19 March 2013

19th March - Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate

Artist – Album: Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate
Released:  19th March 1971
Sounds Like: Pure poetry

Leonard Cohen is the lyricist’s lyricist. Bob Dylan is the critic’s choice, his cryptic stream of consciousness and confrontational attitude being the epitome of cool. Paul Simon appeals to hopeless romantics and foppish first year English students alike, with his beautiful character studies far outweighing his awkward nods to hippiedom. McCartney and Lennon are simple and powerful, the lyricists of the masses. Morrissey for the older indie kids. Alex Turner for the younger. But Cohen is a poet. Not just in that his lyrics are poetry, he actually was a poet. I know this because I robbed a book of his poems from my ex-housemate’s parent’s house before they moved to the Isle of Mull.

As a result of his literary leanings, Cohen’s words are very much the defining element of his songs. His baritone voice, though warm and deep like Sam Elliott’s the Stranger in the Big Lebowki, is obviously limited.  His sparsely plucked acoustic guitar is never meant to hold your attention. And so it comes back to his lyrics.

The title of the album gives something of a clue to the content – let’s face it, you don’t get much more Ronseal than a name like Songs of Love and Hate. But they’re not straightforward songs of passion. The most celebrated song, ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, is about a love triangle between the jilted narrator (”sincerely L. Cohen”), his ex-lover and his “brother”, his “killer”.  ‘Joan of Arc’ is more about spiritual love, as it follows the inner dialogue of the saintly Joan as she burns at the stake. ‘Avalanche’ covers both ends of the spectrum as it details a failing relationship and the efforts made to keep it alive. These are heavy, well-worn stanzas that explore the breadth of human emotion and they could only work under the penmanship of the master, the lyricist’s lyricist.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Avalanche – 5:07
2.       Last Year’s Man – 6:02
3.       Dress Rehearsal Rag – 6:12
4.       Diamonds in the Mine – 3:52
5.       Love Calls You by Your Name – 5:44
6.       Famous Blue Raincoat – 5:15
7.       Sing Another Song, Boys – 6:17
8.       Joan of Arc – 6:29

Listen to ‘Joan of Arc’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHjnjIbwvGI

Also released on the 19th March:
1962: Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan
Also released on the 19th March:
2002: Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies

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