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4.6 out of 5 stars71
4.6 out of 5 stars
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This album was released at a time when Cohen was almost forgotten, about seven years before the tribute albums "I'm Your Fan" and "Tower Of Song" would spur renewed interest in his oeuvre. Warnes' interpretations are always graceful and moving. She understands Cohen's music well, having done backing vocals on some of his albums like "Various Positions," and she covers his songs with loving dedication. My favorites include "Aint No Cure" (from Cohen's I'm Your Man), Coming Back To You (from Various Positions), Came So Far For Beauty (from Recent Songs) and of course the formidable Joan Of Arc where Cohen himself sings some of the verses. Her voice is the perfect vehicle for his poetic lyrics of romantic longing and despair, and my only complaint is that I would have loved to hear her interpretations of Suzanne and Sisters Of Mercy too.
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on 26 April 2002
A wonderful collection of Leonard Cohen songs. All the tracks, unusually, are works of art, there are no fillers here. From the intro of "First we take Manhattan", a completely different version of the original, to the end of "came so far for beauty", the album is captivating. The production is superb and can really challenge a decent hi-fi system. The vocals are natural and come out of an eery black silence. Jennifer is beautiful singer and deserves more recognition. "song for Bernadette" is a seminal moment, don't hurry this album, savour it. Cameos from Leonard himself and Stevie Ray make this album a must.
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on 3 January 2006
Leonard Cohen writes quite the most beautiful lyrics and music which are more poetry, but unfortunately for me at least always delivers them in a most melancoly monotone style himself which I don't always want. Jennifer Warnes has transformed these songs with bright and musical arrangements, fantastic delivery, expression and her unique wonderful voice and brings them to life.
If you have always wondered what all the fuss was about with Leonard Cohen, this is the introduction you are looking for, perhaps before taking the plunge and going hard core with one of the masters own albums.
Simply superb.
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on 14 November 2006
I first discovered Jennifer Warnes' take of "First we take Manhatten" on a promotional CD from one of the World's leading microphone manufacturers, whose mics had been used to capture the incredibly tight drum sound on this album. It's a spectacular recording which compliments, rather than detracting from, a set of superb musical performances.

Cohen himself is reported to have listened to some of the instrumental takes, before Warnes added her voice, and to have been incredulous that it would work. Apparently he was later rather stunned by the result. He sings in duet with Warnes on "Joan of Arc".

Altogether an excellent interpretation of Cohen's work, a superb range of musical styles, and a CD for the Hi-Fi Buff to die for. In fact, that's the only real caveat - it sounds SO good on decent equipment, that it may lead the buyer down the hi-fi upgrade path!
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on 21 July 2007
Can you believe this album is twenty years (+) old? I can't at all. In one instant the time passing has seemed interminable, and in another instant it seems to have passed like the blink of an eye. I remember how I heard about this album. I saw Joan Baez perform at Carnegie Hall in the fall of 1987 and she sang "Famous Blue Raincoat" in her concert. I ran to a record store the next day and, appropriately fevered, bought this album. I was excited because I was a fan of Jennifer Warnes from her Arista Records days ("Right Time of the Night" and "I Know a Heartache When I See One"), and while I knew of her connection to Leonard Cohen (she is credited as background singer Jennifer Warren on Cohen's 1973 album "Live Songs"), finding her singing a full album of Leonard Cohen's material was enough to send my young soul into orbit.

My initial impression on first listening was that "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Joan of Arc" (duet with Leonard Cohen) were the album's peak moments. Time has not diminished that belief. But the program overall is brilliant as are the performances and production. Jennifer Warnes' vocals do these songs justice. But if you listen to any of her earlier albums, you will find that she enhances the quality of all of the songs she sings. This disc is as exciting to listen to twenty years later as it was when it was first released.

P.S.: Just read that an expanded version of this album is to be released in the near future. How fortunate for us!
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This original album was released at a time when Cohen was almost forgotten, about seven years before tribute albums like the breathtaking I'm Your Fan and the rather tepid Tower Of Song would spur renewed interest in his work. Warnes' interpretations are always graceful and moving. She understands Cohen's music well, having done backing vocals on albums like Various Positions so she interprets his songs with loving dedication.

My favorites include Aint No Cure For Love from Cohen's I'm Your Man, Coming Back To You and Night Comes On from Various Positions, Came So Far For Beauty and Ballad Of The Runaway Horse from Recent Songs and of course the formidable Joan Of Arc where Cohen himself sings some of the verses. The title track stands out with its smoky sax and desolate ambience whilst the live version of Joan Of Arc really fires on all fours.

