Get this crazy baby off my head!


Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 - 2009 - Music On Vinyl

"All those people had been sitting out there in the rain, after they’d set fire to Hendrix’s stage,’ Bob Johnston recalls, ‘and nobody had slept for days. And then Leonard came out and he started out singing ‘Like… a … bird’ – singing it so slowly that everybody in that audience was exactly with him. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. And that’s what saved that show and saved the festival." - Bob Johnston, as told to Sylvie Simmons, from the liner notes to Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970

At 4 a.m. on the fifth and final night of the troubled 1970 Isle of Wight concert, the not-yet-legendary Leonard Cohen stepped onstage before a raucous crowd of 600,000 and promptly captivated the unruly masses. Murray Lerner's mesmerizing docu closely chronicles Cohen's set, only occasionally breaking away to record audience reactions or interview fellow performers, who even today profess astonishment at how Cohen turned the night around. Must-see footage for fans and for those less hip to Cohen's early stylings, the docu, already out on DVD, opens theatrically Jan. 22nd at Gotham's Cinema Village. Anger over admission fees, fences and patrol dogs led the crowd, three times larger than expected, to overturn barriers and set fires. Anarchy threatened, stoked by Jimi Hendrix's magnificently incendiary perf; indeed, Cohen's appearance was delayed by the need to replace the piano and organ, which had been set ablaze during Hendrix's set. Some acts were booed off the stage, notably Kris Kristofferson, who, in both archival and present-day footage, attests to the ugliness of the crowd and the ease with which Cohen charmed them. Helmer Lerner reveals this background context incrementally, around the edges of Cohen's bravura performance. Neither defensive nor defiant, Cohen quickly established a quiet, confessional intimacy with his audience, opening with a childhood anecdote that ended with the request that everyone light a match so he could see them (prefiguring the communal lighters of modern-day concerts). At the time of the concert, Cohen's voice had not yet attained the gravelly basso profundo that came to characterize his stylistic reinvention. His more inflected notes and husky sincerity here belong to his wistful "troubadour" phase, making up in sheer hypnotic beauty what his vocalizations later gained in incantatory power. By & © Ronnie Scheib © variety.com © 2011 Reed Business Information", a division of Reed Elsevier Inc http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117941912?refcatid=31

Live at the Isle of Wight was originally to be called My Sad and Famous Songs but, at the last minute, the title was scrapped. This is fortunate—while it’s true that Cohen writes some of the heaviest songs you’ll hear, and that his dour delivery gives him his (often deserved) reputation as an artist who’s inspired quite a bit of wrist-slashing, the proposed title would have reinforced an overly simplistic perspective that fails to consider Cohen’s disarming onstage charm and potent if subtle sense of humor. Mid-set on Isle of Wight, Cohen begins delivering what, at first, seems like a ponderous activist poem so common to the era: “As for the political situation, “ he says, “they locked up a man who wanted to rule the world. The fools, they locked up the wrong man.” The crowd cheers, and Cohen continues, “ A man who eats meat wants to get his teeth into something. A man who does not eat meat wants to get his teeth into something else.” There’s a long pause, and then Cohen adds, “If these thoughts interest you for even a moment, you are lost.” It’s refreshing to see this artist from the love-and-peace era so hilariously undercut himself and the whole self-serious Woodstock generation, to which it seemed, he never quite belonged. No, Cohen’s body of work and the performances on this disc feel like they exist outside of the time and place they were created—outside of any time and place for that matter. Which makes them all the more powerful. By & © Steve LaBate © 2011 Paste Media Group. All rights reserved http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2009/10/leonard-cohen-live-at-the-isle-of-wight-1970.html

