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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't you come on back to the war?
To my mind this is Cohen's best album, achieving an impressive coherence of vision and texture whilst offering more variety of musical tone and timbre than any of his other (not inconsiderable) works. The arrangements are beautifully fitting, the instrumentation is subtle but much richer than on the preceding acoustic guitar oriented albums, and Cohen is in terrific...
Published on 15 April 2005 by A fellow creature

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New Skin....Old Ceremony
I ought to preface this review by stating that I am a committed Leonard Cohen fan, not a casual listener, so I'm judging this album in comparison to Leonard's finest works. And, sad to say, it suffers by that comparison - not that there's all that much wrong with what's here - Chelsea Hotel and Who By Fire are two of LC's most popular songs, still in his concert programme...
Published on 10 Aug. 2009 by Wakefield, 2011


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't you come on back to the war?, 15 April 2005
This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
To my mind this is Cohen's best album, achieving an impressive coherence of vision and texture whilst offering more variety of musical tone and timbre than any of his other (not inconsiderable) works. The arrangements are beautifully fitting, the instrumentation is subtle but much richer than on the preceding acoustic guitar oriented albums, and Cohen is in terrific voice, raw with unsuppressed rage and regret on 'Is This What You Wanted' and 'Leaving Greensleeves'. Casual or cloth-eared listeners hold that the Cohen worldview is depressing, but 'New Skin' is ripe with Len's characteristic dark wit and irreverent wordplay, affirming language and melody as (albeit flimsy) bulwarks against life's inevitable humiliations. The songs revel in the bitter comedy of sex and love and the recurrent theme is relationships as war, with the self-styled 'Field Commander Cohen' invariably among the vanquished. But insead of the standard self-pity of the sensitive singer-songwriter, Cohen offers us ironically humorous dissections of his own compromised motives and dirty psychic undercurrents, as well as those of his usually victorious partners. Love is always tinged with hate, adoration with contempt and desire with disgust, so that in the end even the winners in the battle of the sexes are victims of their own worst impulses. As he declares in 'There Is A War', there can be no armistice; the only option is to return to the front and prepare for the next defeat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Skin For The Old Ceremony: Leonard Cohen - Field Commander Cohen asks `is this what you wanted?', 29 Sept. 2011
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
This fourth studio album from the master of the singer/songwriter genre, Leonard Cohen, is a bit of a departure form his previous three releases, and one that, for me, works well. Previously famed for a Spartan approach to music, here he uses a wider variety of backing instruments to provide a rich musical palette from which to make his arrangements. However, even though the arrangements are lusher and more intricate, the basics of Cohen's style remain unchanged. The heart of each track is Cohen's intimate, almost poetic, lyrics. Telling intensely personal stories, with tales of love, loss, regret and a degree of political activism, each verse feels lovingly crafted with each word placed carefully for maximum effect. Cohen's style is intelligent, literate and with the occasional flash of humour, making for some memorable lines.

In tone and style it is quite different to Cohen's early output, but this is no bad thing. Life is about change and evolving, and Cohen's style has definitely evolved through the years, with each new album another step along his road of discovery. It is a journey without a destination, and we should be thankful for being allowed to follow. Some people dislike the change, but personally I think his albums are all the better for it - we'd have all got bored long ago if every album he ever made sounded just like the last one. For me this was a step along the road that worked well, and a classic album resulted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So brave and so sweet, 6 Nov. 2013
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
Musically, this must be Leonard Cohen`s most varied album. With the hugely talented long-term Cohen cohort John Lissauer arranging as well as playing woodwinds and keyboards, and a real departure from the singer`s previous records, this is not only one of his lesser-known albums, but one of his most intriguing.
Is This What You Wanted is another in a long line of Cohen`s songs about men and women (has any other songwriter paid so much attention to the subject?) and is a jerky number that opens New Skin in arresting style.
Chelsea Hotel #2 - which I vividly remember him singing for the first time on tour back then, only with slightly different words - is a bittersweet little song about a sexual encounter with Janis Joplin in the fabled New York hotel:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were talkin` so brave and so sweet

What happens next I`ll leave for those new to this song to discover.
Lover Lover Lover is a fast-paced, frantically sung plea-in-song, with Cohen and his musicians going at it for dear life.
Field Commander Cohen, written in the wake of a vain attempt by a disenchanted Cohen (with a wife and a child or two back in Montreal) to join the Israeli army, is a typically self-deprecating ditty with a droll lyric:

Field Commander Cohen, he was our most important spy
Wounded in the line of duty
Parachuting acid into diplomatic cocktail parties...

