on 20 September 2012
As far as I am concerned Leonard Cohen is one of the greatest poets, living today.
I find his work uplifting, rhythmic, soothing and enlightening. Of course I cannot pretend to know Cohen's meaning behind many of his songs, that does not matter at all. Like with all great poetry, I rely on my own interpretation.
This CD is particularly ingenious.
Let me refer to a few of the songs on this compilation. It rings a real chord with me in this postmodern age, where it is so difficult to make sense of a world that seems to have become an Orwellian nightmare gone real.
First We Take Manhattan: deals with a man's frustration with being unable to make a difference in an uncaring, immoral society, and a dream of conquering the world to set things right. Of course it speaks of influence through music, a love that Leonard Cohen and me share. Leonard Cohen, although not an observant Jew, is quite obviously very conscious of his Jewish heritage. Take this line:
"I'd really like to live beside you baby, I love your body and your spirit and your clothes,. But you see that line moving through the station? I told you I was one of those'. This is particularly relevant at a time when hatred of Jews and Israel is greater in the world, than anytime since World War II
He generally takes a swipe at the shallowness of the world:
'I don't like your fashion business, mister. I don't like those drugs that keep you thin.'
Ain't no Cure For Love: A beautiful and passionate love ballad .His love songs have a profound and passionate depth and are nothing like 'those silly love songs' referred to in a song by Paul McCartney.
Everybody Knows: A strong indictment of the horrible predicament that the world finds itself in today. A seemingly complete absence of morality and spirituality, with a horrible blend of monopoly capitalism and Bolshevik political correctness dominating the world today. It touches on the coming AIDS epidemic, written in 1991, which now really is now wiping huge populations in the world today. He includes a powerful warning to change their morality and way of running. The song is almost telling us that the horrible prophecies of Orwell and Huxley are coming to pass.
I'm Your Man: A powerful song about the desperation born of love.
Take This Waltz: Strong imagery of Vienna there. I have visited that city and can strongly see that imagery in my mind, while listening: '
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows' -'in some hallway where love's never been'. Anyone who's explored Vienna can understand this. It's all about loneliness, deep depression and extreme emptiness in one of the worlds most intriguing and beautiful cities.
Jazz Police: All about the PC cultural commissars that tell us which music, art, literature etc we can and cannot like.
How about the last two songs on this album , I entirely leave up to you , gentle reader.But they are certainly hauntingly beautiful.
These are my interpretations. Others may see completely different things in them.
Finally the beauty of this compilation is enhanced by the haunting, sensual and powerful female vocals of Anjani and Jennifer Warnes.
on 12 September 2009
I've heard that this is Leonard Cohen's own favourite among his albums; this would seem to be proved by the fact that his self-selected 'Essential' compilation features all but two songs from here.
Maybe it's a case of gratitude? This was the album that brought him back out of the cold, giving him his highest charting album in many years and pushing his back catalogue onto the charts around the world. Many of the songs have become a latterday classics....but many older fans will baulk at the gleaming, synethised arrangements, some of which now sound very dated indeed.
Not to worry, though: simply programme them out in your head. There's too much fine songwriting here to pass this one over just because you don't like the production. The only possible mis-step on here is 'Jazz Police' - or maybe this is just a private joke, a bit like 'Diamonds In The Mine'?
Whatever you think, this is an essential acquisition if you're any kind of fan.
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on 16 February 2005
I'm Your Man is an excellent album. Even though some of the music may seen dated, the lyrics still talk alot further. I first heard this album aged six in 1989, my parents dissaproved of my liking to it even though they were Leonard Cohen fans since the sixties. I rediscovered the album about ten years later and I realised why I was a bit too young for this album because of its lyrics I still like it. Its an album I listen to again and again. The songs on it have been covered many times including a brilliant version of "I cant forget" by The Pixies.
Following the success of 1984's `Various Positins', Leonard Cohen continued to follow the path of combining modern synthpop production with his typically understated and stripped back style for this, his 8th studio album released in 1988.
It is a record of its time, but due to Cohen's impeccable songwriting and singing it has hardly aged at all. It contains the Cohen trademarks of personal, inteliigent, literate lyrics, lovingly crafted for maximum effect. A bit more to the fore in this album is a sense of humour, which really adds to the usual mix and lifts some of the tracks to even greater heights, especially the somewhat pointed `everybody knows'. As well as the personal tales of love and loss there is also a sense of awareness and slight disgust with the world around him, made evident in the catchy but scathing opener `First we take Manhatten', an attack on the fashion industry.
Backing Cohen's singing is a very typically late eighties electro production. But it is tempered by Cohen's Spartan ethic, muting it's effect and allowing it to compliment him rather than overpower the record.
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.
It's a great record, and gets an unreserved five stars.
The singalong melodies of "Manhattan", "Aint No Cure" and "Everybody Knows" contrast well with Cohen's trademark preoccupation with romantic despair and judeo-christian imagery as in: "It's written in the scriptures, it's written there in blood ..." or "everybody's got this broken feeling/Like their father or their dog just died." John Bilezikjian's oud adds a special dimension to "Everybody Knows." The elegant "Take This Waltz" is a lilting song that brings the Vienna of Federico G. Lorca to life in a series of vivid images underpinned by a fervent longing for the beloved. The brilliant arrangement is enhanced by Raffi Hakopian's violin and the voice of Jennifer Warnes. The wistful "I Can't Forget" has been covered by The Pixies, while "Tower of Song" has been interpreted by artists as diverse as Marianne Faithfull, Robert Forster and Nick Cave and lent its title to the 1995 tribute album. I'm not crazy about either the experimental "Jazz Police" or the title track, but I am evidently wrong since "I'm Your Man" has been covered by Elton John and Bill Pritchard.
on 11 August 2007
There really are not words enough to describe the sweep and grandeur of Leonard's 1988 masterpiece. Age cannot wither, nor custom stale its infinite variety. There are many common misperceptions of Mr.Cohen, but none more frustrating to a lifelong fan than that of suicidal, morbid folk-singer. My own personal vision is of the ultimate caberet crooner, the last-dance, last-chance, end-of-the-night performer, dispensing gems of wisdom sometimes with an urbane humour, but always with love and a song in his heart: a mixture of Aznavour, Brel, and Noel Coward, with a little Brecht thrown in for good measure. This album answers perfectly that call, most seductively and gorgeously in LC's reading of Lorca's 'Little Viennese Waltz' (here recast as TAKE THIS WALTZ): "There's a concert hall in Vienna/ Where your mouth had a thousand reviews/ There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking/ They've been sentenced to death by the blues/ Ah! but who is it climbs to your picture/ With a garland of freshly-cut tears?/ Ay! Ay ay ay!/ Take this waltz/ Take this waltz/ Take this waltz, it's been dying for years." Monumental and crumbling, like Vienna itself, evoking grand balls of old, laughter, dancing, now fading with time like the Venice Byron and Shelley discovered. Make no mistake, this is writing of a grand scale, and anyone with a knowledge of Lorca's poetry will know how much fresh material Cohen has rendered from the original. Likewise, on First We Take Manhattan, Everybody Knows, I'm Your Man, Tower Of Song, Cohen is very much relishing his role as bandleader and showman, never once taking himself too seriously, always underpinning every commentary with his much under-appreciated and very jewish wit: "If you want to sleep a moment on the road/ I will steer for you/ If you want to work the street alone/ I'll disappear for you..." Most songs that even try to be funny usually pull up short somewhere. Here, in the title track, Leonard could give Noel coward a run for his money, in that it's hard to know if he's being achingly self-deprecating or deadly serious, such is the play of his word-craft. Similarly, on the oft-quoted "born with the gift of a golden voice" line from TOWER OF SONG, I recall how it raised a mass titter from a packed Albert Hall in 1988, yet I've always been of the opinion that LC wrote that line in earnestness: he is not so much mocking the flat drone of his singing voice, but saying that what emanates from that organ is golden and beautiful and beyond his control. In other words: he couldn't help it if he tried. Just as the most simple of melodies and statements such as AIN'T NO CURE FOR LOVE sprung from a conversation about AIDS he'd had with Jennifer Warnes, he can't help but fill it with the loveliest of details: "I see you on the subway/ I see you on the bus/ I see you lying down with me/ And I see you waking up/ I see your hand/ I see your hair/ Your bracelets and your brush/ And I call to you/ I call to you/ But I don't call soft enough..." Or, in FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN: "Remember me, I used to live for music/ Remember me, I brought your groceries in/ Well, it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded..." Could I also be the first to defend the inclusion of JAZZ POLICE, here, replete with dry, jewish, masculine humour: "Let me be somebody I admire/ Let me be that muscle down the street/ Stick another turtle on the fire/ Guys like me are mad for turtle meat..." It's rare indeed, to find such a wealth of poetry anywhere, let alone an album of popular song. As for those who abhor the sub-eighties production going on here, I have to say I've never found it dating as it only enhances and underpins the naked, honest phrasing of Mr.Cohen. For my money, this ranks as highly as SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE and only loses out to THE SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN because that album is chock-full of bonafide classics like SUZANNE and SO LONG, MARIANNE and others just too lovely for words.....
