by carl wilson

"I mean, we are all here with our terribly shabby human limitations. What can I possibly do except sing a few of these appallingly simple songs I've written?"


I've heard only brief samples of the new Leonard Cohen joint, and confess I'm a bit afraid to hear more: His last disc was pretty scant on revelation and scanter on wit and melody, and according to my colleague Robert Everett-Green in today's Globe and Mail, as on Ten New Songs, in these 12 more, "mostly Cohen goes for keyboard instrumentals... that are so cheesy as to provoke. Or doesn't he care about that sort of thing anymore?" The title, Dear Heather, seems similarly half-assed compared to, say, Death of a Ladies' Man. (Though one can't help wondering who's this Heather, at least out of misplaced protectiveness for Suzanne, Marianne, Marita et al.)

I do admire the way the cheese-keys affect a combination of Zen detachment and Montreal mafia-lounge act, but that doesn't translate to wanting to listen to them. Leon Wieseltier's liner notes (yeah, you read that right) say the album "revels in its own lack of monumentality," but again that's more morality than art: I liked it when Cohen's songs monumentalized his revelry, sacralized his rancor, wallowed in merriment and dazzled with desperation. How can one not be happy, for his sake, that he is past that? And how can one not be sad, for ours?

So let's hop in the way-back machine and land in (via Chromewaves) this collection of rare MP3s of live Leonard, mainly from the 1970s, rather than Cohen's current 70s (plus transcriptions - oh and look here for L.C.'s various introductions and explanations of songs). Most of us younger folks, if we've ever witnessed live Cohen, saw rather formal performances, but back in the day he was given to crazy covers, alternate versions and existential-standup improvised digressions in his concerts. Though painfully badly taped, it's all gold. Check out the unreleased disco-floor-filler Do I Have to Dance All Night?, the extended versions of Chelsea Hotel (with several extra verses), Cohen (truly the Bogart of songwriters) doing As Time Goes By or defending "schmaltz" against an earnest heckler and volunteering to commit suicide "if anybody has a razor".

Ah, the good old bad young days.

On Record | Posted by zoilus on Friday, October 29 at 4:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



Personally, I think the last one was pretty good. Perhaps folk music of our time. It sounds modern, the songs are beautiful and It's hard to beat that quirky voice and phrasing.


Posted by tim posgate on October 31, 2004 4:26 PM



(Just to be much, much more pedantic).

Posted by Zoilus on October 30, 2004 5:04 PM



I don't know where you got that idea, Sean. Of course there is a Marie Anne street in Montreal, but that's not what the song is about. Marianne Jensen was Cohen's companion when he lived on the Greek island of Hydra - and abandoned when he started his music career. See the poem (I can't recall the title) where LC refers to ""Marianne and the child ... the precious ones I overthrew/for an education in the world." That's her in the picture on the back cover of Songs From A Room, that beautiful black-and-white photograph. (

Posted by Zoilus on October 30, 2004 5:03 PM



you don't have to protect marie anne. she's a street in montreal.
sorry to be pedantic.

Posted by Sean on October 30, 2004 4:50 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson