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Released in 1988 and being one in a fairly long line of albums released by Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man didn't manage to enter the UK top 40 album charts, yet has over the years managed to become an all-time classic.
Although I'm not familiar with all of Leonard Cohen's work, I am been very fond of him and after hearing a few people back in 1988 highly praise the I'm Your Man album, I wanted to listen to it for myself....it immediately gained a respectable place in the annals of my all-time favourite albums.
This is a thoughtful, at times gently angst-ridden and at other times poignantly romantic collection of songs, also tinged with a wry humour which is a little different to Cohen's previous offerings of soft love songs peppered with the occasional 'gun in mouth' depressive dirge, so I personally see I'm Your Man as an interesting and pleasant deviation from his norm....that's not to say there is anything bad about his other work.
The tempo of the songs on this album is quite variable, with the first track, First We Take Manhattan, being quite fast. The words of this song are very cleverly written, although I can't claim to understand some of what Cohen is getting at here. The general feel of the arrangement is typically late 1980s, almost dance-type music which is largely synthesised, featuring those fazed drum sounds so reminiscent of the latter part of that decade. It is tempting to say that there is a thread of hate in the lyrics, but very much in a laid-back way as far as Cohen's voice and the overriding tune is concerned....perhaps it is fear-tinged disappointment rather than hate. I never thought I'd hear Leonard Cohen produce anything in this style and am not sure if it met with his approval or otherwise, as I can also hear it in my head being performed/sung with his more gentle, slower approach to music.
With Ain't No Cure For Love, there again is a distinctly - perhaps even more so than the last track - 1980s feel. This is a very poignant love song which I'm sure most of us could relate to the lyrics of at some point or other in our lives. However, and possibly wrongly, I can't help homing in on a slight underlying vein of humour in this song, regardless of whether Cohen intended it or not. The tune is pretty and well-arranged, although very far outside of Cohen's usual style, but I pick up on a delicious oddness about the way the song is constructed....and that is where I feel the slight edge of humour emanating from.
The next song, Everybody Knows, is a plodding, grim-sounding prophecy of doom....with a dark, depressing tune....and, for me the lyrics combined with the tune and the overall feel of the song, totally sums up the way the world has gone since about the late 1980s. Cohen combines this desperate view of our poor little planet with some gently acidic barbs which in nature are lost-love. The rhythm of Everybody Knows is heavy in tempo, with strings providing the harmonising instrumentals...and there is an interesting addition of a Spanish-sounding guitar. The lyrics of this song are amazing....hard-hitting, but in a soft way, if that's not too difficult to imagine.
The next song, I'm Your Man, has a creeping introduction. The tune is unusual, a little eerie, with some heavy yet quiet chords backed by what I believe to be a plucked acoustic guitar. Later during the middle-eight, there is a synthesised break which doesn't sound out of place. As expected, Cohen comes forth with some simple, crystal clear romantically-orientated lyrics which although down to earth, contain a vague weirdness that I can't really find words to describe. There is a mood of wanton, albeit laid-back desperation about both the mood and the lyrics of this song...and, sometimes it can send chills down my spine, in the nicest possible way.
Take This Waltz is, as the title suggests, in waltz tempo with violin/orchestra backing, a little of which is synthesised. There is something slightly surreal about the image in my mind which is created by the combination of the tune, lyrics and arrangement....not dissimilar to Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite by The Beatles, although that's where the similarity ends. The lyrics are Leonard Cohen at his most poetic and lovelorn, although the song is sung clearly, in a matter-of-fact way, appearing as almost without emotion. For me, although it isn't my favourite track on the album, I think it is the best-arranged one, lyrically creating some very interesting imagery. Towards the end of the song, a female joins in, harmonising with Cohen in crystal-clear tones, their voices complementing one another perfectly.
The next track, Jazz Police, is probably my least favourite track on the album, even though I do like it very much. It has a jerky, tense tune in 1980s dance music mode. The words aren't quite so penetrating as on the other tracks from this album, although they do sound a tad dark and cynical. The tune takes some strange twists and turns, with a definitive eerie feel, as the female backing vocalists veer off into the darkness during the middle eight. This is quite a percussive track with the melodic parts being synthesised, and there is a very interesting, complex, delicious jazz piano break just over the halfway mark. I really wish I knew what Leonard Cohen is getting at with this song, as although I love it, I just can't penetrate the grey areas of the lyrics which if I could, may enlighten me somewhat.
