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2.3.09

Leonard Cohen




Leonard Cohen - Live From The Beacon Theatre, NYC, February 26, 2009 - 2009 - NPR

Leonard Cohen played his first U.S. concert in 15 years, returning with a two-set, six-encore, three-hour long performance that the singer called "a memorable evening." The 74-year-old Montreal-born singer, poet and novelist drew countless standing ovations at New York's Beacon Theatre on Thursday night. "It's been a long time since I stood up on this stage in New York City," Cohen said, addressing the crowd for the first time ten songs in. "I was 60 years-old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac." While the audience roared, Cohen proceeded to list a dozen or so more drugs that have comforted him in his old age, as well as his hard study of religions and philosophies, "but cheerfulness kept breaking through." The concert was much the same, too. Singing his serene and melancholy ballads, the always well-dressed Cohen performed with passionate restraint, often kneeling as he clutched the microphone _ or when standing, his knees bent inward against each other, as if he would otherwise crumble. He repeatedly doffed his black hat (which naturally matched his black suit) in courtesy to his three backup singers and six-piece backing band, whose talents were often on display in brief, melodic solos throughout the evening. Cohen cheered the sold-out crowd performing most of his best known material, like, "Suzanne," "So Long, Marianne," "Bird on a Wire," "First We Take Manhattan" and "Hallelujah," which Jeff Buckley famously covered and which more recently has been covered on, of all things, "American Idol." Cohen's voice has perhaps settled even deeper into the lower registers as time has past, but it has lost nothing of its powerfulness. A long wait to see him perform again is fitting because Cohen is something of a perfectionist, regularly taking more than a year to finish a song. His lean, taut songs sounded particularly apt in such a time of economic recession. At one point, Cohen told the crowd he understood that hard times were coming, then drolly adding, "some say even worse than Y2K." Cohen knows something about economic downturns: He is touring partly because he learned in 2005 that his longtime former manager Kelley Lynch had misappropriated millions from his retirement fund. In 2006, a Los Angeles court awarded him $9.5 million. It's not believed that he recovered any of it. Cohen has been widely feted in recent years. When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Lou Reed said he was among the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters." In the 2005 documentary "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," which featured a tribute concert to Cohen, Bono called him, speaking for music, "our (Percy Bysshe) Shelley, our (Lord) Byron." Cohen has already toured Canada, Europe and Australia and will continue playing several dozen North America concerts through the spring. A live CD and DVD "Leonard Cohen: Live in London" is to be released March 31. He isn't far removed from new work, though. Cohen's last book, "Book of Longing," was released in 2006. His most recent studio album was 2004's "Dear Heather." The song that most resounded at Cohen's Thursday night performance was his "Anthem," which took on meaning for both his music and the current times. He both recited the lyrics and sang the song: "Ring the bells that can still ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in." After ringing the bells for three hours, Cohen sang "Goodnight my darling/ I hope I leave you satisfied" and shortly thereafter, breaking from his graceful poise, skipped off the stage © JAKE COYLE, Associated Press, 2009-02-20 02:43 PM, © 2009 Taiwan News All Rights Reserved

In a show at the revered Beacon Theatre, NYC, on 26/2/09, that lasted just over three hours (with an intermission), the living legend, Leonard Cohen presented over 24 songs to a captivated audience. His first live U.S concert in the U.S in 15 years was worth the wait. There is no need to elaborate here on the great man's life and achievements. This album is VHR by A.O.O.F.C. If you have just returned to Earth after 40 years from Abell 1835 IR1916, and would like to know more about Leonard Cohen, check out www.leonardcohen.com or LCOHEN/BIO/WIKI There is a concise bio further down page. There is info on Leonard's 1994 "Live In Concert" album @ LCOHEN/LIC94 Also, you will find his wonderful "Live at the BBC Television Theatre, London, 1968" album @ LCOHEN/BBC68

FULL CONCERT SET - N.B : Tracks sequence on this 12 track compilation are in brackets.