It was gone two in the morning by the time he finally got on stage after being woken from a nap in his trailer. Out front the mood among the throng – an astonishing 600,000 strong – was a mixture of blissed-out and fired-up after five days of music, ragged sleep and running battles between the organisers and the ‘free festival radicals’ occupying ‘Desolation Row’, the hill overlooking the site. Backstage there were jitters – already that night there had been an onstage fire, a wilful act of arson, during Jimi Hendrix’s slot. Unfazed, Leonard Cohen wandered onstage cool as an English summer. Shaggy, stubbled, tanned, and sporting a tightly belted safari suit (possibly the only time said garment has seemed dashing), he looked more film star than rock icon. At almost 36, he was, Miles Davis aside, the oldest act on a sprawling, stellar bill. Cohen’s subsequent performance was remarkable for its poise, its passion and the way it defused the tension crackling in the air. Before he had even played a note Cohen had seized his moment by reminiscing about his childhood visits to the circus and getting the audience to hold up a lighted match (a gesture yet to descend into cliché) and by singing, ad lib, “It’s good to be here alone in front of 600,000 people”. When Cohen finally swoops into a solemn “Bird On A Wire”, the crowd’s collective exhalation is almost tangible. Thereafter, Cohen never lets his grip slacken over 80 minutes, towing his audience through songs that were already causes célèbres – “So Long Marianne”, “Suzanne”, “Lady Midnight” – and startling them withintroductions that are sometimes poems, sometimes narratives. “I wrote this in a peeling room in the Chelsea hotel… I was coming off amphetamine and pursuing a blonde lady whom I met in a Nazi poster,” is his lead-in to “One Of Us Can’t Be Wrong”. The confidential introductions and Cohen’s tousled appearance lend proceedings a drowsy intimacy, though whether Len’s half-closed eyes and sleepy manner are due to his recent nap or the ingestion of some festive substance is unclear. In this early part of his career, long before the more detached and oblique commentator of the 1980s emerged, the confessional was, in any case, Cohen’s default position, the sense of his nakedness enhanced by minimal backings. Here he’s accompanied by a classy quartet of US session players (including producer Bob Johnston) whose acoustic guitars strum and ripple gently behind him while Johnston sounds hymnal organ parts and a trio of female singers provide harmony and gospel choruses. Incongruously, Cohen dubbed the group ‘The Army’. The commanding presence, though, remains Cohen’s voice, never a thing of supple beauty for sure, and prone to wander into the wrong key, but by turns sensual and fervid and always perfectly paced for lyrics that chime with poetic grace. The versions here of “The Stranger”, “The Partisan”, and “You Know Who I Am”, to mention just three, have a steely exuberance absent from the more mannered takes on his first two albums. Whether singing, reciting or talking, Cohen never misses a phonetic beat. At times even the band, who had just accompanied him on a European tour, seem as mesmerised by his spoken forays as the crowd. There’s a clever underlying structure to the set, too, that alternates a jolt or two of slow, lingering romance with more uptempo offerings. Hence, after “…Marianne” comes a bounding “Lady Midnight”, while “The Stranger” is followed by a countrified take on “Tonight Will Be Fine” featuring banjo and fiddle, the latter by Charlie Daniels. In a wry preface to “Tonight”, Cohen sings of his “sad and famous songs” alongside a cheery dedication to “the poison snakes on Desolation Hill”. Ouch! “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”, forlorn as ever, is pursued by a riotous version of “Diamonds In The Mine”, one of three tracks here that would ultimately see release on 1971’s Songs of Love And Hate, said album also including the Isle of Wight performance of “Sing Another Song Boys”. This would have been the crowd’s first encounter with both songs, as with “Famous Blue Raincoat”, rendered here with gruff, arresting determination. After that, “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” seems almost an afterthought to a set that, across a 40-year chasm, still astonishes. By & © Neil Spencer © IPC MEDIA 1996-2011, All rights reserved http://www.uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/reviews/13710

"Leonard Cohen's Isle of Wight 1970 CD/DVD is an album that all music connoisseurs must own. There's something mythically inspiring by his performance during his magical show. Leonard Cohen has always transcended time and lyrical spaces with his songs. And this show is no different. Cohen may now be a middle aged crooner but looking back at this magnificent concert is like watching the master with new and unheard gems that he shares from his arsenal of artistic greatness". © Adrian Cepeda 11.03.2009 © Treble Media http://treblezine.com/reviews/3325-Leonard_Cohen_Live_at_the_Isle_of_Wight_1970.html