Trust me, it sounds better than it reads!
Why Don`t You Try and There Is A War are both relatively obsure songs in the Cohen canon, the latter a musically fascinating song about wars of all kinds - `between the left and right` and `a war between the man and the woman` with the pay-off line an optimistic `Why don`t you come on back to the war...` sung with a kind of weary urgency. The arrangement, ominous strings waftting in and out when you least expect them, is unsettling effective.
The superb A Singer Must Die is not only self-deprecating but a drily witty mea culpa of seeming humility:

Your vision is right, my vison is wrong
I`m sorry for smudging the air with my song

You never quite know how seriously to take Cohen`s modesty, as later when he declares:

A singer must die
For the lie in his voice

It`s a tremendous song, whichever way you take it.
I Tried To Leave You has never been a favourite, though its resurrection in recent live shows has proved that it `has legs`. It`s a good song, given another superb arrangement.
Who By Fire, with its circular lyric inspired by mainly Jewish liturgy, is a standout track, and works well live too, with its hypnotic melody, gorgeous backing, and hushed singing from a Cohen in fine voice - as he is throughout New Skin.
Take This Longing was the song that left me speechless when I first bought the LP back in 1974. Suffice it to say, it`s a beautiful love song and more.
Leaving Greensleeves has to be heard to be believed. Apparently, Leonard was three sheets to the wind, and had to be literally held up to deliver the cat-on-the-tiles vocal. It`s outrageous, mad, and great fun.
New Skin may not be Cohen`s most coherent work, but it`s still essential, and contains some of his most personal songs, some of his angriest and most visceral too. He wasn`t the happiest guy on the block when he made this strange set of songs, which only tends to add to its appeal.

Highly recommended.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POETIC FUSION OF SOUND AND WORD, 14 Dec. 2001
By 
Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
New Skin For The Old Ceremony represents the artist's open break with the early folk simplicity of his classic albums Songs Of Leonard Cohen, Songs From A Room and Songs of Love and Hate (on which a harder sound already surfaced on tracks like Diamonds In The Mine). It harnesses a wider array of instruments including trombones, viola, banjo, percussion, mandolin, woodwinds and trumpet. Emily Bindiger, Erin Dickins & co-producer John Lissauer contribute backing vocals.

This fuller instrumentation with a stronger emphasis on bass and drums, together with a less restrained vocal style, make the sound more varied by taking it closer to the rock tradition. Someone used to the flowing melody lines of the early songs will find e.g. Is This What You Wanted harsh and even dissonant. It is clear that this direction culminated in the Phil Spector-produced Death of a Ladies' Man (1978), a nightmare for the artist but beloved by many.

The previous year's live album, Live Songs, display an even greater intensity and raw power on tracks like Please Don't Pass Me By. The themes are the same but the humor is more overt as in Chelsea Hotel, the moving portrait of Janis Joplin. Although the tunes are less striking on gentle numbers like I Tried to Leave You & There is a War, the insight and poetic quality of the lyrics are always arresting.

His distinct spirituality is much in evidence on tracks like the rocking track Lover Lover Lover, the solemn Take This Longing and the somber Who by Fire, a song inspired by a solemn prayer relating to the concept of the Book of Life with special significance to the High Holy Days Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In a slight tweak, Leonard has modified the chilling finality of the words, shifting the emphasis to the search for the Eternal Divine.

Track number four would become the title of the live album Field Commander Cohen recorded on the 1979 tour and released in 2000. So although not all the songs live up to the legendary compositions on his earlier 1960s work and some sound rough by comparison, New Skin For The Old Ceremony confirms Cohen's unusual gift for arresting metaphor, intriguing symbolism & imagery layered with allusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What it's all about...., 25 May 2011
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
I've read the chapter on Leonard Cohen in Edward Whitelock's book Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music, and now have a much better understanding of this album. These songs were mostly written in the time when Cohen's relationship with Suzanne Elrod was nearing its end. There was much frustration and anger, bitterness and self-criticism as the singer wanted to move on with his life but couldn't do so until their problems had been sorted out, and these emotions were expressed in some of the songs.

