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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Record
This is one of Leonard Cohen's lesser-known albums - a pity, as it's also one of his (two) best (along with Various Positions).

Part of the reason for is relative obscurity may come from its innopportune release date of 1979, at the height of post-punk/new wave/disco. There'd never been a less receptive climate for a carefully wrought album of this kind...
Published on 17 Aug 2009 by Wakefield, 2011

versus
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still making my mind up
Im a die hard Cohen fan and bought this after hearing various music critics say it's the best albumn he's recorded. Mmmm. Not sure that's true. Lyrics are genius as always. It's definitely not the cd I would recomend to someone who doesnt know his stuff. Im Your Man I think is better of his newer material and Songs of Leonard Cohen of his earlier work.
Published 14 months ago by Adam. Southsea Hants


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Record, 17 Aug 2009
This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
This is one of Leonard Cohen's lesser-known albums - a pity, as it's also one of his (two) best (along with Various Positions).

Part of the reason for is relative obscurity may come from its innopportune release date of 1979, at the height of post-punk/new wave/disco. There'd never been a less receptive climate for a carefully wrought album of this kind.

As if to ensure that thsi time he got what he wanted, after the travesty of Death Of A Ladies' Man, Cohen recruited long-time Joni Mitchell engineer Henry Lewy to co-produce and hooked up with an excellent 'soft rock' outfit from Texas called Passenger (bassist Roscoe Beck remains in LC's touring band to this day). The sound was filled out by Raffi Hakoppian and John Bilezikijian, two superb musicians on violin and oud respectively.

But great backing alone won't make a great record: you also need great songs. These are here in abundance, although all of them could be better known: The Window and The Traitor are two of LC's most sheerly beatuiful compositions, Came So Far For Beauty is affectingly sad, Humbled In Love is wryly amusing (and features a great and unexpected gutiar solo) and The Smokey Life is perfect 10.30pm music. We also get Ballad Of The Absent Mare, one of the great (sort of) story songs.

In truth, there's not a below-par track on here - some people don't like 'The Lost Canadian', but I don't mind it at all.

This is a long album and one that demands close attention: not the kind of thing you can have on while doing the ironing/dishes. A remaster would be nice, as the current issue doesn't do justice to the sound!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender, intricate and soulful songs, 15 April 2002
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
Recent Songs of 1979 might well be one of Cohen's most delicately poetic albums in its exquisite rendering of spiritual themes, employment of exotic instruments like the oriental lute & mariachi trumpets and the breathtaking arrangements. Jennifer Warnes duets with him on The Smokey Life and provides background vocals on The Guests and The Window.

Jennifer interprets Came So Far For Beauty with great sensitivity on her album Famous Blue Raincoat; the 20th Anniversary Edition contains Ballad of the Runaway Horse as one of 4 bonus tracks. Why Absent Mare became Runaway Horse is a mystery. None of these songs has been covered on the brilliant I'm Your Fan tribute, perhaps because they're a bit more intricate in arrangement than his well-known classics. Leonard selected only one track, The Guests, for inclusion on the Essential Leonard Cohen compilation.

The sound is fragile, almost ethereal, on tracks like The Window, The Guests and Our Lady of Solitude whilst Humbled In Love is earthier. The most outstanding feature is John Bilezikjian playing "oud" (oriental lute) & Raffi Hakopian playing violin on The Guests, The Window, The Traitor & The Gypsy's Wife plus the Mariachi Band of Luis Briseño on The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien Errant) and Ballad of the Absent Mare with its striking trumpets.

Phrases from spiritual literature in the lyrics include "Why hast thou forsaken me?" and "The spear of the age in your side." In the most moving and poetic composition The Window, Cohen refers to the medieval mystical text The Cloud of Unknowing: "Come forth from the cloud of unknowing/And kiss the cheek of the moon/The new Jerusalem glowing/Why tarry all night in the ruin?" Many other esoteric images adorn this intricate and melodic masterpiece where the voice of Warnes adds a special dimension of beauty.

