the outer reaches of British folk, psychedelia, prog, classical music and beyond.

In doing so, he has carved out an eclectic, charming, complex, accessible, timeless and uniquely English sound all of his own. His songs are at times (unsurprisingly) reminiscent of Cardiacs and the Sea Nymphs, as well as the likes of Peter Hammill, Gentle Giant, Robert Wyatt and a plethora of other influences from the worlds of progressive, popular, classical and folk music.

2011's The Rising of the Lights is William D. Drake's most outwardly proggy album to date, presenting a rich mixture of complex piano-laden instrumental passages and moments of catchy experimental pop.

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WILLIAM D. DRAKE discography


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WILLIAM D. DRAKE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 3 ratings
William D. Drake
2003
2.00 | 1 ratings
Yew's Paw
2007
4.00 | 5 ratings
Briny Hooves
2007
3.58 | 18 ratings
The Rising of the Lights
2011
3.79 | 5 ratings
Revere Reach
2015

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WILLIAM D. DRAKE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Revere Reach by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.79 | 5 ratings

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Revere Reach
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars This is a highly addictive album, be warned. Over the last two months, since I bought it from Drake's Bandcamp site, it has probably become my most played album. It took me three attempts or so before I really got into it; the earworm qualities are not quite as immediate as for example of "Me Fish Bring" on the previous album. A most important feature here are certainly the tunes; there are many melodies that have screwed themselves into my ears so that I couldn't let them go anymore. Catchy and at the same time full of surprises and, at times, complexity. The sound on this album is often piano-driven, sometimes organ or other keyboards such as the harmonium, and elsewhere a bit more orchestral, but there are hardly any guitars. Clarinet and sax are further elements that pop up from time to time, not doing solos but rather accents and dynamics. Drake sings many of the songs himself; he becomes ever more confident as a singer. Although he is not the most precise, the range he gets out of his raw non-singer's voice is quite impressive and his charming and often somewhat ironic intonation makes the listener forgive some technical deficiencies easily. Also the voice fits very well into most of the songs and arrangements; elsewhere he is supported by a small choir, and on Castaway it's a solo female singer, I think Andrea Parker. The production is very lively with strong drums and a generally very transparent sound. It helps that most of the instruments are natural; the interplay between e.g. clarinet, piano and glockenspiel is of amazing beauty. Several of the lyrics were originally poems by various authors and Drake does a good job to connect them to the music. Some are folky, on moods, landscape scenery including waterways and the sea in good Cardiacs tradition, but there are also more philosophical or close-to-life issues; I'm not usually much interested in lyrics but here many will find them worthwhile.

As usually with William D. Drake there is a strong very English folk influence and also elements from classical and chamber music. I'd say that this is his proggiest release (although not by a large margin) with complex harmonies and arrangements and a number of interesting instrumental interludes, and the songs are all on the short side of prog. For the first time I realise, in some of Drake's songs, a very clear Jethro Tull connection. There are also obvious parallels to the North Sea Radio Orchestra, for which Drake had acted as guest choir singer. Drake's songwriting preserves some of the craziness of his Cardiacs past but he manages to make things sound more accessible without compromising. He apparently has a weak spot for waltz-like 3/4 signatures.

Despite an overall feeling of consistency, there is a good variety of speeds and intensities on the album, although it is never on the really fast side. There are calm ballad-like songs, the opening Distant Buzzing is quite a stomper, then there's the odd instrumental, and fast quirky folk like the Catford Clown.

This is a very rich, colorful and uplifting collection of melodies, harmonies, and tasteful and sophisticated arrangements between piano-driven rock, folk and some chamber music. I am tempted to give all five stars and probably if the album survives its current heavy airplay at my home, it may indeed turn out to be a masterpiece, but I have some reservations to declare it one after only two months (still I wanted the first review so couldn't wait for too long).

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 Briny Hooves by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Briny Hooves
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars Nothing has yet been written about this album, which I think is rather criminal. Even I myself tended to underrate it - I have heard it by far not as often as I believe it deserves now that I listen to it several times consciously for reviewing it; I'm not really sure why in the beginning it didn't really stick for me.

