Robert Kirby - Five Leaves Left

Five Leaves Left

When Joe Boyd recruited Drake to record an album, he already had a string arranger in mind, Richard A. Hewson. Drake rejected the few Hewson arrangements produced and announced that he already had a friend at university who could do a better job—Kirby. Drake had decided to leave university without completing his final year. When Kirby was offered the contract to arrange music for an entire album, he, too, gave up Cambridge university. Though Kirby arranged and conducted strings for the majority of Five Leaves, Harry Robinson was commissioned to arrange the strings for the centerpiece song, "River Man".

"The first strong memory I have of Nick was at the second or third session for Five Leaves Left. Richard Hewson, a well known arranger, and a fifteen piece orchestra had been brought in to arrange Nick's songs. Nick started getting hotter and hotter under the collar. He was very young and he had struck me as a person you could push about -- some people in a recording session will do whatever you tell them -- but he was getting quietly more and more aggravated, and in the end he dug his heels in and dismissed the arrangements. He said he'd get this friend at Cambridge, Robert Kirby, he thought would be much more sympathetic to what he was doing. Robert had never before done anything in his life in a recording studio. But two weeks later we booked him together with a bunch of musicians- a smaller bunch than the first time, I remember... We were flabbergasted. He was so good."


- John Wood, sound engineer for Five Leaves Left

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