As an album that you hear when your parents play it and come back to later to realise it's simply amazing, you can't get much better than this. Leonard Cohen is an amazing man, who has created an amazing number of amazing songs over the year. For me, though, this is his essential album. Partly it's because my parents played it over and over when it first came out, and when I was too young to understand music like this for all its depth. I came back to it about five years ago to find that not only does it contain breathtaking songs, but I didn't have to wait a while to gain familiarity with them.
There isn't really time or space to go into detail about why each song is great, but suffice it to say that from the brooding Everybody Knows, to the wonderful 3/4 timed Take This Waltz, to the majestic closer Tower of Song, and everything in between, these are songs for all occasions. It'll take a bit of time - you'll need that familiarity that my parents bred into me before you fully appreciate this - and you'll at times have to look past the rather 80s synthetic instruments and the incredible blip of mediocre that is Jazz Police, but this album is magical.
Cohen's voice, his lyrics, and over all the craftsmanship and scale of his songs make this a truly excellent album. And one I can't rate highly enough!
on 31 January 2005
This album is pretty darn wierd when you first listen to it : i'm not gonna lie. The opening song 'First we take Manhattan'is quite the mix of insane 80's sythesisors, high pitched choruses and Leonard's always compelling and sometimes terrifyingly prophetic chant. How can a person write such truly core-shaking poetry and get away with putting it over the top of a funk bass line?! This album is: truthful, funny, cynical, scary and utterly sassy. As i have already mentioned lyrically it is impeccible and musically it is advanced enough to satisfy even the most cruel critic.
It might take you a couple of listens, but i'd be prepared to bet that once you get past the initial shock of Leonards unique sound you'll come to the conclusion that so many people have before: the man's a genius and thats all.
The singalong melodies of Manhattan, Aint No Cure and Everybody Knows contrast well with Cohen's trademark preoccupation with romantic despair and judeo-christian imagery as in: "It's written in the scriptures, it's written there in blood ..." or "everybody's got this broken feeling/Like their father or their dog just died."
John Bilezikjian's oud adds a special dimension to Everybody Knows. The elegant Take This Waltz is a lilting song that brings the Vienna of Federico Garcia Lorca to life in a series of vivid images driven by a fervent longing for the beloved. The brilliant arrangement is enhanced by Raffi Hakopian's violin and the voice of Jennifer Warnes.
The wistful I Can't Forget has been covered by The Pixies, while Tower of Song has been interpreted by artists as diverse as Marianne Faithfull, Robert Forster and Nick Cave and lent its title to the 1995 tribute album. I'm not crazy about either the experimental Jazz Police or the title track, but I am evidently wrong since I'm Your Man has been covered by Elton John and Bill Pritchard.
on 22 April 2015
We all have our personal favourites when it comes to Leonard. The generation that grew up with Vietnam playing out on t.v. screens night after night might plumb for "Songs From A Room." Diehards love "Love And Hate." Perfectly tuned folksters could even plumb for "Recent Songs," and they have a more-than-valid case for doing so. For lovers of bubblegum, it's "Death Of A Ladies' Man," and they are completely wrong, but so what? Some, more finely-tuned, hone in on the essential everyman qualities of "Various Positions" or "New Skin." Then there are a whole raft of newcomers who have entered the temple from 1988 onwards and love the (let's call it) post-acoustic offerings the master has dished up. Whichever camp you fall into, somewhere down the line, you must rub up against the towering majesty of "I'm Your Man," oddly enough, the only wholly self-produced album in the catalogue, which alone speaks volumes about what Mr. Cohen set out to achieve with his songwriting.