Anyway... William D. Drake is the former keyboarder of the Cardiacs, and Briny Hooves suggests that as long as he was in the band, he must have been quite a creative force there. Things are less guitar oriented than the Cardiacs, and mostly slower. Drake's music is slightly more civilised, his keyboard-oriented sound is more lush and less edgy. Drake can write quite catchy melodies, often influenced by British folk songs, many of which have this certain unexplainable magic that music can do, but that always works for some specific people and leaves others unimpressed. The prime example for this is Sweet Peace, a stunningly beautiful piano-dominated ballad. Another one, "The Seashell Song" feels very homely and comforting, but is playful at the same time.

Briny Hooves is however densely enough packed with crazy ideas to be worthy of an ex-Cardiac. There are twisted melodies such as in "Dark Ecstasies", powerful walls of sound as in "Seahorse" and "Serendipity Doodah" (which also has nice twists), and "Requiem for a Snail" is heavy and dramatic. Drake sings most of the songs. His voice can't be called "beautiful" and he is neither a natural nor probably a well trained singer, but he uses his voice in a very confident manner, takes some risks and fits eventually well into the general weirdness of this music. He has some support from his band at times, so there are a few choral parts, and two songs are sung by North Sea Radio Orchestra's Sharron Fortnam with her nice folk voice (and actually a few ideas on Briny Hooves remind of the NSRO album from one year earlier to which Drake had contributed some choir singing).

Overall this album manages to be original, witty, complex and somewhat edgy, and on the other hand very melodic, often catchy and mostly rather calm and friendly at the same time, which is quite something to achieve on the same album. One may find the odd annoying moment here but it's easily 4 stars

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 The Rising of the Lights by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.58 | 18 ratings

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The Rising of the Lights
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by jeromach

4 stars I think this album just has to grown on you. All in all it feels rather modest when first heard, but it will appear to be more intricate after a couple of spins.

My first impression was "Cardiacs light" which here is a compliment rather than a complaint. Normally I'm no fan of offspring of the "real thing", but here I will happily make an exception. It is not as if WDD tries to prolong what was, but it's just as if he "moved" his soul and continues on his way in a perefctly natural manner. Of course it's different compared to Cardiacs, more mellow beauty, but similar to the same kind of beauty present in Cardiacs where it only is obfuscated behind the walls of sound. The roots are unmistakenly there (which DOES make it progressive btw) and the question comes to mind whether perhaps WDD at Cardiacs might have had a greater compositional influence than has always been acknowledged.

This is a fine album, nice voices, melodies which at times are pleasantly challenging and some greatly performed piano and clarinet playing.

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 The Rising of the Lights by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.58 | 18 ratings

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The Rising of the Lights
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars William D. Drake is best known for his work with the CARDIACS and "The Rising Of Lights" is his latest solo album. He is the composer here of course and is heard mainly through his piano and vocal work. This album reminded me of THE BEATLES a lot, especially early on. The vocals, piano and drums dominate the sound. The tunes are fairly poppy but well done.

"Super Altar" is so catchy and I am impressed with the vocal performance. "Ant Trees" is another light and wimsical vocal track and the keyboards sound great. "In An Ideal World" is a change as we get a melancholic mood with reserved vocals and piano leading the way. I like it ! Three excellent songs to start off. "The Mastadon" is piano and drum led and the vocals come in at 2 1/2 minutes. "Ornamental Hermit" is more of the same but there is some depth here perhaps from the mellotron samples. "Wholley Holey" is a bright and cheerful tune with vocals and piano leading. Not a fan though.

"The Rising Of The Lights" has an almost jazzy vibe with bass, piano and a beat standing out. "Song In The Key Of Concrete" is another catchy tune. It's okay. "Me Fish Bring" is my favourite. Piano to open then reserved vocals join in. Female vocals too in this one. Sounds like aboe as well. Beautiful track. "Ziegler" has an almost circus-like melody to it. "Labumum" has male and female vocals with piano. Nice. "Homesweet Homestead Hideaway" ends it in with another catchy tune with male and female vocals. Nice instrumental conclusion to this one.

A good record but not really my style of music.