Un Canadien Errant is a folk song from 1842 about an exile yearning for this Quebec homeland after having fled Canada in 1837 following the failed uprising against the government of Louis Mackenzie and Louis Papineau. Raffi Hakopian's solo violin atmospherically embellishes The Traitor whilst its interaction with the Oud on The Gypsy's Wife is most impressive. The solemn and graceful Our Lady of Solitude has a strong spiritual undertone.

The duet with Jennifer Warnes: The Smokey Life, is slow with a bluesy tone and the album concludes with Ballad of the Absent Mare, an extended ballad with a mid-tempo lilting beat and subtle, understated backing by the Mariachi Band. The delicate Recent Songs is the very opposite of the previous year's Death of a Ladies' Man that contained some very bitter lyrics and Cohen's voice straining against overpowering rock sounds on certain tracks. This 1979 release is refined, soulful and subtly arranged. It may share a quiet air with Ten New Songs of 2001 but the sound is more varied and the songs more memorable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Leonard Cohen, 16 Dec 2008
By 
R. B. W. Boyd (Suffolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
It's not often (or ever?) said that Leonard Cohen wrote some of the best tunes in all music, and several of them are on this album. They are enhanced by the wonderful oud and violin arrangements and by Jennifer Warnes' exquisite voice. For details see Pieter "Toypom's" interesting review. I would just add - this is my favourite Leonard Cohen album and 'The Smokey Life' is my favourite of many favourite songs.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent often mis-rated album, 27 July 2000
This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
This album is not the favourite choice of many a Leonard Cohen fan but is, in it's content, an original an uplifting piece of work ! If you know Cohen try this for a change and if you don't you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this one, 17 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
Leonard Cohen mixes many musical genres in his work. Here he sings with a Mariachi band (on 'Lost Canadian' and 'Ballad of the Absent Mare') but also in night-club style, where he's silky smooth, laid back and most impressive ('The Smokey Life', 'I came so far for beauty'.) For decades this album has been largely ignored, even by Cohen himself who rarely refers to it. But it's a magical collection of deep, thoughtful lyrics and music. 'The Swan' is one of my favourites - a tongue in cheek crack at Ye Olde English Folke Songe. Cohen's ironic humour runs through many of these songs, though humour is not something he's noted for...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, 6 July 2013
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
This is a brilliant cd with Cohen showing how versatile he has always been. I would recommend anyone who enjoys the man to buy this cd from his earlier years. There are so many terrific tracks I couldnt begin to decide which I liked best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and distinctly unsettling, 7 Dec 2010
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
This is a marvellously seductive album, which doesn't immediately grab the listener (well this listener) by the throat, but silkily slides into the mind, nagging and teasing, until it itches at the ears and heart, insistently, to be played again. And again. I was initially steered towards this CD by another reviewer on another Cohen album (thankyou reviewer RJS) praising the track I Came So Far For Beauty as one of Cohen's best. The track which grabbed me most immediately was the plangent The Window, redolent with references to the mystical heart, and the mysteriousness of love, fleshly and divine - Rumi a strong influence. The combination of much Christian reference 'The Host', 'The Cloud of Unknowing' and rose references within that context, plus the strange haunting violin of Raffi Hakopian, hinting at another tradition from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, provides a deep texture, the music and the lyrics setting against each other, almost like counterpoint.

This is a subtle and rewarding album, musically and lyrically. Cohen employs a mariachi band on one long track, The Ballad of The Absent Mare. On other tracks there's use of Oud, Accordion, Sax, Cello and Horns as well as keyboards and Cohen's guitar. I've described it as `unsettling' because, particularly on the tracks which explore the connections and the disconnections between fleshly love and divine love the pulls of heaven and earth are mirrored by music which sets up a sense of yearning for something out of reach - that perfection of union and merging with the beloved, however the beloved is perceived. Hakopian's heartful, soulful, longing for home violin is particularly well in evidence on these tracks - The Guests, The Window, The Traitor, The Gypsy's Wife.

Cohen uses his voice very lyrically, colouring the songs - again, often to unsettling results. His voice is most tender, most lyrical and sweet on The Traitor, hinting at the English Folk Music tradition by way of a nod at Tennyson's Lady of Shallot, but the lyrics are dark, very dark indeed `keep my body here to lie upon, you can move it up and down and when I'm sleeping run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan'.