01 "Dance Me To The End of Love" [ TRACK 1 ]
02 "The Future" [ TRACK 2]
03 "Aint No Cure For Love"
04 "Bird on the Wire"
05 "Everybody Knows"
06 "In My Secret Life"
07 "Who By Fire"
08 "Chelsea Hotel" [ TRACK 3 ]
09 "Hey That's No Way/Sisters of Mercy"
10 "Anthem"

[SET BREAK]

11 "Tower Song" [ TRACK 4 ]
12 "Suzanne" [ TRACK 5 ]
13 "The Gypsy's Wife"
14 "The Partisan" [ TRACK 6 ]
15 "Boogie Street"
16 "Hallelujah" [ TRACK 7 ]
17 "I'm Your Man"
18 Poem ("A Thousand Kisses Deep") [ TRACK 8 ]
19 "Take This Waltz" [ TRACK 9 ]
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20 "So Long Marianne" [ TRACK 10 ]
21 "First We Take Manhattan" [ TRACK 11 ]
----
22 "Famous Blue Raincoat"
23 "If It Be Your Will"
24 "Democracy" [ TRACK 12 ]
----
25 "I Tried To Leave You"

MUSICIANS

Leonard Cohen - lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Bob Metzger - lead guitar, pedal steel guitar
Roscoe Beck - electric bass, stand-up bass, background vocals
Javier Mas - banduria, laud, archilaud, 12-string guitar
Neil Larsen - keyboards
Rafael Bernardo Gayol - drums, percussion
Dino Soldo - wind instruments, harmonica, keyboard, background vocals
Sharon Robinson - vocals
The Webb Sisters - background vocals

p/w if needed is aoofc

REVIEWS

First, this concert is historic and a knockout. Leonard Cohen is a brilliant poet and songwriter. Second, Cohen may be coming to a town near you — details are in this recent blog post. If you have a chance to see him live, don't pass it up.At 74, Cohen is no spring chicken. That said, his voice was in fine form and his stage presence is so graceful and passionate that you may rethink all those other great shows you've seen by younger artists.This concert, from the gorgeous Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, finds Cohen revisiting a body of work that's more than 40 years deep and full of songs that have inspired every generation of songwriters since: "Dance Me to the End of Love," "Bird on a Wire," "Chelsea Hotel," "Sisters of Mercy," "Suzanne," "Hallelujah," "I'm Your Man," "Famous Blue Raincoat."Cohen performs these songs with a talented band of musicians, including his collaborator and singer Sharon Robinson, as well as his other backup vocalists in The Webb Sisters. Of these musicians, Mas is the one that Leonard Cohen would often get down on one knee and serenade — when he's not stopping to listen. Mas' performance on a variety of stringed instruments gave Cohen's sound a European flavor, and reminded me at times of a sound I heard in Portugal, called Fado. Fado is a bittersweet style music filled with longing and yearning. I heard it in Leonard Cohen's music while watching him perform at the Beacon Theatre, and it was wonderful to know that, at 74, he's still injecting new life into his old classics. Special thanks to MSG Entertainment and the Beacon Theatre. © Bob Boilen, © 2009 NPR

