Pieter | Johannesburg | 09/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
The lilting poetry of Suzanne lures the listener into Cohen' world of romantic despair on his debut Songs Of LC while introducing the essence of his sound: a deep monotone framed by sublime female backing vocals over simple but engaging melodies. Master Song, Winter Lady and Stranger Song reinforce the desolate landscape although the melodies are less immediate. Cohen's genius shines brightly on the immortal Sisters Of Mercy, a strange mixture of the spiritual and the sensual that must be one of the most beautiful musical poems in the English language.
This delicate gem is followed by the powerful and evocative So Long Marianne and the understated Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye, both masterpieces of words, melody and arrangement - the female vocals on Goodbye is especially impressive. One Us Cannot Be Wrong addresses the beloved in a series of strange images before moving on to melodic whistling and ending with bitter shouted la la lahs. For those interested in other artists' take on Cohen: Suzanne has been beautifully covered by inter alia Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy and Geoffrey Oryema: I'm Your Fan.
This 1984 album Various Positions, the last of Cohen's folk masterpieces and one subtly spiced with country, never grows stale due to the intricacy of its arrangements while perennially revealing deeper layers of metaphysical & symbolic significance. Cohen's gift of melody & rhythm finds buoyant expression in Dance Me to the End Of Love which may sound catchy like a simple pop tune but if one pays attention multiple meanings & possibilities emerge. In contrast, Coming Back to You unfolds slowly and solemnly through a graceful melody wed to imagery that navigates delicately between romantic & divine love. The Night Comes On may be the highlight, a rare gem ranking amongst the greatest of Cohen's songs. As the song unfolds, the symbolism unleashes an almost supernatural power that stirs the psyche hinting at ancient memories.
The words of the rhythmic lilting song The Captain with its tinkling piano, tangy country flavor & ironic comment on "some country-western song" contain & conceal more than they reveal as they undulate on the tune & the beat. The impassioned Heart With No Companion combines a lilting uptempo beat & hypnotic tune with lyrics contemplating disillusionment, shattered dreams & immobilizing fear. The final song is a prayer of intercession on an ancient pattern, the same to which The Lord's Prayer conforms. With praise and reverence, If It Be Your Will intercedes not only for the tormented souls in hell but for all the children in their "rags of light."
This 1988 album I'm Your Man is very much a pop album in tune and sound. Lyrically it has its moments of profundity as in all of Cohen's work but there is a lighter touch. Although keyboards are prominent, John Bilezikjian & Raffi Hakopian respectively embellish Everybody Knows and Take This Waltz. On every track Leonard's voice is supported by either Anjani Thomas or Jennifer Warnes, and by both on Aint No Cure For Love. It is worth noting that First We Take Manhattan lacks the dramatic German newscast intro of the Jennifer Warnes interpretation on Famous Blue Raincoat.
The sing-along melody of Aint No Cure For Love contrasts strikingly with Cohen's trademark biblical imagery and his version of Everybody Knows is still the best compared to all the covers, mainly due to the `oud' (oriental lute) of John Bilezikjian which adds a special dimension to the sound. Based on Federico Garcia Lorca's Pequeño Vals Vienés, the elegant Take This Waltz has an undulating mid-tempo arrangement that brings 1920s Vienna to life in striking imagery. It's an extraordinary tapestry of symbols from nature woven into implied emotions of yearning, ecstasy and sadness, e.g. "a garland of freshly cut tears." Tower of Song has been interpreted by artists as diverse as Marianne Faithfull and Nick Cave and lent its title to a disappointing 1995 tribute.
Tracks on The Future (1992) range from the soulful cover of Frederick Knight's Be For Real, to the flowing, country-tinged Closing Time and the sombre Anthem with its comforting lines: "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." Democracy is another tour de force with a lovely undulating rhythm and gripping lyrics whilst Light As The Breeze must rate as one of his most moving love songs. As Cohen's sole album of new material in the 1990s, this was a worthy follow-up to I'm Your Man and remains a masterpiece. Anthem is beautifully covered by Perla Batalla on the soundtrack album Leonard Cohen-I'm Your Man.
The 2001 album Ten New Songs is quite subdued and at first listen all the songs have the same slow gentle sound. But the old magic's still there on classics like In My Secret Life, Love Itself, The Land of Plenty and the elegant Alexandra Leaving. Cohen covers familiar themes and one even recognizes lines from earlier songs, e.g. "I do what I am told," (That Don't Make It Junk), while the mood of The Land Of Plenty reminds me of Heart With No Companion from the Various Positions album, a devotional with a sentiment of complete resignation and acceptance.
The most explicitly spiritual song The Land of Plenty is the highlight of the album and stirring in its melancholy and honesty: "For what's left of our religion/I lift my voice and pray/May the lights in the land of plenty/Shine on the truth some day". I enjoy Cohen's unusual excursions like Death of a Ladies' Man and the esoteric Recent Songs as much as his classic acoustic style so I have no problem with the synth-pop production. I love Sharon Robinson's vocals as backing and where she duets with him on tracks like Boogie Street and the exquisite Alexandra Leaving.
Great re-issue, appearance wise.
HERE WE GO STEELERS!!! | Philadelphia, PA USA | 07/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Briefly, I couldn't tell much difference in the audio quality (I think this box set was supposed to be remasters of the original albums???), but the box set is very nice, looks great, includes nice mini-lp replicas, and hey, it is Leonard Cohen, so you can't really go wrong. If your a collector, buy this one, if your not, don't bother."
A Little Piece of Heaven
Marek Materka | New York, NY, USA | 07/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, it's about time to catch up with the technology. Since most of Cohen work was released in the compact format almost 20 years ago, its sonic inferiority to current digital standards is undisputable.
The new remasters replace the old muddy sound with clarity and sharpness that should be noticed by each and every (even untrained) ear.
Elegantly designed in the mini-LP replica format, this 5 cd set is a testimony to Cohen's greatness through the brilliant eponymous debut from 1968, his 1984 successful crossover attempt with "Various Positions", followed 4 years later with the highly accessible and personal "I'm Your Man". The set also includes the wonderfully dark and moody "Future" (1992) and concludes with the self-reflective "10 New Songs" (2001), arguably Cohen's last "worthy" studio release.
It should be also mentioned that every cd is a straight copy of the original album content, thus free of undesired and annoying alternative takes or bonus tracks.
In one sentence, if you are a Leonard Cohen fan this little red box is like a little piece of heaven that will put a big smile on your face. Without a doubt!!!