Ah, continuity… As one month ends, another begins, and as we were at the end of one, so we are at the start of the next.
Having seen May out with Pink Moon, Nick Drake gets us off and running in June with Time of no Reply. Although possibly on the original demo tape that Nick brought with him to Island records for his first meeting with Chris Blackwell, and originally recorded in 1968 during the sessions for Five Leaves Left, the track was eventually left off that album, possibly because Nick thought it was too similar to The Thoughts of Mary Jane.
In 1986 Time of No Reply became the title track of the first posthumous Nick Drake compilation, along with other unreleased songs, some alternate takes of existing album tracks, a couple of home recordings, and four new songs - Rider on the Wheel, Black Eyed Dog, Hanging on a Star and Voice From the Mountain - which had been recorded after Pink Moon but had never been released. This is the version you can hear in the Youtube link, below.
In 2004, Robert Kirby dusted off the string arrangement that had been recorded for Time of no Reply during the Five Leaves Left sessions, and this new version was included on the Made to Love Magic compilation. This is the version you can hear in the Spotify link, below.
Comparing and contrasting the two versions allows the song a twin existence: with strings, it belongs to the early, optimistic world of the young Nick Drake, making his first recordings for Island, jacking in his studies, and working with his old college friend Robert Kirby to create his first record; without the string arrangement, it takes on a more reflective attitude - not as sparse as the Pink Moon recordings, or as distressed as the four later tracks, but without the bright strings to lighten the recording, it seems less whimsically nostalgic, more prophetic, as if knowing what would one day become of this youthful recording enthusiasm.