The lyrics on New Skin might sound simplistic at first hearing but are rich in meaning and need to be listened to with care. They mostly deal with the disappointment and disillusionment of love that has gone wrong. In my opinion not one of Cohen's best, but this is considered by some a very important album because those to follow would take a different direction, ie that of prophetic and apocalyptic views on the future.

I would recommend this album to all those who love Leonard Cohen and would want to complete their collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New Skin....Old Ceremony, 10 Aug. 2009
This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
I ought to preface this review by stating that I am a committed Leonard Cohen fan, not a casual listener, so I'm judging this album in comparison to Leonard's finest works. And, sad to say, it suffers by that comparison - not that there's all that much wrong with what's here - Chelsea Hotel and Who By Fire are two of LC's most popular songs, still in his concert programme today. The problem is, these are very much his first thoughts on those songs.....anyone who's heard his current touring band's stunning version of Who By Fire will recognise that the original recorded here loses out on most of the song's drama and intensity (though it's by no means bad). The same sort of goes for I Tried To Leave You.

Elsewhere, Take This Longing should have been another great Cohen ballad, but suffers from a slight deficiency in the tune department. And a couple of songs begin to sound almost like filler (unthinkable, really). In fact, you'd be better to seek out live versions of most of these numbers on Cohen's various offically released live albums.

So, only a qualified recommendation, I'm afraid. Still, if this is Leonard Cohen at his second-best, it's still country miles ahead of most people at their peak.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm a great fan of LC - but I can't completely love this CD, 21 Jan. 2006
By 
Charlie-CJ (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
I have all of Leonard Cohen's CD's as they are really cheap now and my LP collection of LC from the 70's onwards isn't a patch on the sound quality of these re-released CD's (and no download compression effects on sound quality here). I always buy the original album's though rather than compilations, as I think the cohesion of tracks originally recorded together far outweighs any price or quality advantages of compilations. Besides as shown by the other reviews here what lights your fire is very personal and your favourite LC track may not even make it onto a 'best of' compilation.

However, despite repeated listening to this album, I haven't really fallen totally in love with it. If I persevere I find all the tracks fairly good to excellent, but I find it just falls short of what I consider to be LC's best work, e.g. Various Positions, Songs from a room and I'm your man. The lyrics just lack a little bite or black humour, and the songs all sound a bit the same - although with tracks like 'Chelsea Hotel', 'Lover Lover Lover', and 'There is a war' this isn't necessarily a really bad thing. So in its favour it has cohesion and an almost Jim Reeve's style silky delivery. I suppose it just lacks the odd startlingly original song like Bird on a wire/Tonight will be fine (Songs from a room), Everybody Knows/Tower of song (I'm your man), Death of a Ladies Man (from the CD of the same name), Closing time/Future (The future) or The Captain/Hallelujah (Various positions). Overall this CD has more of a 'Dear Heather' feel to it - although 'New Skin' has a superior set of songs.

