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4.6 out of 5 stars283
4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is a truly great Leonard Cohen album in my view - something I've not been able to say for too many years. The music often sounds delicate but has a laid back robustness about it, too, with his trademark simple melodies and a very welcome varied sound and style, with elements of country, blues, gospel and rock. There are also the beautiful and familiar female backing vocals, and some simply magnificent work from a varied band - the trumpet on "Amen," for example, is unexpected and absolutely spellbinding.

Cohen's voice these days has passed through the Whisky & Cigarettes stage and is well on the way to a Chronic Bronchitis sound, but he still has that fabulous depth and resonance beneath the weariness and the creaks. He hovers between singing and speaking for much of this album even more than previously, but as a friend once said to me, "No one can sing a Leonard Cohen song the way Cohen himself can't." How true. He is miked very close so, particularly when listening on headphones, it really feels as though he is present and whispering into your ear.

All this is perfect for the songs here, whose lyrics are Cohen at his best: thoughtful, allusive, melancholy, witty and sometimes provoking. The religious imagery he has always used so brilliantly is well in evidence, and it is striking how much of it is now specifically Christian. Broken relationships, suffering and death have always been in the corner of Cohen's eye whatever he is writing about. They are often in plain sight here and are treated with insight, resignation, compassion and beauty. The old witty twinkle and his self-deprecatory streak are still there, though, and shine through what is often a very elegiac atmosphere. He still has that fantastic ability somehow to get to the heart of things both when he's speaking straightforwardly and even when direct meaning is elusive. These are songs to take into your heart, nurture and allow to grow there.

I think that several of these songs, including Amen, Show Me The Place and Different Sides are likely to become Cohen classics, but there is nothing to be sanitized and exploited by talent-show winners here and if you don't like Leonard Cohen this album certainly won't convert you. However, those legions of us who know that he was born like this, he had no choice, he was born with the gift of a golden voice will be delighted and deeply satisfied that that voice, both in what he writes and how he performs it, has lost none of its magnificent lustre.

I recommend this album wholeheartedly. I suspect that it may be a masterpiece.
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on 5 November 2012
Just when all hope of a new Leonard Cohen album were fading along comes Old Ideas full of, well, apparently old ideas but with a new slant. The voice is lower, the music cooler, the words sometimes darker - if possible, so don't be put off by a first listen, this is a slow-burner that really takes a few plays to really get into, and it's well worth the waiting. There's a little bit of everything from Leonard's career, and a lot of new ideas as well. Simply superb.
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on 31 May 2012
Some said that Leonard Cohen only brought this album out to cover his financial set-backs from recent times. Not true. He is still the poet-singer that allow the gravel-growl of his soul to fly free. It is not only his ability to express the journey of modern man and the lost and found boxes we discover along the way. It is also his ability to laugh at himself and to wink at his adorning fans that makes this a very touching and human affair.

As someone who has spend time with all his CDs, this collection of songs bring something different even though it is unmistakably Cohen. It is scattered with existential reflections on time and age. On Going home he sings, "Going home without my burden, Going home behind the curtain, Going home without this costume that I wore". On Crazy to Love you he refelects on the mirrors that don't lie, but also continues on his long-standing love affair with love in its many forms.

This would please any long-standing Cohen fan, but would also speak to anyone who lives, loves and longs for the questions to be answered.
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on 30 January 2012
The voice so deep, "a thousand kisses deep", to say it with the words of one of his songs. After listening to the album three times in a row, you realize there is no standout track, no future evergreen (the word evergreen should be banned anyway: too much nostalgia even takes the good part of darkness away). The longest track, "Amen", is a hymn, a prayer that agnostics and atheists might fall in love with while enjoying the feel of ancient banjo, sepia-coloured violin and simple cornet. On "Old Ideas" the man with the golden voice (good old joke!) doesn't act like a preacher at all, and every verse that could seem to send a message carved in stone and song is quickly counterbalanced by dark humour, self-irony and stoicism.

There are bluesy moments, slow-motion-gospel - and jazz-vibes. The gravity comes from the voice, and how it nearly creates new definitions of close miking and sub-bass, with the result of warm intimacy. And then there are all the female voices of older and newer times (from Jennifer Warnes to the Webb Sisters) doing the jobs of a second voice, a background, and a choir. An old Cohen tradition: but remember, on the first studio album of his demon-chasing life, the producer added these kind of angelic colours against the will of the singer to soften the scenery. An old trick that still works.

It is the sincerity of the artist that allows him to stick totally to old ideas without any suspect he might have lost it. He's just slowing down, down, down - with a clear eye for exit signs and open places: "Sometimes I'd head for the highway/ I'm old and the mirrors don't lie/ But crazy has places to hide in/ Deeper than saying goodbye," he sings/speaks on "Crazy To Love You", accompanied by an acoustic guitar only. So, finally, closing time, silence, a last dying tone? No, that would be too pretentious. It's better to leave the scene with a beat, a rhythmic soul groove - and asking for a kiss. Amen.
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on 7 March 2012
As someone who has loved Leonard since the late 1960s, I always buy anything new by him. I was lucky enough to see him live in Edinburgh in the 1970s and 1980s. Films of his much more recent concerts show him to be still a charismatic performer. However, I did feel that 'Old Ideas' lacked something. Energy? There's wit and beautiful, if low-key, arrangements, but I wasn't immediately 'grabbed'. It is, though, a more satisfying record than the uneven 'Dear Heather'. Cohen fans should buy 'Old Ideas'. It will probably grow - like ivy - slowly.
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on 29 February 2012
Its the Lennie of old. Even more croaky than ever but so well produced it is ace and for me a must have part of the collection.
I still don't get why people say he is depressing - its just contemplating life.
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In his 12th studio album Leonard Cohen returns to his familiar theme of being human with all the frailties and challenges that attend the condition. Employing a simplicity of musical texture Cohen performs ten deeply personal songs delivered mainly as spoken word poetry to moving effect.