Conceit or modesty aside, even the most accomplished and prolific songwriters could seldom attest to having created a genuine masterpiece. Leonard Cohen is of the rare few who can, of course, but last Thursday night at the Beacon Theatre it was abundantly clear that he could lay claim to far more than one.Taking the stage for his first American concert in fifteen years, Cohen received a reverent welcome by the sold-out audience, its applause overlapping the opening bars of “Dance Me To The End of Love.” Dressed to the nines in a dark suit with bolo tie and fedora, the 74-year-old bard cut a distinguished figure, his sophic disposition tempered by a laconic, often self-mocking sense of humor. What Cohen imparted most, though, was a selfless commitment to his songs. After a mirthful trip through “The Future” — during which he pirouetted as the ominous “white man dancin’” — and having pled his case on “Ain’t No Cure For Love,” he dropped to his knees at the start of “Bird On The Wire,” turning out a truly stunning rendition that soon saw him singing at full stride. Likewise, he enlivened an avalanche of imagery and delicate melodies on “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” his rich voice at times recalling the lissome timbre of his younger days. The esteem to which Cohen paid his compositions extended to his superb 9-piece band. Each time a musician soloed — as when guitarist Javier Mas played a gorgeous, flamenco-styled prelude to “Who By Fire?” — or when a background vocalist assumed a leading role — as did long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson on a soulful version of “Boogie Street” — Cohen stood aside in deference, his hat held to his chest, his face betraying an appreciative smile. The ultimate pleasure and privilege, however, lay in listening to Cohen. With the conviction of one who’d labored more in composing these works than most others could’ve otherwise endured, he stepped into each song — from the understated grandeur of “The Gypsy’s Wife” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” to the synthesized thrust of “First We Take Manhattan” — and rendered each one with rich perception. He recited “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as written in Book of Longing (as opposed to singing the version from Ten New Songs), drawing out evocative lines and phrases in cadenced tones. And at his most transcendent, Cohen surrendered “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah” to those fortunate enough to have attended — to those who knew they’d witnessed something very special. Now, everybody knows. © Donald Gibson, Published February 24, 2009, © http://blogcritics.org

While 15 years is a long time to go without a visit from the greatest living songwriter this side of Bob Dylan, the sold-out crowd that packed into the Beacon Theatre for a visitation from songwriter/saint Leonard Cohen Thursday night could be forgiven for feeling just the tiniest twinge of trepidation. After all, Cohen is 74 years old now (for those doing the math, that's eight years older than Paul McCartney), and hadn't been seen in these parts since the Clinton Administration. Any such reservations were completely washed away almost instantly, from the moment Cohen opened the evening with "Dance Me to the End of Love," bent down on one knee like the romantic poet king he was born to be, finessing the tune with a voice as deep as ever but perhaps twice as flexible as the last time he hit a Big Apple stage. Fronting a six-man band plus three female backing singers, Cohen shuffled around the Beacon with elan, spiffily attired in a dark suit and hat that made him look like a film noir detective. He threw himself into the music with a measured pace but unfettered emotional depth, as he offered up the old favorites like "Bird on a Wire" and "Hey, Thats No Way to Say Goodbye" alongside more recent compositions like "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (delivered as a recitative) and "Democracy" (whose sociopolitical landscape seemed more timely than ever now, especially with its reference to "the battered heart of Chevrolet").As deep and dark as Cohen is capable of going, he never fails to throw in a graveyard grin, both in his writing and on stage. In the midst of wryly claiming that he'd been undertaking intense religious studies, for example, he observed that he'd been foiled because "cheerfulness kept breaking through." And as heavy as the messages and imagery of the evening's fare were, that's the very phenomenon the audience seemed to experience too when all was said and done. © Jim Allen, www.prefixmag.com