A wonderful album bringing together darkness and light. Full of dynamic oppositions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...no one knows where the night is going..., 3 Nov 2013
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
On a Sunday afternoon in late 1979 I was walking with my girlfriend through the backstreets of Waterloo (on the South Bank, not the Belgian battlefield) when we passed a small nondescript record shop. I happened to glance in the window and saw an LP I didn`t recognise, which appeared to have a picture of Leonard Cohen on the cover. A new album? It couldn`t be. There had been no advance publicity (nothing in NME for goodness sake) and no fanfares. And here was what looked like a new LP. A brand new Cohen LP. Why hadn`t I been told! And it was, as you`ll recall, a Sunday...
In that long-ago time few shops were open on Sundays, so I had to wait an agonising 24 hours to go out and buy the thing. I leave you to imagine my barely-contained impatience.
After his first three life-changing (for him as well as for me) studio albums, all we`d had was the frustratingly chaotic Death of a Ladies` Man, but this really was something new, hauntingly beautiful, and frankly - with hindsight - an improvement on both previous albums, including the slightly patchy (though still essential) Songs of Love and Hate.
With each decade that`s passed, the modestly titled Recent Songs has become - along with his debut Songs of Leonard Cohen and much later The Future - one of my very favourite Cohen albums. It still sounds unique in his relatvely meagre output, though certain strands - eg. the use of middle-eastern instruments - would be a welcome feature of later records and concerts.
This wonderful set of ten songs opens with one of his best. The Guests (the longest track at nearly seven minutes) is set to a compellingly hypnotic backing, its major key refrain punctuating the minor key verses with memorable melody and repeated phrases:

And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
O love, I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you
I need you now

A glorious song, full of imagery drawn partly from mystic Sufi poetry (he was on to Rumi before most of us) in which the `Guest` can be both a visitor and the divine presence. (When you listen to Cohen you take on the spiritual, knowing he never stoops to dogma or pedantry - unlike a certain other singer round about the time this was released.)
The Window is another astounding song, with lyrics which at times have an almost Dylanesque (circa `66) obliqueness to them, again inspired by Sufi poets:

O chosen love, O frozen love
O tangle of matter and ghost
O darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul

The Lost Canadian (the only non-original, sung in French) and Ballad Of The Absent Mare closed each side of the original LP, and both have to be heard to be believed, the first for its sheer wayward audacity, the latter for its sheer open-air beauty, taken at a unhurried canter.
Two other songs must be mentioned, one being The Gypsy`s Wife, with its insistent refrain:

And where, where is my gypsy wife tonight?

The other is an irresistible duet with old friend and backing singer of choice Jennifer Warnes on a sinuous, ingratiating after-hours number called The Smokey Life. Peggy Lee should have covered it!
There are four other superb songs on this least known of Cohen`s twelve studio albums, the obscure The Traitor being one of the strangest and best.
All in all, I think this is his most nearly-perfect set of songs. It coheres both musically and lyrically in a way he seldom achieved before or since - songs from the heart to the heart.

At the end of the list of people Leonard thanks on the last page of the booklet (full lyrics included) are these words: `to my mother, Masha Cohen, who reminded me shortly before she died of the kind of music she liked`.

Quite a memorial.
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5.0 out of 5 stars recent songs, 4 July 2013
By 
S. Mellor (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
i only bought this for one song but as always i found i love them all leonard is the best
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven album - end of his earlier period, 6 Aug 2009
By 
J. Eddelbuettel "AudioViel" (Hamburg, Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Recent Songs (Audio CD)
I admit that I like the later LC better, starting with Various Positions but especially I'm Your Man and The Future. I would group this more with his earlier work, even though it is decidedly lighter in mood. The Lost Canadian is abominable. Is this typical of Canadian French - well the mariachi band certainly isn't. I very much like that accompaniment on the Lost Mare. And his own sublime version of Came So Far for Beauty just cannot be matched by anyone - not even Jennifer Warnes. The rest is somewhere in the middle but not too memorable. The few bits of sheer Cohen genius lift this from 3 stars more toward 4.
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