The penultimate track, I Can't Forget, has a wistful, gentle tune which is medium tempo and is played on synthesiser and xylophone. Leonard Cohen's voice as ever, is soft and clear, backed by gentle female harmonies. The lyrics are thoughtful, penetrating and are mostly lost-love in nature...and the idea of "I can't forget, but I can't remember what" is something that these days I can relate to very strongly. There is something gently bittersweet about this song, the tune and the whole arrangement, although I do detect a very slight wryness lurking underneath the immediacy of the words. There is a slight little touch of C&W style slide guitar penetrating through towards the end of the song, but it blends in nicely, taking everything down to a poignant finale.
The final track, The Tower Of Song, is deliciously haunting, yet witty and amusing. The beat is plodding, the tune being quietly catchy, mostly being played on synthesiser with even a very slight touch of a rock'n'roll riff, yet slowed right down. There is something both depressing yet ironically positive in the whole feel of this song....having a little creeping feeling here and there, almost like a tiny mouse poking his nose through a hole in the skirting board. The lyrics are truly amazing, speaking both wistfully and comically about the ageing process, and I'd guess it's a very personal song to Leonard Cohen. They align the concept of an ageing singer/songwriter up with harking back over many (or perhaps just one?) lost romances, mingling the expression of a view of the world that comes with age. I love the image created of hearing Hank Williams coughing.... "...a hundred floors above me in the tower of song." What a clever line! Anybody who is middle-aged or older and still finding their feet in the next shaky phase of life, will strongly yet amusedly identify with this song wholeheartedly.
Even though I'm Your Man was released as an album in 1988 and that was when I first heard it, I played it a lot during 1990 which was a crucially important year of my life, and each time I've heard it since, it drags me into a time machine, then transports me straight back to that year. The power of recall and the sense of re-living the past is probably strongest for me via this album than with any other I've ever heard.
It may seem odd that Leonard Cohen should come up with an album which has an almost dancey/disco-ish feel to it, but strangely enough it works very well. His voice is very pronounced yet gentle, crystal clear throughout, and every single lyric is 100% understandable. The observations on love mingled with what in his songs he perceives as a sadly decaying world from the social aspect are superb, delivered with a directness and humour which blend into something that is very easy to listen to and highly thought-provoking.
For me, I'm Your Man has stood the test of time....perhaps not so much regarding the musical arrangement, but the songs I feel are strong enough to last and apply forever, providing that future generations don't shove Leonard Cohen onto the back burner after he has popped his clogs, relegating him to a long line of brilliant singer/songwriters and other musical geniuses from the past who in the mainstream, appear to have been forgotten.
Overall and out of those that I've heard, this is by far my favourite Leonard Cohen album. It disposes with his earlier blends of gentle love songs combined with almost suicidal depressing dirges....well, maybe what he's saying is the same, but on this album it is put across much more accessibly.
In summary, whether you are a fan of Leonard Cohen or not, I'd strongly recommend listening to I'm Your Man as an album. Although it is definitely weird, it is very easy on the ear, tender, amusing, thought-provoking and a true piece of singer/songwriter class.
At the time of writing, I'm Your Man can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.73 to £26.00
Used: from 80p to £26.00
Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £2.74 and £19.99 (both appear to be used)
New: from £14.50 to £63.00
Used: only one copy currently available @ £26.31
New: only one copy currently available @ £9.99
Used: from 99p to £4.90
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £4.99 (appear to be used)
Amazon .mp3 Downloads Store @ £7.12 (full album)
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
We've seen so many times that artists and songwriters who have great success throughout the 60's and the 70's often have a horrendous 80's as they try to keep up with the times. The songwriting becomes bland and the need for synthesisers means that the songs become so electronically ladened that the production becomes the focus over the songs themselves. It fills me with great pleasure to say that in the case of Leonard Cohen and 'I'm Your Man' this is most certainly not the case. It could be argued that prior to this Len was having a creative crisis. The mid 70's and early 80's were just about fair to him but albums were patchy compared to his 60's output and by his own high standards. Just when we thought Len's time was up, he brought us this curious powerhouse.