BIO

One of the most fascinating and enigmatic -- if not the most successful -- singer/songwriters of the late '60s, Leonard Cohen has retained an audience across four decades of music-making interrupted by various digressions into personal and creative exploration, all of which have only added to the mystique surrounding him. Second only to Bob Dylan (and perhaps Paul Simon), he commands the attention of critics and younger musicians more firmly than any other musical figure from the 1960s who is still working at the outset of the 21st century, which is all the more remarkable an achievement for someone who didn't even aspire to a musical career until he was in his thirties. Cohen was born in 1934, a year before Elvis Presley or Ronnie Hawkins, and his background -- personal, social, and intellectual -- couldn't have been more different from those of any rock stars of any generation; nor can he be easily compared even with any members of the generation of folksingers who came of age in the 1960s. Though he knew some country music and played it a bit as a boy, he didn't start performing on even a semi-regular basis, much less recording, until after he had already written several books -- and as an established novelist and poet, his literary accomplishments far exceed those of Bob Dylan or most anyone else who one cares to mention in music, at least this side of operatic librettists such as Hugo Von Hoffmanstahl or Stefan Zweig, figures from another musical and cultural world. He was born Leonard Norman Cohen into a middle-class Jewish family in the Montreal suburb of Westmount. His father, a clothing merchant (who also held a degree in engineering), died in 1943, when Cohen was nine years old. It was his mother who encouraged Cohen as a writer, especially of poetry, during his childhood. This fit in with the progressive intellectual environment in which he was raised, which allowed him free inquiry into a vast range of pursuits. His relationship to music was more tentative -- he took up the guitar at age 13, initially as a way to impress a girl, but was good enough to play country & western songs at local cafes, and he subsequently formed a group called the Buckskin Boys. At 17, he enrolled in McGill University as an English major -- by this time, he was writing poetry in earnest and became part of the university's tiny underground "bohemian" community. Cohen only earned average grades, but was a good enough writer to earn the McNaughton Prize in creative writing by the time he graduated in 1955 -- a year later, the ink barely dry on his degree, he published his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), which got great reviews but didn't sell especially well. He was already beyond the age that rock & roll was aimed at -- Bob Dylan, by contrast, was still Robert Zimmerman, still in his teens, and young enough to become a devotee of Buddy Holly when the latter emerged. In 1961, Cohen published his second book of poetry, The Spice Box of Earth, which became an international success critically and commercially, and established Cohen as a major new literary figure. Meanwhile, he tried to join the family business and spent some time at Columbia University in New York, writing all the time. Between the modest royalties from sales of his second book, literary grants from the Canadian government, and a family legacy, he was able to live comfortably and travel around the world, partake of much of what it had to offer -- including some use of LSD when it was still legal -- and ultimately settling for an extended period in Greece, on the isle of Hydra in the Aegean Sea. He continued to publish, issuing a pair of novels, The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), with a pair of poetry collections, Flowers for Hitler (1964) and Parasites of Heaven (1966) around them. The Favorite Game was a very personal work about his early life in Montreal, but it was Beautiful Losers that proved another breakthrough, earning the kind of reviews that authors dare not even hope for -- Cohen found himself compared to James Joyce in the pages of The Boston Globe, and across four decades the book has enjoyed sales totaling well into six figures. It was around this time that he also started writing music again, songs being a natural extension of his poetry. His relative isolation on Hydra, coupled with his highly mobile lifestyle when he left the island, his own natural iconoclastic nature, and the fact that he'd avoided being overwhelmed (or even touched too seriously) by the currents running through popular music since the 1940s, combined to give Cohen a unique voice as a composer. Though he did settle in Nashville for a short time in the mid-'60s, he didn't write quite like anyone else in music, in the country music mecca or anywhere else. This might have been an impediment but for the intervention of Judy Collins, a folksinger who had just moved to the front rank of that field, and who had a voice just special enough to move her beyond the relatively emaciated ranks of remaining popular folk performers after Dylan shifted to electric music -- she was still getting heard, and