This, Cohen's second album, found him on more comfortable territory. The success of his first record seems to have encouraged Colubmia to allow him a little more freedom from the commercial arrangements imposed on him by his first producer, John Simon. 'Songs From A Room' presents Lennie in characteristic, spare mode, backed only by a 'hearbeat' bass, Jew's harp, and (very) occasional flourishes from strings, guitar, harmonium,percussion and only one appearance by a female choir!
All of which has the effect of making this a more cohesive album, the product of a consistent production philospophy. Dylan producer Bob Johnston does for Cohen just what he did for his previous boss: records the voice perfectly, so that Cohen is 'centre-stage' and never obscured by the backing musicians (who - disappointingly - aren't credited).
As to the songs - well, a lot of them are Cohen standards: 'Bird On The Wire' needs no introduction; 'Story of Isaac' is a subtle Vietname commentary (though it applies equally well to any armed conflict); 'Seems So Long Ago, Nancy' is a harrowing personal tale and 'Tonight Will Be Fine' encapsulates Lennie's approach to life and loving into three and half minutes of perfect folk-pop! There's also a beautiful version of the Resistance anthem 'The Partisan', which most people now know through Cohen's version (in which the female choir makes its one, very telling, appearance). Those are the standout tracks....but I don't think anything else on the album quite reaches those heights, enjoyable as songs like 'The Old Revolution' and 'You Know Who I Am'are - hence the four stars, as opposed to five. In all honesty, I probably enjoy 'Songs Of...' and 'Songs Of Love And Hate' more, even though they are less cohesive albums in terms of production and style.
The bonus tracks - early versions of 'Bird...' and 'You Know Who I Am', produced by David Crosby (who I never realised had had any connection with Cohen) actually match up to the album versions in terms of quality. And the hard-covered packaging, with interesting liner notes by Anthony deCurtis, is attractive.
In short, if you like 'Songs Of...', you'll almost certainly like this. So, add it to your basket!