The scene is set with the opening track 'First We Take Manhattan'. A rollicking propulsive track that is both sophisticated and contemporary sounding (for the time) with the trademark wry lyrical dynamism from Cohen. 'Everybody Knows' has become a Cohen calling card and has been covered countless times. Its a remarkably cynical song and again an acute comment on the times and the dangers facing love in the age of AIDS. This song alone is worth the admission fee and is certainly one of Cohen's greatest achievements.
It doesn't end here though as every song is magnificent. 'Take This Waltz' and 'Ain't No Cure For Love' shimmer with sexual potency and Tower Of Song is another world weary masterpiece. These songs all sound sophisticated and sassy. Cohen whispers in his understated manner throughout but to great effect against the musical backdrop. If you don't like Len's voice then I'm not going to convince you that you should listen to this because if anything, he's becoming less tuneful rather than more. For anyone else, this comes highly recommended.
Ah, laughing Len - much misunderstood and now back touring for his pension thanks to a fraudulent accountant - who could blame him for not being Mr Cheerful?
But then I love a miserablist with a way with words, controversial singing voice and a bleak sense of humour. And here, surely he's having at least a wry chuckle as he embraces 80's production values at the end of the decade - it would be hard to wedge any more synth in there if you tried. Yet most of the time it works brilliantly, giving an edgy feel to First We Take Manhattan and a quirk mournfulness to I Can't Forget. On Jazz Police, on the other hand, it all goes a bit into overdrive and I'm convinced it's an extended Cohen joke. When someone hears this track for the first time it's a treat to watch their bemused reaction!
But overall, an album of wistful regret with shades of menace in some songs (Manhattan, Everybody Knows). The album ends with its best track, Tower of Song, a superlative wry meditation on life, song and music itself - "I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn't answered yet..."
Bought in HMV for £4.99 a few years back, this is a good collection of melancholy folksy musings by one of the greatest lyricists of the twentieth century and beyond. This collection is a good starting point for those wishing to explore Mr. Cohen's back -catalogue, including the important early works. Beginning with the timeless 'Suzanne', you will be drawn into his brooding and introspective world - a beautiful and haunting a depiction of transient and impermanent love, 'Suzanne' is tangible in it's imagery and nostalgic whims.
The man himself...
Ever the eccentric, Cohen was encouraged at an early age, by his father, to express himself. By the time he reached his teens, was already a competent guitarist and a fixture in the Montreal Cafe circuit, performing his own poetry to the Canadian beatniks. His poetry achieved critical acclaim and was published in under the title 'Let Us Compare Mythologies'; this was then followed by two novels 'The Favourite Game' (1963) and 'Beautiful Losers' (1966). It was then that he decided to merge the two mediums of music and poetry - the song 'Suzanne' being adopted by mid-sixties folk singer Judy Collins, and receiving critical and chart success. Later on in the sixties, Cohen made the charts with his own version of this now classic song.
All the songs on this 'Greatest Hits' album are classics in their own right, and are evocative and terse depictions of the intellectual and melancholic backdrop of 1960s American Bohemia. From the lusty 'Chelsea hotel No.2', in which Cohen describes vividly his sexual encounter with Janis Joplin in a seedy New York hotel room, to the incredibly subdued and monotonous tragi-romantic beauty of 'The Partisan', this CD offers a varied collaboration of Cohen's early music.
Cohen writes brief descriptions of his inspirations for the songs in the coverlet of the album sleeve, and is particularly elusive about the content of 'Chelsea Hotel No.2' and refuses to name the female singer in question - saying 'I wrote this for an American singer who died a while ago', but he related at a later date that it was Joplin who gave 'him head on the bed'.