Warnes' voice is the perfect vehicle for Cohen's poetic lyrics of romantic longing and resigned despair. The new tracks are superb. She slightly adapted the lyric of Night Comes On to a female perspective, and Ballad Of The Runaway Horse becomes a long excursion with a complex arrangement and a display of great virtuosity in the instrumentation which includes viola and cello.

If It Be Your Will is a straightforward rendition close to the original, and the album ends on a spectacular note with the live version of Joan Of Arc which was recorded in Antwerp in 1992 and includes the Novecento Orchestra and two choirs: Het West Brabants Operakoor and De Tweede Adem, in addition to her regular backing musicians.

The luxurious fold-out CD box contains a booklet with two line drawings by Cohen, full color and black & white photographs, letters from Lenny to Jenny, a short 1956 school essay on St Bernadette by Jenny and information on all the songs. My only complaint is that I would have loved to hear her interpretations of Suzanne and Sisters Of Mercy too.

Other Cohen tribute albums that I recommend are Democracy by Judy Collins, which includes a live version of Song Of Bernadette, the song co-written by Jennifer Warnes, and the soundtack album I'm Your Man with artists like Martha Wainwright, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Jarvis Cocker, Perla Batalla, Nick Cave and U2.
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on 16 January 2010
The original CD issue of this excellent collection of Leonard Cohen songs by the peerless singer Jennifer Warnes was a bit subdued sounding, but the sound on this remastered edition is first rate and puts the power back into these heartfelt interpretive performances. The three bonus studio tracks and one live performance also really enhance the original album. The presentation of the package and booklet is very good, though it is a mystery why the lyrics were not included, as they were on the original CD version. Adding to the (probably unintended) sense of mystery is the fact that none of the people in the numerous portrait photos are identified. Hence apart from Jenny, Lenny, Roscoe Beck and Van Dyke Parks I haven't a clue who all the other characters are! Never mind, it's a great record and one of the most memorable albums of the 1980s.
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on 23 February 2001
This is an exceptionally beautiful set of songs on one album. Undoubtedly Leonard Cohen was right in letting Jennifer Warnes sing his music. She has the passion, the insight, and the depth to bring these songs to life in a way which ---- oddly ---- Leonard Cohen's quavering voice seems unable to do. Mind you, this album is a tribute to Cohen's ability as a poet and composer. I wholeheartedly recommend this album. By the way, my wife does love this album; it was she who introduced me to it.
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on 20 July 2006
In all of the reviews no one has mentioned the title track (famous blue raincoat)this is one of the most impassioned pieces of music ever recorded with a sax solo to make men weep.

On a good hifi with the lights down low listen to the torment in the words and be grateful its not you!! Seriously though it is a seminal album and one i have played now for many years always returning to it and being blown away. Buy it.
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on 5 April 2014
My first experience of Leonard Cohen was to see "Young Ones" hippy Neil look dolorously at the camera and say, "No-one ever listens to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record".

I first came across Jennifer Warnes as she tag-team wrestled her way through the theme to "An Officer and A Gentleman" with Joe Cocker.

And there, were logic my constant and only companion, it would have ended. I can't really remember how I did come to get hold of this record, but it may have had something to do with a Stevie Ray Vaughan fixation I was going through at the time. I recall being dismayed to discover SRV's only playing credit was on the first track, First We Take Manhattan, (a song written by Cohen for Warnes for this album. That is to say, this version IS the original - so Cohen purists who complain about Warnes' interpretation are talking through their hats!

In any case my dismay only lasted as long as it took for track two to kick in. Bird on a Wire is almost a standard now, but the shimmering production and crisp delivery coaxed me gently on until I was fairly pinned to my seat by the end of the title tune. The rest of the album is enthralling: the production's lush but not sugary, the delivery's cool but not clinical. There are a couple of curve-balls: A Singer Must Die is rendered a curious a capella fashion, which recalls a Brecht opera, and the mid-tempo rock of First We take Manhattan is, in all honesty, slightly out of whack with the Sunday Morning feel of the rest of the album. But it kicks the album off so well, and it's such a great reading of the song (Stevie Ray's gorgeous playing is like in temper and as lyrical as his solo on Bowie's "China Girl") that you can forgive the album that modicum of unevenness.

Warnes is a beautiful singer and she delivers Leonard Cohen's songs so that you cannot fail to be awestruck by how good they are. These lyrics are just sublime.

The odd coda to all this was actually hearing the Leonard Cohen versions of these songs in the flesh, which this album led me to. Compared with Warnes' satin touch, Cohen is a far more demanding listen, but it is worth persevering with: Leonard's rendition of "Famous Blue Raincoat" is positively frightening.

Olly Buxton
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