not just by the purists left behind in Dylan's wake. She added Cohen's "Suzanne" to her repertory and put it onto her album In My Life, a record that was controversial enough in folk circles -- because of her cover of the Beatles song that gave the LP its title -- that it pulled in a lot of listeners and got a wide airing. "Suzanne" received a considerable amount of radio airplay from the LP, and Cohen was also represented on the album by "Dress Rehearsal Rag." It was Collins who persuaded Cohen to return to performing for the first time since his teens. He made his debut during the summer of 1967 at the Newport Folk Festival, followed by a pair of sold-out concerts in New York City and an appearance singing his songs and reciting his poems on the CBS network television show Camera Three, in a show entitled Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen. It was around the same time that actor/singer Noel Harrison brought "Suzanne" onto the pop charts with a recording of his own. One of those who saw Cohen perform at Newport was John Hammond, Sr., the legendary producer whose career went back to the 1930s and the likes of Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie, and extended up through Bob Dylan and, ultimately, to Bruce Springsteen. Hammond got Cohen signed to Columbia Records and he created The Songs of Leonard Cohen, which was released just before Christmas of 1967. Producer John Simon was able to find a restrained yet appealing approach to recording Cohen's voice, which might have been described as a appealingly sensitive near-monotone; yet that voice was perfectly suited to the material at hand, all of which, written in a very personal language, seemed drenched in downbeat images and a spirit of discovery as a path to unsettling revelation. Despite its spare production and melancholy subject matter -- or, very possibly because of it -- the album was an immediate hit by the standards of the folk music world and the budding singer/songwriter community. In an era in which millions of listeners hung on the next albums of Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel -- whose own latest album had ended with a minor-key rendition of "Silent Night" set against a radio news account of the death of Lenny Bruce -- Cohen's music quickly found a small but dedicated following. College students by the thousands bought it; in its second year of release, the record sold over 100,000 copies. The Songs of Leonard Cohen was as close as Cohen ever got to mass audience success. Amid all of this sudden musical activity, he hardly neglected his other writing -- in 1968, Cohen released a new volume, Selected Poems: 1956-1968, which included both old and newly published work, and earned him the Governor-General's Award, Canada's highest literary honor, which he proceeded to decline to accept. By this time, he was actually almost more a part of the rock scene, residing for a time in New York's Chelsea Hotel, where his neighbors included Janis Joplin and other performing luminaries, some of whom influenced his songs very directly. His next album, Songs from a Room (1969), was characterized by an even greater spirit of melancholy -- even the relatively spirited "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" was steeped in such depressing sensibilities, and the one song not written by Cohen, "The Partisan," was a grim narrative about the reasons for and consequences of resistance to tyranny that included lines like "She died without a whisper" and included images of wind blowing past graves. Joan Baez subsequently recorded the song, and in her hands it was a bit more upbeat and inspiring to the listener; Cohen's rendition made it much more difficult to get past the costs presented by the singer's persona. On the other hand, "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy," although as downbeat as anything else here, did present Cohen in his most expressive and commercial voice, a nasal but affecting and finely nuanced performance. Still, in all, Songs from a Room was less well received commercially and critically -- Bob Johnston's restrained, almost minimalist production made it less overtly appealing than the subtly commercial trappings of his debut, though the album did have a pair of tracks, "Bird on the Wire" and "The Story of Isaac," that became standards rivaling "Suzanne" -- "The Story of Isaac," a musical parable woven around biblical imagery about Vietnam (which is also relevant to the Iraq War), was one of the most savage and piercing songs to come out of the antiwar movement, and showed a level of sophistication in its music and lyrics that put it in a whole separate realm of composition; it received an even better airing on the Live Songs album, in a performance recorded in Berlin during 1972. Cohen may not have been a widely popular performer or recording artist, but his unique voice and sound, and the power of his writing and its influence, helped give him entrée to rock's front-ranked performers, an odd status for the now 35-year-old author/composer. He appeared at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival in England, a post-Woodstock gathering of stars and superstars, including late appearances by such soon-to-die-or-disband legends as Jimi Hendrix and the Doors; looking nearly as awkward as his fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell, Cohen strummed his acoustic guitar backed by a pair of female singers in front of an audience of 600,000 ("It's a large nation, but still weak"), comprised in equal portions of fans, freaks, and belligerent gatecrashers, but the mere fact that he was there -- sandwiched somewhere between Miles Davis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- was a clear statement of the status (if not the popular success) he'd achieved. One portion of his set, "Tonight Will Be Fine," was released on a subsequent live album, while his performance of "Suzanne" was one of the highlights of Murray Lerner's long-delayed, 1996-issued documentary Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival. Already, he had carved out a unique place for himself in music, as much author as performer and recording artist, letting his songs develop and evolve across years -- his distinctly noncommercial voice became part of his appeal to the audience he found, giving him a unique corner of the music audience, made of listeners descended from the same people who had embraced Bob Dylan's early work before he'd become a mass-media phenomenon in 1964. In a sense, Cohen embodied a phenomenon vaguely similar to what Dylan enjoyed before his early-'70s tour with the Band -- people bought his albums by the tens and, occasionally, hundreds of thousands, but seemed to hear him in uniquely personal terms. He earned his audience seemingly one listener at a time, by word of mouth more than by the radio which, in any case (especially on the AM dial), was mostly friendly to covers of Cohen's songs by other artists. Cohen's third album, Songs of Love and Hate (1971), was his most powerful body of work to date, brimming with piercing lyrics and music as poignantly affecting as it was minimalist in its approach -- arranger Paul Buckmaster's work on strings was peculiarly muted, and the children's chorus that showed up on "Last Year's Man" was spare in its presence; balancing them was Cohen's most effective vocalizing to date, brilliantly expressive around such acclaimed songs as "Joan of Arc," "Dress Rehearsal Rag" (which had been recorded by Judy Collins five years before), and "Famous Blue Raincoat." The bleakness of the tone and subject matter ensured that he would never become a "pop" performer; even the beat-driven "Diamonds in the Mine," with its catchy children's chorus accompaniment and all, and with a twangy electric guitar accompaniment to boot, was as dark and venomous-toned a song as Columbia Records put out in 1971. And the most compelling moments -- among an embarrassment of riches -- came on lyrics like "Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc/As she came riding through the dark/No Moon to keep her armor bright/No man to get her through this night...."; indeed, hearing Cohen's lyrics 25 years on, one could almost find a burlesque of Cohen's music in the songs of Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe Buffay on Friends -- who, even money bet probably grew up on Songs of Love and Hate in her fictional bio -- and lyrics like "They found their bodies the third day...." Teenagers of the late '60s (or any era that followed) listening devotedly to Leonard Cohen might have worried their parents, but also could well have been the smartest or most sensitive kids in their class and the most well-balanced emotionally -- if they weren't depressed -- but also effectively well on their way out of being teenagers, and probably too advanced for their peers and maybe most of their teachers (except maybe the ones listening to Cohen). Songs of Love and Hate, coupled with the earlier hit versions of "Suzanne," etc., earned Cohen a large international cult following. He also found himself in demand in the world of commercial filmmaking, as director Robert Altman used his music in his 1971 feature film McCabe and Mrs. Miller, starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, a revisionist period film set at the turn of the 19th century that was savaged by the critics (and, by some accounts, sabotaged by its own studio) but went on to become one of the director's best-loved movies. The following year, he also published a new poetry collection, The Energy of Slaves. As was his won't, Cohen spent years between albums, and in 1973 he seemed to take stock of himself as a performer by issuing Leonard Cohen: Live Songs. Not a conventional live album, it was a compendium of performances from various venues across several years and focused on highlights of his output from 1969 onward. It showcased his writing as much as his performing, but also gave a good account of his appeal to his most serious fans -- those still uncertain of where they stood in relation to his music who could get past the epic-length "Please Don't Pass Me By" knew for certain they were ready to "join" the inner circle of his legion of devotees after that, while others who only