The voice is the first thing you notice. The early poetic renditions on such classics as "Suzanne", "Sisters of Mercy" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" are presented in a voice that is deadpan but not as gruff as in later years. This was at a period when he was a well kept secret and with a style and presentation that not everyone took to. Move onto disc 2 and you notice how the voice deepens and the songs become bigger. One thing that Cohen has never failed to deliver is quality songs with curious stories to tell. He has an almost hymn-like or gospel touch on a lot of his work, usually enhanced by superb backing singers and wondrous musicians and arrangements.
I move between both of his periods with equal ease, but I find the latter stuff more appealing these days. Some people could sing the contents of the telephone directory given the right voice, he is one of them. "Democracy", "Tower of Song", "First we take Manhattan" and "Hallelujah" are stand out tracks but I defy anyone not to get lost in "Closing Time". This is by far my favourite. A fun song, with so many catchy hooks it just pulls you off your seat and invites you to dance with the nearest partner. You can almost smell the smoke and alcoholic fumes as if you are drinking in the bar with him. A tremendous talent......but what great assistance from his backing singers.
This is a great selection of his work. If you are a fan, you'll want it in your collection. If you are just curious, buy it.........it's a great introduction.