7 April 2013

7th April - Leonard Cohen's Songs From a Room

Artist – Album: Leonard Cohen – Songs from a Room
Released:  7th April 1968               
Sounds Like: The idol is boxed in a room

What a hero Leonard Cohen is. Poet, novelist and one of the most acclaimed and influential singer songwriters of the last five decades, he operates on a higher literary plane than the majority of his folky contemporaries. Not stopping there, Cohen is also an inductee of the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a Companion of the Order of Canada. He’s a practising Jew with an interest in Buddhism, and he’s had a long standing association with Budhhist monk and teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki up at the brilliantly named Mount Baldy Zen Centre. Plus, a friend of a friend of a friend knows him, and apparently he seems like a nice guy.

With such a grand list of achievements it can be easy to forget that at times his music can be hushed and humble. Here, on his second album, it’s even hesitant. With Cohen’s admittedly limited vocals, and the absence of much ornament besides his trusty acoustic guitar, his work is reliant on the quiet confidence he tends to bring, be it on his stunningly realised debut or his later 80s experiments with synths. Here he seems a little constricted, as though he doubts whether the material is worthy of following his first Songs from Leonard Cohen. Perversely, for that very reason, this isn’t his best effort.

On the other hand, it’s still good. Songs like ‘Story of Isaac’, the conversion of a French poem ‘The Partisan’ and the bittersweet romance of ‘You Know Who I Am’ are exceptional works of art, whilst ‘Bird on a Wire’ - not really my favourite, it’s a bit boring – nevertheless seems to be a bit of a headline draw for the fans.

Not Leonard Cohen at his best, but even when the legend isn’t quite at 100% he’s still better than most of his peers.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Bird on a Wire – 3:28
2.       Story of Isaac – 3:38
3.       A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes – 3:18
4.       The Partisan – 3:29
5.       Seems So Long Ago, Nancy – 3:41
6.       The Old Revolution – 4:50
7.       The Butcher – 3:22
8.       You Know Who I Am – 3:32
9.       Lady Midnight – 3:01
10.   Tonight Will Be Fine – 3:53

Listen to ‘You Know Who I Am’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPkUyPU6nw4

Also released on the 7th April:
2003: Athlete – Vehicles & Animals
Also released on the 7th April:
2004: Jens Lekman – When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog

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