My favourite track by far is 'Famous blue raincoat', simply because of the beautiful, haunting melodies and imagery used There is a certain relatablility of this inanimate object that has followed him everywhere, met certain people and has worn away and aged just like its owner, yet overshadows Cohen's presence in the song and renders him as a ghost, never actually wearing the coat, but watching it float about in the past or as Cohen says, makes him look like a 'spider', ethereal and ubiquitous. The meaning of the song is not at all obvious, with poetic conceits (roses in teeth et al) and imagery of doom clouding the otherwise simple melancholic tone of the verse, for example, the speaker in the song (who I don't believe is Cohen) frequently asks whether someone ever went 'clear'. Any ideas what clear is exactly? I don't think we are ever supposed to know, but I think left by itself lends itself to erotic suggestiveness and of promiscuous use of drugs - the alcoholic haze and dirge of New York by moonlight.
The album, showing a sepia photogrrph of Cohen at his broodingly introspective best, contains 12 tracks:
2) Sisters Of Mercy
3) So Long, Marianne
4)Bird ON The Wire
5) Lady Midnight
6) The Partisan
7) Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
8)Famous Blue Raincoat
9)Last Year's Man
10) Chelsea Hotel No.2
11) Who By Fire
12) Take This Longing
And also - in the coverlet-includes explanations and drawings by the man himself.
Sublime- ageless poetry to music...
So what has this album got to offer?
-Its a double disc album
-It has all the best songs, such as, Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy and Hallelujah
-There is a total of 31 songs on the album
The whole two discs play for approximately two hours and 36 minutes which is a good length for an album. All Cohen fans will love every minute of this album.
There are some amazing tunes on this album which are, for me, my all time favourite tunes, but Cohen's music is definately not everyone's cup of tea. I know many people who cant stand to listen to Leonard Cohen, claiming its simply bad music, its depressing music, and even that he can not sing. He is definately a love or hate artist.
Inside the sleeve of the album, there is a list of the the songs on the album, detailing the lyricist, when it was recorded and from which of his dozen or so album's it comes from. There is also some rather striking artwork in the sleeve, one a painting of Cohen himself and another of a burning bush, which I can only assume is a reference to the Bible.
There is also to be found a short review on Cohen by a Japanese writer, Nara, which talks a little about the songs, about Cohen and basically praises Cohen to high heavens, something which can be found on a review of every artist.
Besides this however, this is definately a must have for every Leonard Cohen fan, I would certainly recommend it. I wouldn't however recommend it to someone who hasn't heard his music before. It is certainly an acquired taste!
"Suzanne takes you down, to her place near the river." Pop goes the cork, as I pull it clumsily out of the bottle with my 'Leaping Frog Corkscrew'. "You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night beside her." Glug, glug, glug, goes the red wine as I pour it out of the bottle and into the tumbler. This is no time for a small wine glass. It's dim in the room, and the only important things right now are Leonard and red wine. "And you know that she's half crazy, but that's why you want to be there." I take my first swig. Damn, it's always at these sorts of times that I go and put the corkscrew in too far. I spit little bits of cork off my tongue. I don't care where they land. Keep going Leonard. "And she feeds you tea and oranges, that come all the way from China". Finally I'm relaxed. I'm all alone in a dimly lit room. I've got a bottle of cheap red wine. And, most importantly of all, Leonard Cohen - Greatest Hits, is playing on my Denon sound system. There's nothing more I could want for. "......For you've touched her prefect body with your mind." *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Some people say Leonard Cohen can't sing. Some people say that he sings 'music to commit suicide to'. Most people think that his style and mood of song is somewhat depressing. I use his music to relax myself and allow myself time to think. The above scenario is now much rarer an occurrence. When you share your life with someone else, you don't often get the two vital requirements for such an event, happening at the same time. 1) An evening on your own, and 2) An awful day to put you in the right type of mood. If you were to walk in on someone, sitting in the dark, drinking wine and listening to sombre music, you'd