Some reckon this to be the greatest album of the 80's, and I agree wholeheartedly, though Tom Waits and Paul Simon put up strong opposition to that notion, with "Rain Dogs" and "Graceland," respectively. What can I say? I'm a diehard Cohen fan, who loves "Love And Hate," who loves it all, and whose personal favourite might always be his first, "Songs Of Leonard Cohen." "I'm Your Man," though, trumps everything that has come before or since. It sets out it stall from the start with a statement of intent: "First We Take Manhattan" is Cohen's greatest mission statement, a blend of the personal and political that very few are able to pull off successfully. Cohen makes it look easy (though we know it's not!):
"Remember me/ I used to live for music/ Remember me/ I brought your groceries in/ Well, it's Father's Day/ And everybody's wounded..."
It only gets better from the off. "Ain't No Cure For Love" started out from a conversation between Leonard and Jennifer Warnes on the advent of the A.I.D.S epidemic. It is one of Cohen's strongest melodies, akin to "So Long, Marianne" or "Dance Me To The End Of Love," but less directly personal, a song for all time that reaches far beyond the parameters of its conception. Just as does the next track, "Everybody Knows," which once again deals with topics such as AIDS, but so much else as well. Any of these three tracks alone, if they had found there way onto "Dear Heather," say, would have made that album essential listening. But just for good measure, Old Laughing Len then absolutely knocks you to the floor with the title track, less a mission statement, far more personal, self-deprecating, joyous, all these things at once. What more proof do you need to know that not only is Cohen the greatest living songwriter, but to my ears, the best lyrical poet of the latter half of the 20thC? Yeats, whom Leonard often cites, said that (to paraphrase) great poetry needs rhythm and cadence in order to unlock meaning through repetition. The depth of meaning Cohen wrings from the popular tune is unsurpassable: go back, listen to it all, "Stranger Song," "Story Of Isaac," "Hallelujah," any of a number of his great songs. Of course, it's well-documented, his love for Garcia Lorca, and I am acquainted with the "Little Viennese Waltz" that acts as a starting block for the next track on "I'm Your Man," the lush, stunning sweep and majesty of "Take This Waltz:"
"I'll dance with you in Vienna/ I'll be wearing a river's disguise/ The hyacinth wild on my shoulder/ My mouth on the dew of your thighs...."
Strike me dead for saying it, but it trumps even the great Lorca, just as "Alexandra Leaving" from "Ten New Songs" expands Cafavy into wholly new dimensions. If Cohen had never written anything but this one song, I'd remember him, remember his name. "Jazz Police," the next track, tends to divide a lot of listeners, but I love it: jarring, paranoiac, humorous, who can resist great lines like:
"Wild as any freedom-loving racist/ I applaud the actions of the chief....." or even better, "Let me be somebody I admire/ Let me be that muscle on the street/ Stick another turtle on the fire/ Guys like me are mad for turtle meat....?" A lyric poet at the height of his sensibilities.
The album closes out with two different classics of Cohen's. First "I Can't Forget" an elegiac ode to the distortions of memory:
"I'm burning up the road/ I'm heading down to Phoenix/ I've got this old address/ Of someone that I knew....."
It plays out to fade against an aching spatial soundscape of slide guitar and marimba accompaniment, & would have been a natural closer to a Cohen album if not for the next track, the finale, the trump card, "Tower Of Song", one of those rare moments of epiphany in music where everything that has gone before ties up so beautifully. It says enough that this is one of Leonard's greatest and most simple songs. Comparable to, though quite unlike, "Buckets Of Rain," the plainsong that closes "Blood On The Tracks." It is one of the finest sentiments ever set to music:
"I was born like this/ I had no choice/ I was born with the gift/ Of a golden voice...." Even still, audiences laugh at this point, lapping up what they perceive as some kind of irony, but every acolyte worth salt knows only how true that statement is; that Marianne Ihlsen's grandmother read her leaves and told her she was would fall in love with a man with a golden voice, and she did. I'm pretty certain Lenny sees the irony too, though, but it's a point worth clearing up. How much is a copy of this album now? Less than four quid? That just about buys you a pint of beer these days. One beer will never intoxicate and enrapture the way this solid gold masterpiece does. if it's not in your collection already, what are you waiting for?