Newest Review: ... Cohen to a friend who had an affair with his wife. Blame is there, but Cohen suggests all three are at fault; Famous blue raincoat himsel... more
Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits - Leonard Cohen
Member Name: lazywolfeyes
Greatest Hits - Leonard Cohen
Advantages: Great introduction to the man's work, excellent choice of hits
Disadvantages: Not everybody's cup of tea.
*** Please note the Greatest Hits album I review is a different version to the one shown, (mine is the 2009 version) if you intend to buy, read the track-listing (though you can't go far wrong in any version) ***
Leonard Cohen's career has spanned decades, his fan base enormous and yet he is not a household name. Every man and his dog have heard one of his songs, though. Hallelujah is impossible to escape, it's been covered countless times, appeared on several soundtracks and was the winning song for an X factor participant. Yet many people wouldn't even know the gravelly toned Canadian wrote the damn thing. With a new album out, and the 77 year old about to tour again, I thought I would attempt to review one of his greatest hits albums.
Famous Blue Raincoat is one of my favourite songs of his. While it centres on an oft used theme; (the song is about a love triangle), Cohen chooses to focus on the aftermath of one. The song takes the form of a letter, from Cohen to a friend who had an affair with his wife. Blame is there, but Cohen suggests all three are at fault; Famous blue raincoat himself betrayed their friendship, Jane strayed from Cohen, and Cohen's crime was neglect.'Thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes; I thought it was there for good, so I never tried'. The lyrics are poignant, the melody simple and Cohen's voice at his most affecting. Cohen at his best.
Chelsea Hotel No. 2 is a tribute to the 'fallen robin' Janis Joplin. Funny, touching, hopeful and desolate all at once, the last verse is crushing in its sorrow.
A lot of people have written far more intelligently and eloquently than I ever will on perhaps Cohen's most well-known song, Hallelujah. All I shall say is this, while Cohen's original sounds a little dated and isn't generally considered to be the best version, it is the most uplifting version. Cohen's dry, bitter voice is perfectly suited to his interpretation (although it seems silly to call the original an interpretation). From Cale onwards, the last verse is omitted. It is this last verse that makes the biggest difference between covers and original. Because it is this verse that Cohen triumphs over the broken Hallelujah. For someone who has a reputation of being miserable, I find it amusing that his version of the song is the most hopeful.
Who By Fire is another religion inspired track, which is loosely based on a Jewish poem that has been recited for centuries on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It's a simple list based song that asks how we will all die. Its power lies in its simplicity. For my money, Cohen did it best in this dramatic, Spanish sounding live version:
Everybody Knows has a pulsing melody that gives you the sense it's heading to a dramatic end. Written during the 80's about the AIDS epidemic, Cohen sings in an almost scornful way, as though the narrator saw this coming and watches without sympathy. The sweet backing vocals are a sharp contrast to Cohen's dispassionate vocals.
As tempting as it is to do a track by track review, I've only highlighted a handful of songs as it's incredibly easy to sit and gush about what a lyrical genius Cohen is. (And he really, really is). Other highlights include 'Dance me to the end of love', 'So long, Marianne', 'A thousand kisses deep', 'First we take Manhattan' and 'Suzanne'.
This is a great place to start if you're looking to get into Leonard Cohen; it's a varied introduction to his music that includes his more well-known works.
I found my copy in HMV on one of their 2 for £10 deals, on its own I believe it was around £7.99. You can pick it up from Amazon for a mere £4.93 with free P&P.
So Long Marianne
Sisters Of Mercy
Famous Blue Raincoat
Waiting For The Miracle
Who By Fire
Chelsea Hotel No 2
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
Bird On The Wire
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Dance Me To The End Of Love
First We Take Manhattan
I'm Your Man
Summary: Wonderful collection of Cohen's hits.