think that there was something very wrong, that they were upset or sad. You'd keep hassling them to tell you what was wrong, yet there would be no answer because there was actually, truthfully nothing wrong. You definitely need a night on your own for this. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Leonard Norman Cohen was born in 1934, in Montreal, Canada. At the age of 17 he formed a country-western trio, which was called the 'Buckskin Boys'. It was at this time also, that Leonard began writing poetry. He became an active member of a local literary scene. His first collection of poetry was published in 1956, but is was his second collection, published in 1961, called 'The Spice Box of Earth', that earned him international acclaim. After a very short spell at university in New York, Leonard travelled around Europe before settling on the Greek island of Hydra with his partner Marianne Jenson and her son. Here he wrote another collection of poetry and two novels. He remained in Greece on and off for around seven years. But he couldn't be fulfilled there, and moved back to the States on his own, with the intention of pursuing a career in music. He appeared in the Newport Folk Festival in 1967, where he caught the eye of the 'legendary Columbia A&R man John Hammond'. Later that year, Columbia had helped Leonard release his first album, 'The Songs of Leonard Cohen'. It contained songs such as "Suzanne," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye," "So Long, Marianne," and "Sisters of Mercy" which lead to him being internationally recognised for his singing. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Okay, some of Leonard's lyrics could be interpreted as being slightly morbid. "And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate, who in these realms
of love, who by something blunt, Who by avalanche, who by powder, who for his greed, who for his hunger, and who shall I say is calling." But it's about more than the lyrics for me. There is something magic about the music of Leonard Cohen. I find myself not even listening to the words. I slip away somewhere else. I think about what has happened that day to make me want to sit and listen and sip wine. I make decisions, I come to agreements with myself, I plan. After the problems of that day are resolved I go onto thinking about things on a wider scale. I resolve other issues in my mind. Leonard Cohen's music, combined with a moderate amount of alcohol, and a darkened room, are the only combination of things that give my mind this amount of freedom. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Why did I decide to write about this as part of Jill Murphy's celebration? Simply because listening to the music of Leonard Cohen helps me to realise that "no matter how rotten life can be at times, there is always something to make you smile." "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
On Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits All great albums have a certain mood about them, where you can only fully appreciate it at a certain time or under certain conditions. This is my two in the morning album. And you get the feeling that Cohen himself was composing these songs at around the same time, undoubtedly while contemplating the beauty of the hotel room he is so contentedly sharing. Everything he touches has an aura of nonchalant sex appeal, and if you ever need to taste the aura of nonchalant sex appeal it’s at two in the morning. Being young and being a fan of Leonard Cohen may seem to be a bit if a paradox but I’ve went out of my way to experience the Cohen emotions, mainly those of worshipping love and heartbroken emptiness. Perhaps that’s why you need to be in your thirties or forties to appreciate the man, you need to be on the verge on a mid life crisis. Also, you need to have contempt for falsetto and high notes of any description. Suzanne is as melodic and poetic as ever, perhaps his most famous song it is one for total release, whatever problems have been encountered during the day will be forgotten once you lie down and let it wash over you. So Long, Marianne is as nice as Cohen gets, the chorus is very singable and simple. It is at this stage you realise Cohen is almost entirely inspired by beauty and love, this is what makes his songs so subliminally romantic and touching. Perhaps the song most suited to the late hour is Famous Blue Raincoat. His use of female backing singers is outstanding throughout the album, and in this song they transcend their capacity, they combine with Cohens vocals and produce a beautiful and melancholic sound that cannot fail to move and influence those who are lucky enough to hear it. Chelsea Hotel no.2 is a firm favourite of mine, an ode to a former flame who creeps into his thoughts now and again. A wonderful song on a musical and lyrical
level, this is in my opinion his best composition judging from a purely guitar basis. His nylon picking patterns are always interesting but this is his most enthralling. I particularly enjoy the last quatrain; “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best I can’t keep track of each fallen robin I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel That’s all I don’t even think of you that often” The last song Take This Longing is the most downbeat and melancholic on the album. As the title blatantly suggests Cohen longs for his love, he is amazed by the men who are lucky enough to experience her, but who do not fully comprehend just how beautiful she is. Lyrically the song is very moving; “You’re faithful to the better man I m afraid that he left So let me judge your love affair In this very room Where I have sentenced mine to death” I have spoken of only a few of the songs, but overall the album is a must for those who any interest in the singer/songwriter genre