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 The Rising of the Lights by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.58 | 18 ratings

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The Rising of the Lights
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by The Hemulen
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars To those in the know, William D. Drake's songwriting credentials have never really been in doubt. His contributions to Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs, North Sea Radio Orchestra and others, not to mention two exquisite solo albums of quirky, psychedelic prog-pop all attest to the fact that Mr Drake certainly knows how to write a decent tune. Sadly, none of these projects are anywhere close to being household names and Drake remains just another well-kept secret.

However, in yet another example of a theory I've espoused elsewhen on my blog, that could be about to change. For with his new album The Rising of the Lights, William D. Drake has taken a noticeable swerve towards the hallowed halls of Progressive Rock with a capital Prog, and (whether the mainstream music press likes it or not) that's a move which is likely to net you a whole load of new fans. More than ever before Drake's music invites comparisons to the likes of Robert Wyatt, Gryphon, Gentle Giant, (and naturally enough Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs, NSRO etc.), whilst still remaining uniquely his own sound.

The Rising of the Lights retains everything about his previous album Briny Hooves which made it the accessible, sparkling, psychedelic wonder that it is whilst noticeably upping the ante when it comes to complicated twiddly bits, lengthy instrumental excursions and downright strangeness. The result is nothing short of a marvel; a patchwork quilt of rock, folk, chamber music and popular song, twisting and turning in a constant flurry of ideas and oozing breezy charm with every note. It's a bundle of opposites, forever veering madly between catchy, hummable ditties and knotty complexity, between playful irony and soul-wrenching sincerity.

Mr Drake seems admirably unaware of musical fads and fashions, which gives the album a sense of complete timelessness. Songs like Super Altar, Wholly Holey and Ornamental Hermit reek of the music hall and oak-panelled libraries without ever fully letting go of those subtle psychedelic undertones, and just when you're comfortably ensconced in a bit of woodwind-laden chamber music such as Song in the Key of Concrete in comes a fat, scuzzy synth to hurl you forward by several decades. It would be easy to accuse Drake of adding quirks for the sake of quirkiness, but the album's more hushed, reflective moments, such as the achingly gorgeous Me Fish Bring, are thankfully free from such flights of musical fancy, and get by just fine with their unadorned, wayward melodies. For all its eccentricity, this is an accessible album, and a surprisingly moving one too.

It is a testament to this album's consistently high standards that I've almost concluded this review without even mentioning three of my favourite tracks, namely the crackpot complexities of Gentle Giant-esque almost-instrumental The Mastodon, the time signature jumping surrealist pop gem Ant Trees, and the delightfully pompous album closer Homesweet Homestead Hideaway. Truthfully, I have yet to find a single dud or dull moment on this record, and that is a rare thing indeed. This is music to be cherished, to huddle up to on cold nights for warmth. I sincerely doubt I will encounter a finer album this year.

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 The Rising of the Lights by DRAKE, WILLIAM D. album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.58 | 18 ratings

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The Rising of the Lights
William D. Drake Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

3 stars Finally William D. Drake makes the PA grade! But: "eclectic prog"?! More like crossover prog, indie, or eccentric pop. Yes, there are some GENTLE GIANT familiarities ("The Mastodon," "Ziegler") and there are the odd instrument or two used to play off the ubiquitous piano, but mostly this is piano-based rock more in the vein of early BILLY JOEL or early ELTON JOHN. Some of it sounds like lyrically-clever songs from MONTY PYTHON or BENNY HILL ("Super Altar," "Wholly Holey," "Ziegler") and some sound continental 1930s KURT WEILL-ish ("The Rising of the Lights"). While I like the album overall, the steady piano beating and basic drum work leave me a bit cold. The gorgeous "In an Ideal World" and "Ornamental Hermit" are my favorites. Odd that the album's longest songs are bunched together at the end. Love the TONY BANKS-like sections in "Homesweet Homestead Hideaway."

5 star songs: "In an Ideal World," "The Mastodon," and "Ornamental Hermit."

4 star songs: "Ant Trees," "Laburnum," "Ziegler," "Me Fish Bring," and "Homesweet Homestead Hideaway." 3.5 stars rated down cuz I'm not finding it very proggie nor very progressive.

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Thanks to the hemulen for the artist addition.

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