This is Cohen's 4th album, and is a transitional one between the simpler acoustics of 'Songs of Love and Hate' [3rd album], which I prefer, and his later more orchestrated albums. So not my choice for the desert island selection, but worth having in any LC collection none the less. If you are new to Leonard Cohen I'd try a CD like 'Various Positions' and 'I'm your man' first - but given the low price Leonard Cohen CDs often sell for, you could easily add this one into your order as well and see if you agree.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Don't You Try?, 9 Aug. 2007
By 
pikeyboy (carmarthen, uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
I feel compelled to leap to the defence of New Skin. Though I can say absolutely without doubt that it is not his greatest album, it contains at least three of Cohen's greatest songs - those being Chelsea Hotel*2, Who By Fire?, and best of all, Field Commander - though the latter is much better served on the live album/tour of 1979 bearing that same title.
The first in a string of three John Lisseur-produced albums (a sequence interrupted only by the disappointing collaboration Death Of A Ladies' Man, with Phil Spector,) the songs contained here amount, really, to the first tentative steps towards the established, trademark sound of latterday Lenny. The opener - Is This What You Wanted? - to me is one of the scrappiest songs Cohen has ever made, but it does have a great uptempo chorus offset with such scathing lyrics, signalling some change of mood from the lush and unadulterated melancholy of his previous masterpiece, the evergreen and sometimes disturbing Songs Of Love And Hate.
Chelsea Hotel*2 follows. A stand-out, a classic and, live, always a crowd-pleaser, but on this album something of a throwback to an even-then-already-mighty back catalogue. Lover Lover Lover (again better-served on Field Commander Live) is the perfect funked-up antidote, however, to any backward-glancing. Lyrically, thematically, it is as chock-full of lines of self-loathing and calls for redemption as much of his greatest work, but it has a musical power that simply sweeps you along for the journey. Field Commander is a tour-de-force and songwriting taken to another level again. Muscular, biting, both tough and tender, it must have taken him years to complete every little nuance. In four minutes, Cohen tells more and says more than most novelists do in a lifetime. Musically, too, this song (aided by Lisseur's complimentary arrangements) is a giant step forward from what others might perceive as the more droning prior scapes of Love And Hate. Only four songs in, then, and already so many shifting perspectives it's almost breathtaking. Side One of the original vinyl closes with one of my very favourite of Leonard's lighter little ditties - Why Don't You Try? - a sort of nursery-rhyme for grown-ups.
Side Two (orig.) begins with another uptempo classic - There Is A War, followed by A Singer Must Die, another of his great lyrics, and like Chelsea Hotel*2, somewhat retrograde again. But of all LC's sometimes overlooked lesser songs, I feel I could write ten volumes of prose about I Tried To Leave You and never do justice to its sweet and understated bluesology, or defend to the death the case for the absolute necessity of its inclusion here. Who By Fire? points more towards the devotional Leonard of Various positions. Take This Longing, fine as it is, again seems to hark back to another style, and the closer - Leaving Greensleeves - bookends the album. Not my favourite track by any measure, but I wouldn't be without it.
New Skin For The Old Ceremony: the irony of the title more-or-less gives it away. Something Old and New, somewhere between the sixties Cohen and the old master of the last three decades. On Songs From A Room, Songs Of Love And Hate and Live Songs, the brilliant Bob Johnson managed to define a lasting blueprint of the Cohen legacy, but all great artists crave variety. This fine classic, along with the subsequent Lisseur-produced masterpieces that are Recent Songs and Various Positions placed together might convincingly lay claim to being the absolute pinnacles of Cohen's songwriting achievements: only time will tell...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best but some moments of beauty, 24 Jun. 2009
By 
Greg Farefield-Rose (Hertfordshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
NSTOC is Cohen's fourth studio album released in 1974 by which time the poetry of his debut LP had largely given way to the embittered musings of an artist unhappy with his life and his central relationship with Suzanne Elrod. Despite this, there are still some moments of eloquence and beauty.

The album contains three songs which usually feature on Cohen compilations, the beautiful prayer-like Who By Fire, Take This Longing and Leonard's tribute of sorts to Janis Joplin Chelsea Hotel No. 2. Further highlight include the bongo-led There Is A War and darkly humorous, self-destroying A Singer Must Die whose witty lyrics accompany an attractive tune.

New Skin For The Old Ceremony includes a broader musical palette than Cohen's previous LPs with contemporary and traditional instruments largely replacing the string-section back-up of yore to Leonard's distinct acoustic playing. One good example of a new sound proving effective is the clarinet solo which closes the bluesy Why Don't You Try.

So far so good but NSFTOC does have its shortcomings. The songs overall are not as strong as before and aren't helped by Leonard's bitter lyrics. On the worst occasions, it almost sounds like he is making up the words as he goes along, accompanied by some pub-singer type wailing - such wretched trends are especially prevalent on the opener Is This What You Wanted and closing track Leaving Green Sleeves.

Far from perfect then though there are enough good moments on NSFTOC to outweigh the bad. It's not Cohen's best album by some distance but is worth obtaining if you are already a fan and own other LC LPs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars leonard cohen, 9 Nov. 2013
By 
Mr. Roger Jones (wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: New Skin For The Old Ceremony (Audio CD)
all killer, no filler. an overlooked classic i love this album. well crafted songs and great melodies. favourite trackis track 6
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New Skin For The Old Ceremony
New Skin For The Old Ceremony by Leonard Cohen (Audio CD - 1996)
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