This is the soundtrack for the Lian Lunson movie Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man. In turn the performances used in the movie come from a show called Came So Far For Beauty which was "an evening of songs of Leonard Cohen" performed at the Brighton Dome in 2004 and the Sydney Opera House in 2005 (It is due to be staged also as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in October,2006). The exception is a version of Tower of Song by Cohen and U2 which is Cohen's only appearance as a performer on the album.
Perhaps because of its origins there is more coherence to this collection than previous collections of covers by various artists of Cohen songs: I'm Your Fan and Tower of Song. Some of Cohen's previous backing singers (which I know is an unfair description) perform the same function here and,indeed,come to the fore as in, for example, Perla Batalla's exceptional rendition of Bird on a Wire.
Unlike previous collections there isn't out of place performance here. Rufus Wainwright sounds if he belongs in the Chelsea Hotel(no.2)and has a viciously virtuoso version of Everybody Knows. His sister Martha is as impressive; Beth Orton makes Sisters of Mercy convey all the pain that needed the mercy.
The list of contributors are all people who'd turn up on each other's "if you liked that you'll like this" lists. Anthony (of Anthony and the Johnsons)has a starkly beautiful version of If It Be Your Will. Teddy Thompson, a talented songwriter, shows yet again that he has one of the finest, if not so far widely recognised, voices of his generation in Tonight Will be Fine and The Future.
I suppose you either get Leonard Cohen or you don't but anyone who listens to this and remains unconvinced that he is one of the finest songwriters (with, despite his razors and wrists reputation, a phenomenally wide range) hasn't come very far for beauty. It is a superb collection which every admirer of Cohen will want to have.