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A Fitting Homage to the Maestro of Melancholy
on 21 February 2003
This compilation is the best in the genre of tribute albums that I have come across. The only thing lacking (and it is a black hole in terms of negligence) is a cut from Jennifer Warnes, who is the premier interpreter of Cohen's songs. Every artist on the disc shines, most especially Willie Nelson and Suzanne Vega. Nelson's rendition of "Bird on a Wire" is one of the classics of recent memory and how anyone can call Vega's interpretation of "Story of Isaac" "unispired" is not only beyond me, but belongs in another lexicon. It is brilliant and enthralling and any other adjective you wish to substitute for an synonym for great artistry.
Leonard Cohen, as a songwriter, exists on a very small playing field. Some would say that only Dylan and he could occupy the same base, in fact. Whatever one's judgement (and it always boils down to a a case of tastes, in these matters) there is no denying Cohen writes verses that are about as intellectually and poetically satisfying as anyone else around. These are not just songs, but angst-ridden tone-poems that are about real-ationships that most of us who have been through the seventies and subsequent decades can absolutely relate to.
I bought this CD when it was a mere cassette, about six years ago, and it still gets lots of play. "Story of Isaac," in particular, still strikes a nerve close to the main aorta. Perhaps to truly feel the deep import of this song, one must have a child him/herself. It ranks right up there with McDuff's reaction to the news of his family's demise in <MacBeth> in terms of emotional impact.
If you are not up on Cohen, give this CD a try. If you are, then definitely add this to your list, and if you aren't familiar with Jennifer Warne's fine cover album, "Famous Blue Raincoat," by all means add that one to your purchase list as well.