appreciated "Bird on the Wire" or "The Story of Isaac" could stay comfortably on an outer ring. Meanwhile, in 1973, his music became the basis for a theatrical production called Sisters of Mercy, conceived by Gene Lesser and loosely based on Cohen's life, or at least a fantasy version of his life. A three-year lag ensued between Songs of Love and Hate and Cohen's next album, and most critics and fans just assumed he'd hit a dry spell with the live album covering the gap. He was busy concertizing, however, in the United States and Europe during 1971 and 1972, and extending his appearances into Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was during this period that he also began working with pianist and arranger John Lissauer, whom he engaged as producer of his next album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). That album seemed to justify his fans' continued faith in his work, presenting Cohen in a more lavish musical environment. He proved capable of holding his own in a pop environment, even if the songs were mostly still depressing and bleak. The following year, Columbia Records released The Best of Leonard Cohen, featuring a dozen of his best-known songs -- principally hits in the hands of other performers -- from his previous four LPs (though it left out "Dress Rehearsal Rag"). It was also during the mid-'70s that Cohen first crossed paths professionally with Jennifer Warnes, appearing on the same bill with the singer at numerous shows, which would lead to a series of key collaborations in the ensuing decade. By this time, he was a somewhat less mysterious persona, having toured extensively and gotten considerable exposure -- among many other attributes, Cohen became known for his uncanny attractiveness to women, which seemed to go hand in glove with the romantic subjects of most of his songs. In 1977, Cohen reappeared with the ironically titled Death of a Ladies' Man, the most controversial album of his career, produced by Phil Spector. The notion of pairing Spector -- known variously as a Svengali-like presence to his female singers and artists and the most unrepentant (and often justified) over-producer in the field of pop music -- with Cohen must have seemed like a good one to someone at some point, but apparently Cohen himself had misgivings about many of the resulting tracks that Spector never addressed, having mixed the record completely on his own. The resulting LP suffered from the worst attributes of Cohen's and Spector's work, overly dense and self-consciously imposing in its sound, and virtually bathing the listener in Cohen's depressive persona, but showing his limited vocal abilities to disadvantage, owing to Spector's use of "scratch" (i.e., guide) vocals and his unwillingness to permit the artist to redo some of his weaker moments on those takes. For the first (and only) time in Cohen's career, his near-monotone delivery of this period wasn't a positive attribute. Cohen's unhappiness with the album was widely known among fans, who mostly bought it with that caveat in mind, so it didn't harm his reputation -- a year after its release, Cohen also published a new literary collection using the title Death of a Ladies' Man. Cohen's next album, Recent Songs (1979), returned him to the spare settings of his early-'70s work and showed his singing to some of its best advantage. Working with veteran producer Henry Lewy (best known for his work with Joni Mitchell), the album showed Cohen's singing as attractive and expressive in its quiet way, and songs such as "The Guests" seeming downright pretty -- he still wrote about life and love, and especially relationships, in stark terms, but he almost seemed to be moving into a pop mode on numbers such as "Humbled in Love." Frank Sinatra never needed to look over his shoulder at Cohen (at least, as a singer), but he did seem to be trying for a slicker pop sound at moments on his record. Then came 1984, and two key new works in Cohen's output -- the poetic/religious volume The Book of Mercy and the album Various Positions (1984). The latter, recorded with Jennifer Warnes, is arguably his most accessible album of his entire career up to that time -- Cohen's voice, now a peculiarly expressive baritone instrument, found a beautiful pairing with Warnes, and the songs were as fine as ever, steeped in spirituality and sexuality, with "Dance Me to the End of Love" a killer opener: a wry, doom-laden yet impassioned pop-style ballad that is impossible to forget. Those efforts overlapped with some ventures by the composer/singer into other creative realms, including an award-winning short film that he wrote, directed, and scored, entitled I Am a Hotel, and the score for the 1985 conceptual film Night Magic, which earned a Juno Award in Canada for Best Movie Score. Sad to say, Various Positions went relatively unnoticed, and was followed by another extended sabbatical from recording, which ended with I'm Your Man (1988). But during his hiatus, Warnes had released her album of Cohen-authored material, entitled Famous Blue Raincoat, which had sold extremely well and introduced Cohen to a new generation of