With exquisite backing vocals by long time associates Jennifer Warnes, Anjani Thomas, Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters the songs have an ethereal and hymnal quality that is often nurtured by a slow and elegiac violin. But that is not to say that it is just a monochromatic sound because there are strains of gypsy jazz strings, country and even shades of Dylanesque blues.

This is not the sound of an old man contemplating the end and he wryly observes "I love to speak with Leonard/He's A sportsman and a shepherd/He's a lazy bastard living in a suit". But it would be pointless to write a review that dwells too much on the lyrics of this almost flawless production. The important facts are that this is a masterpiece of poetry combining with a sublime musical tapestry that can relax, inspire and enthral in equal measure. It is simply beautiful and another classic Cohen album to cherish. I regret to say that his is a lost art and one that we will never see the like of again.
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on 27 March 2012
Having read other reviews of this album I decided to buy it. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed. As a long standing fan of the music of Leonard Cohen I did expect to like it. However I was completely bowled over by it, it is now my favourite album. It contains all of the qualities that I have found so appealing in his previous works. There is a quality not often found in other artists work, both in the lyrics and production. Every song has some meaning and a tale to tell and is not just a series of words brought together just to carry a tune. The backing singers and musicians, as usual with Leonard Cohen's work are second to none, and add a dimension to his work that is rarely found in other musicians work. Anyone who likes his previous songs will not be disappointed.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 30 January 2012
Leonard Cohen has continued to exact maximum emotion and depth of thought with his inimitable vocal style. Almost half-spoken the impact of his lyrics hits the heart on a cerebral plane. His sparing and appropriate vocal and musical accomaniment add to the enigmatic allure of the man. This collection is a revelation of head-on introspection delivered to an audience of old and new admirers. Age concern is tackled in a matter-of-fact style without any patronisation nor does he shy from religious or spiritual themes. 'Show me the Place' and 'Come Healing' are Cohen messages of human weakness. "Show me the place where the word became man, show me the place where suffering began" is a sombre gospel lyric with sympathetic string accompaniment. The inevitable passage of time is reflected also in 'Darkness' with Cohen announcing his lack of desire for the attractions of life "I don't mind it baby, I got no taste for anything at all", although 'Crazy To Love' (plucked by himself on nylon strings) hints at the frustrating demise of desire. 'Different Side' closes the album evokes memories of relationships breathing their last. Leonard Cohen's delivery and economic use of words is as beguiling as ever. The sheer atmospheric prose set to minimalistic music takes me back to the bed-sit days of the late sixties. A monumental album from a paragon of poetry.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 February 2012
The opening lines of the first song on this long-anticipated studio album by the unique Leonard Cohen are LC at his droll best:

I love to speak with Leonard
He`s a sportsman and a shepherd
He`s a lazy bastard living in a suit

He`s always had a winning line in self-deprecation, giving the lie to the tiresome fallacy - thankfully now in abeyance - that his music is `songs to slit your wrists to`. (Most contemporary pop has that effect on me, but that`s another story.) It`s been a running thread throughout his dozen or so records, the sombre never far from the mordantly witty. Remember "I was born with the gift of a golden voice" from Tower Of Song...
My problem with Old Ideas, which like all Leonard lovers I was longing to hear, is that at times it sounds too much like `Cohen does Cohen`, approaching self-parody on occasions. That, and his voice so far upfront in the mix as to render his deep, brooding tones a touch too `in-your-face`, explain my witholding of a star.
I wouldn`t give this to a Cohen virgin, it`s one to hear after you`ve decided you like him - as indeed who wouldn`t! - and want to hear everything.
It`s been a seldom aired view, but Cohen has always been the most melodic of songwriters - try the richly-wrought songs on The Future, or the sheer melodic variation of his first few records. On Old Ideas the tunes are there, but our Len seems content much of the time to merely pay lip service to them, letting the backing musicians and singers carry the weight of the songs` melodies. Harsh? Well, perhaps, and it`s not true of every song, but I speak as someone who`s adored this man (and believe me, back in the 60s/70s my love for Cohen was little short of worship) and his starkly beautiful music all my adult life.
I`m not going to pick over each song. There are no `duds`, this is a lovely album of warm, mostly spiritual songs, one or two with surprisingly jaunty tunes, lyrics almost as compelling as his classic songs of the past, though sometimes veering towards what I hinted at above: a tang of self-parody, as though he knows what a Cohen lyric is supposed to contain and he`s damned if he isn`t going to fulfil the brief.
I wouldn`t for a moment place this up there with Recent Songs or The Future, Songs From A Room or his stunning debut Songs Of Leonard Cohen - frankly, it`s nowhere near as good - but it can sit honourably beside his last two studio albums; in fact they form a meditative trio of late, autumnal Cohen.
I like Old Ideas quite a lot, I just can`t love it - at least not yet.
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