I grew up with a stereo that seemed to be filled up with Leonard Cohen. I remember my mom doing the dishes in the kitchen, and I remember "Closing time" assisted with the running water from our kitchen tap. But that was many years ago. My mom's taste in music changed, and I put Leonard Cohen behind me. Then, suddenly, in 1998 I opened my ears for him again. As you may have guessed, I am a Leonard Cohen fan. No matter what mood I am in, I can always find a Cohen song to match it. My first Cohen cd was the one that got the prize for being the most depressive cd of the year, and then I totally fell for "I'm your man" and "Suzanne". I can't really say exactly what makes me like L.Cohen so much, and I know that mostly of my friends only know about him because I keep playing his songs when they visit. His voice is very deep, but it is not the voice in itself that makes me like his music. He doesn't have an incredible strong voice or anything like that, and sticks to simple melodies. The melodies are not that complicated either, although some of the songs (E.g "Sisters of Mercy") have more, smaller, semi-melodies that floats under and over the main one, and really balance eachother and give the song much more dept that e.g the melody "Hit me baby one more time" of a certian Britney Spears. I think it is the combination of a simple voice that does not try to reach hights it won't be able to reach anyway, the relaxing melodies and the lyrics that does it for me. It has to be said, I really like Leonard Cohen's texts. I think they make at least half of his songs. Music composed in the way he does, makes people pay attention to the lyrics, as it is not hidden by high pitch screaming or heavy guitars living in their own world in the background. The music is centered around the text, and not the other way around. And the texts are good. Leonard
Cohen makes calm music. He makes music that inspires me. It is songs about Love and hate, and death and life, and they are also somewhat deeper than music of boy bands and hit lists. Songs by Cohen also makes me a bit melancolic and dreamy at times, but then again it is not very happy music he makes. It is also relaxing.. when I have sleeping problems, putting on his "best of" usually makes me sleep before track 6. (I know this, because I know all the songs from track 1 and half way out in 6 by heart..) His music also seems more "alive" when he describes feelings that mostly of us have from time to another, and when the people in his songs are real. (E.g "Chelsea Hotel" was written for Janis Joplin). When I see B.Spears singing "Hit me baby one more time" she is smiling and dancing and happy, and she doesn't seemed to be linked with her own texts for a second. When Leonard Cohen is singing "Dance me to the end of love" it feels real. It does not appear as a song written for the money it can generate, and it is down to earth and "touchable", some of the text seems a bit sore and voulnerable, and when I sit down and listen, really listen to his music, it is a sea of emotions, true and not created emotions, that it is containing. All I can say is that my Cohen collection is growing quickly. And 50% of the songs I play on my guitar are composed by him. I think its sad that few people of my own generation know about this person. But I don't really think I can profilate him stronger that what I already have done.
Leonard Cohen..."Who's he?" some of the younger members reading this may ask. " It's that guy from the 60s and 70s, whose records were always played at the end of a party when the hosts decided it was time for the guests to leave. Nobody could empty a room better than Leonard Cohen." the older members reply with wisdom. And so endeth this opinion for many; but for those who did like Leonard, or who are interested to learn more...read on. Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal, Canada, on the 21st of September 1934. At the age of 17, he formed a Country and Western trio called the Buckskin Boys, but soon realised this was not really him. It was while studying at McGill University that he developed his love of, and his ability to write poetry, and so his future aspirations lay in becoming a minor poet. In 1956 he published his first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, but it was after his second published collection, The Spicebox Of Earth was released in 1961, he finally received international recognition. Leonard then travelled through Europe before finally settling on the Greek island of Hydra, where he remained on and off for the next few years. Throughout this time, he continued writing, and in 1964 he published his controvertial collection of poetry called Flowers for Hitler. He also wrote two highly acclaimed novels, The Favourite Game (1963), and Beautiful Losers (1966). The Boston Globe wrote of these, " James Joyce is not dead. He is living in Montreal under the name of Cohen." Becoming restless again, he then moved to Nashville to pursue a musical career, and was discovered by Judy Collins, who recorded two of the songs he had written, Suzanne and Dress Rehearsal Rag, for her 1966 album In My Life. In 1967, Leonard appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, where he was recruited by the legendary John Hammond, who also introduced people like Billy Holiday and
