With one notable exception, the major music figures of the sixties and seventies failed to adjust to the heritage-baiting musical climate of the eighties: Dylan, Mitchell, Clapton, McCartney et al all came a cropper during that decade and finished it with their artistic reputations in tatters. Bizarrely, the one to buck the trend was Leonard Cohen (we'll argue later over whether Mr. C has ever been a 'major music figure', shall we?), who seemed to find himself right at home in the world of programmed synthsizers and drum machines. This, his first album of the decade, is almost a sonic manifesto: out with the old and wooden, in with the shiny and metallic.
Sounds awful....yet, Various Positions is a triumph: song for song, this is probably Leonard's best record. There is not one weak track on here and three of the peaks of his recording career are included: Dance Me To The End Of Love, Night Comes On and the (now) all-conquering Hallelujah. But those are only the well-known ones: we also get the affecting ballad Coming Back To You, the chilling The Law, the mournful Hunter's Lullaby, the jaunty-with-a-twist C&W ballad The Captain and the powerful 'modern hymn If It Be Your Will. Heart With No Companion, a fine song, doesn't quite get the treatment it deserves on here....the version currently being performed by Leonard and his excellent touring band reveal it for the great song it always has been.
I shall always treasure this album for personal reasons, as it was the second LC album I bought, after the debut. It crept out almost unnoticed (and wasn't even released in the USA, so low was Leonard's stock over there), but I knew it was a masterpiece from the first hearing. Hopefully, you'll agree with me.