This now historic concert by one of the world's greatest living singer/songwriters and poets was recorded live at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 31, 1970. British rock journalist and TV commentator ("The Rock Chick"), Sylvie Simmons said of the concert that “It was a brilliant performance. Before he sang, Cohen talked to the hundreds of thousands of people he couldn't see. He told them - sedately - a story that sounded like a parable and a bedtime story that worked like hypnotism and at the same time tested the temperature of the crowd. He described how his father would take him to the circus as a child. Leonard didn't much like circuses, but he enjoyed the part where a man would stand up and ask everyone to light a match so they could locate each other in the darkness. 'Can I ask each of you to light a match,' Leonard asked the audience, 'so I can see where you all are?'". Bob Johnston who was Leonard Cohen's Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer in 1970 said that “It was magical, from the first moment to the last. I’ve never seen anything like it. He was just remarkable.” Since the mid '50's Leonard Cohen had already published novels and poetry, but he was a late starter in the music business, and sang these songs when he was only three years into his recording career. In 1970, after two successful albums, "Songs of Leonard Cohen" and "Songs from a Room", this performance at the IOW was a big step on his way to becoming the legend he is today. He managed to enthrall a vast crowd which had previously been edgy and unhappy not only with the bad weather, but also with certain musicians who in their eyes had "underperformed" at the concert. Joan Baez, Donovan, Kris Kristofferson, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Doors, Jethro Tull, Free, The Who, and the Moody Blues were some of the great acts appearing. Not all lived up to the crowd's expectations. Leonard came on stage after a controversial and explosive performance from Jimi Hendrix, sang 14 great songs interspersed with poetry, and some wry and often cryptic comments, and somehow his calm, reflective wisdom and near mystical gentility subdued the crowd. There are many articles written about Leonard's "mass-mesmermizing" effect on the huge IOW crowd. In 2011, Leonard Cohen was 77, and if the great man is only remembered for writing his glorious "Suzanne", he is guaranteed a place in the history of great music. This is a legendary concert, and VHR by A.O.O.F.C. [Tracks range between 224 & 256 Kbps bitrate]. N.B: All but three of the classic songs on this live album were first released on Leonard Cohen’s first two LPs: “So Long, Marianne,” “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong,” “The Stranger Song,” “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Good¬bye,” and “Suzanne” were on his debut 1967 album, "Songs Of Leonard Cohen": Bird On The Wire,” “You Know Who I Am,” “Tonight Will Be Fine,” “The Partisan,” and “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” were on his 1969 "Songs From A Room" album. Three other songs, “Diamonds In The Mine,” “Sing Another Song Boys,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” were on his third album from 1971, "Songs of Love and Hate", an album which reprised the IOW live version of “Sing Another Song Boys”. LC's "Live From The Beacon Theatre, NYC, February 26, 2009" album is @ LENCOH/LBEACNYC & his "Live, BBC Television Theatre, London, 1968" album @ LENCOH/BBCL68

A1 Introduction 3:06
A2 Bird On The Wire 4:15
A3 Intro To So Long, Marianne 0:16
A4 So Long, Marianne 7:07
A5 Intro: “Let’s Renew Ourselves Now...” 0:51
A6 You Know Who I Am 3:58
B1 Intro To Poems 0:29
B2 Lady Midnight 3:38
B3 They Locked Up A Man (poem) / A Person Who Eats Meat / Intro 2:00
B4 One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong 4:54
B5 The Stranger Song 6:37
C1 Tonight Will Be Fine 6:17
C2 Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye 3:34
C3 Diamonds In The Mine 5:23
C4 Suzanne 4:18
D1 Sing Another Song, Boys 6:13
D2 The Partisan 4:47 *
D3 Famous Blue Raincoat 5:20
D4 Seems So Long Ago, Nancy 4:19

All songs composed by Leonard Cohen except “The Partisan"

* NB: Originally a French song from WW 2, composed in 1943 by Anna Marly and Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie. The song was adapted with English lyrics by Hy Zaret, a Tin Pan Alley songsmith of “Unchained Melody” and “One Meatball” fame. Well before 1970, Joan Baez was singing the song, and during the IOW concert, Leonard dedicated the song to Joan “and the work she is doing.”


Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals - Leonard Cohen
Guitar, Organ, Piano, Harmonica - Bob Johnston
Guitar - Ron Cornelius
Bass, Banjo - Elkin "Bubba" Fowler
Electric Bass, Fiddle - Charlie Daniels
Backing Vocals - Corlynn Hanney, Donna Washburn, Susan Musmanno


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 Hofmannsthal and 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 repertoire 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 an 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. 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 then 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 wont, 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 even 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. A performance set, Live in London, was released in 2009. In 2010, the DVD/CD package Songs from the Road was issued, documenting his 2008 world tour and revisiting songs from each part of his career. The tour covered 84 dates and sold over 700,000 tickets worldwide.


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


p/w aoofc

ratso said...

Thanks for this one Mr Fingal. I am looking forward to settling in with this tonight. Best wishes to you. Ratso

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

Hi,ratso! I know you're a big LC fan. Hope you enjoy it. Cheers...P