Bob Dylan to the Columbia label. By Christmas that year Cohen released his first album, The Songs Of Leonard Cohen. This was followed by Songs From A Room (1969), and Songs Of Love And Hate (1971). This was the era, and these were the albums that really introduced Leonard Cohen to the world. The music scene at this time was a perfect platform for him, because unlike today, music festivals then, covered every type of music from folk to country and western to pop to rock, one after the other on the same stage, to the same audience. So Leonard Cohen was presented to a wide audience and appealed to certain segments of groups with different musical tastes. I personally was never much of a folk music fan, but I have all the above original albums. Now, for those of you who have never heard Leonard Cohen, I suppose I should be telling you about his wonderful singing voice.....eh, excuse me a minute.... ."Will you lot stop laughing please. This is my op." Right, where was I? Ah yes, Leonard's wonderful singing voice. Well....he has a deep voice, and....ok, let's just say when hearing him for the first time it can sound like a dirge. He is a poet, not a singer, but remember, Bob's a Builder, and he got to number one in the charts twice. So I think we have established that Leonard Cohen is not a singer, as such, but for those of us who are on his wavelength, that is unimportant. There is just something about his songs, and the words, that you feel, rather than hear. He is different, and there is no midway; you either love him or you hate him, and the only way to decide how you feel is to listen to him for yourself. Anyway, although many people think he disappeared from the scene, this is far from true. He has continued writting and recording, and there have been many cover versions of his songs recorded by people like Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Nick Cave, Rita Coolidge, Bono, Sting and Pete Gabrie
l. In fact Jennifer Warren's 1986 album Famous Blue Raincoat, is an entire album of Cohen's work. In 1992, a number of contemporary artists collaborated on a tribute to Leonard Cohen with an 18 song, cover collection album called, I'm Your Fan, featuring artists like REM, Ian McCulloch, House of Love, John Cale, Lloyd Cole, The Pixies and Nick Cave. So our Leonard is far from obscure today. In 1993, having continued touring and writing, Leonard suffered more and more bouts of depression, so he entered a Buddhist Monastery, Mount Baldy, in California, where he remained for seven years, but throughout this time he still published, Strange Music, the most complete text available of his poetry and songs, in 1993, and two further albums. So it is now 2001, and Leonard is 67 years old. He's had a good run for his money, you may think, and due a well earned retirement. Well not quite. In fact he has a new album due for release in October called, appropriately, Ten New Songs. He has worked on this album with long time friend Sharon Robinson, who arranged, produced and performs some of the vocals. For long term Cohen fans, there was another album released this year which may bring back memories. It is, Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979, which was recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, and the Dome Theatre, Brighton, during his worldwide tour that year. Maybe some of you, or your parents, were even there. So, for old fans, here is your chance to reacquaint yourself with the magic of Leonard Cohen, and for the younger generation, your chance to meet a legend. (But listen to him before buying, just in case he is not for you) For those who remember Famous Blue Raincoat, this is for you:- It's four in the morning, the end of December I'm writing you now just to see if you're better New York is cold, but I like where I'm living There's music on Clinton
Street all through the evening. I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record. Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair She said that you gave it to her That night that you planned to go clear Did you ever go clear?
I'm re-writing this because what I put before was not very interesting. I first heard a Leonard Cohen song in '88. It was First We Take Manhattan (from the album I'm Your Man) on a chart show on ITV. For may years I forgot about him. Then I heard the Natural Born Killers soundtrack and was amazed by two songs. The Future and Waiting for the Miracle were the songs and a week later I began to buy every Cohen album I could. I didn't regret a single purchase. Leonard Cohen has a voice that makes you listen. You can't play his music in the background and not notice it. His music is full of pain, love, well, a lot of things. I just really fell in love with the way he lets out raw emotion on every song. My favourite Leonard Cohen album is Songs Of Love And Hate. An album I hadn't played in a while but when I put it on whilst on the way to work, well! I sang along to Avalanche, skipped to Dress Rehearsel Rag, sang along to that. I felt the same way as when I first bought the album, pure joy. My favourite song is probably So Long Marianne. I just love the power of the song and it really is so catchy. I have never felt depressed after hearing a Cohen album. I may have felt melancholic or even moved but never depressed. I recently read in a Buddhist magazine that Leonard has come out of retreat at a Zen monastery. There was also word of a new studio album, I hope so. If you want to get into Leonard Cohens music, I'd suggest The Best of. Released in '75 it has the best of his early stuff on it. So Long..