listeners. So when I'm Your Man did appear, with its electronic production (albeit still rather spare) and songs that added humor (albeit dark humor) to his mix of pessimistic and poetic conceits, the result was his best-selling record in more than a decade. The result, in 1991, was the release of I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, a CD of recordings of his songs by the likes of R.E.M., the Pixies, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and John Cale, which put Cohen as a songwriter pushing age 60 right back on center stage for the 1990s. He rose to the occasion, releasing The Future, an album that dwelt on the many threats facing mankind in the coming years and decades, a year later. Not the stuff of pop charts or MTV heavy rotation, it attracted Cohen's usual coterie of fans, and enough press interest as well as sufficient sales, to justify the release in 1994 of his second concert album, Cohen Live, derived from his two most recent tours. A year later came another tribute album, Tower of Song, featuring Cohen's songs as interpreted by Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, et al. In the midst of all of this new activity surrounding his writing and compositions, Cohen embarked on a new phase of his life. Religious concerns were never too far from his thinking and work, even when he was making a name for himself writing songs about love, and he had focused ever more on this side of life since Various Positions. He came to spend time at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, a Buddhist retreat in California, and eventually became a full-time resident, becoming a Buddhist monk during the late '90s. When he re-emerged in 1999, Cohen had many dozens of new compositions in hand, songs and poems alike. His new collaborations were with singer/songwriter/musician Sharon Robinson, who also ended up producing the resulting album, Ten New Songs (2001) -- there also emerged during this period a release called Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979, comprised of live recordings from his tour of 22 years before. In 2004, the year he turned 70, Cohen released one of the most controversial albums of his career, Dear Heather. It revealed his voice anew, in this phase of his career, as a deep baritone more limited in range than on any previous recording, but it overcame this change in vocal timbre by facing it head-on, just as Cohen had done with his singing throughout his career -- it also contained a number of songs for which Cohen wrote music but not lyrics, a decided change of pace for a man who'd started out as a poet. And it was as personal a record as Cohen had ever issued. His return to recording was one of the more positive aspects of Cohen's resumption of his music activities. On another side, in 2005, he filed suit against his longtime business manager and his financial advisor over the alleged theft of more than five million dollars, at least some of which took place during his years at the Buddhist retreat. Four decades after he emerged as a public literary figure and then a performer, Cohen remains one of the most compelling and enigmatic musical figures of his era, and one of the very few of that era who commands as much respect and attention, and probably as large an audience, in the 21st century as he did in the 1960s. As much as any survivor of that decade, Cohen has held onto his original audience and has seen it grow across generations, in keeping with a body of music that is truly timeless and ageless. In 2006, his enduring influence seemed to be acknowledged in Lions Gate Films' release of Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, director Lian Lunson's concert/portrait of Cohen and his work and career. © Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

5 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINK

QTN said...

QTN sez:
Thanks again. Tried this LC twice but even with pw, file doesn't open right. An oops perhaps? Sounds like a great evening nonetheless and will keep my ears peeled.

Thanks for the Upchurch too. One of my favourites and I have seen him play several times although years ago. Even still have this disc and it is indeed way overlooked. Whatever happened to Charles Stepney?

Request: Philosophy of the Spiritual by Richard Davis

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,QTN. I will check link. If there's a glitch, I'll re-up it. Phil Upchurch is indeed, a very overlooked artist. Phil's music is sadly still a minority interest. The great Charles Stepney passed away over 30years ago. One of the greatest albums he co-produced was Ramsey Lewis' "Maiden Voyage". I have a few albums relating to him, if you are interested. I'll see what I can do re:Richard Davis. Check back soon, and thanks for your interest

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi again QTN. I've checked link and it's ok. It's been downloaded 38 times from rshare. Try copying and pasting link into address bar. p/w aoofc. Please get back to me if you've problems.

A.O.O.F.C said...

Try this LINK if you are having problems with rapidshare. There is no p/w needed