Leonard Cohen can't sing, can barely play an instrument and is a very hit an miss artist - BUT when he hits form his music is perfect. He is often described as depressing but that is to miss the words and only hear the noise. His songs are romantic ballads of loves lost and loves past. He also has a sense of humour about himself, summed up in the line "I was born with the gift of a golden voice" from Tower of Song. Cohen is the antidote to sickly sweet love gods such as Barry White with a similar singing style Cohen infuses songs with a warm melancholia which makes one truly feel. I heartily recommend his greatest hits album and if you don't like at least half the songs I will be very surprised.
Spotting this category brought back so many memories some good, some not so good. I still have all my original Leornard Cohen LP's. He had a song or phrase to match any mood and I played them over and over again. They still sound as fresh now as then. Who can forget 'So long Marianne', 'Suzanne' who will feed you tea and oranges that come all the way from China, or Like A Bird on the Wire or some drunk in a midnight choir. These were images to get lost in especially when accompanied by that deep rich gravelly voice or nasal whine. It's no good-I've just had to go and put the cd on that has all his hits on it. Can you believe that The Sisters of Mercy was recorded in 1968-32 years ago! God do I feel old! He actually sounds happy on Tonight Will be Fine-well he's whistling. However the one that still sends shivers up my back is The Partisan- an old woman gave us shelter, kept us hidden in the garret, then the soldiers came- she died without a whisper-vivid or what! Then that haunting french chorus-all I can say if you haven't a clue what I'm bleating on about- ask you parents to dig in their loft for their old records!
Leonard Cohen's music is perfect. Whatever mood you're in, there's a song to match. His lyrics are poetry, his tunes are heartwrenching and powerful and his voice is so...honest. That sounds like a strange way to describe a voice, but that's what describes Leonard's voice the best. When he sings, you feel like he really means it, and if you identify with any song, you feel like you identify with the singer. Everyone has a favourite "era" of Leonard Cohen. I find that most people prefer his older songs, but I'm a fan of the 80's albums - particularly "I'm Your Man". Don't take the wailing 80's backing singer too seriously, but immerse yourself in the wit and yes, here it is again, the honesty of the songs - particularly Everybody Knows, and I'm Your Man. With appeal for all ages, Cohen reaches out and grabs his listeners by their very souls - this is powerful stuff, and you'll need to listen again and again.
Leonard Cohen's music used to be known as 'music to commit suicide to' but anyone who can keep going for so long and not be able to sing must have something going for him. And anyway I think he can sing, wonderful deep gravelly voice. It's the lyrics that move me though; the man's a poet. And he's probably saved a few people from jumping over the edge, from the sixties' 'Sisters of Mercy', through that song he sings for 'the heart with no companion' to that beautiful track on 'The Future', can't remember its name but it is about birds singing at the break of dawn and he hears them say 'start again'. Don't worry about what has passed away or is yet to come, he soothes. I hope there is more yet to come from the heart and growl of old Leonard.
Leonard Cohen is the artiste you turn to when your natural suicidal tendencies are beginning to succumb to a new love, A glorious surise/sunset, or a major breakthrough in the problem that has been driving you crazy for weeks. His darkly fascinating voice, beautiful lyrics and lingering melodies will drive away such light thougts and return you to the morass of dismay you ought to be wallowing in. The most surreal of all things musical was hearing an up tempo cover version of 'Suzanne' by some group of bimbos/himbos being broadcast as background muzak in a supermarket in France
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 First We Take Manhattan
2 Ain't No Cure For Love
3 Everybody Knows
4 I'm Your Man
5 Take This Waltz
6 Jazz Police
7 I Can't Forget
8 Tower Of Song