on 16 June 2007
This, Cohen's second album, found him on more comfortable territory. The success of his first record seems to have encouraged Colubmia to allow him a little more freedom from the commercial arrangements imposed on him by his first producer, John Simon. 'Songs From A Room' presents Lennie in characteristic, spare mode, backed only by a 'hearbeat' bass, Jew's harp, and (very) occasional flourishes from strings, guitar, harmonium,percussion and only one appearance by a female choir!
All of which has the effect of making this a more cohesive album, the product of a consistent production philospophy. Dylan producer Bob Johnston does for Cohen just what he did for his previous boss: records the voice perfectly, so that Cohen is 'centre-stage' and never obscured by the backing musicians (who - disappointingly - aren't credited).
As to the songs - well, a lot of them are Cohen standards: 'Bird On The Wire' needs no introduction; 'Story of Isaac' is a subtle Vietname commentary (though it applies equally well to any armed conflict); 'Seems So Long Ago, Nancy' is a harrowing personal tale and 'Tonight Will Be Fine' encapsulates Lennie's approach to life and loving into three and half minutes of perfect folk-pop! There's also a beautiful version of the Resistance anthem 'The Partisan', which most people now know through Cohen's version (in which the female choir makes its one, very telling, appearance). Those are the standout tracks....but I don't think anything else on the album quite reaches those heights, enjoyable as songs like 'The Old Revolution' and 'You Know Who I Am'are - hence the four stars, as opposed to five. In all honesty, I probably enjoy 'Songs Of...' and 'Songs Of Love And Hate' more, even though they are less cohesive albums in terms of production and style.
The bonus tracks - early versions of 'Bird...' and 'You Know Who I Am', produced by David Crosby (who I never realised had had any connection with Cohen) actually match up to the album versions in terms of quality. And the hard-covered packaging, with interesting liner notes by Anthony deCurtis, is attractive.
In short, if you like 'Songs Of...', you'll almost certainly like this. So, add it to your basket!
Leonard Cohen followed up his debut album with another masterpiece, this collection of magnificent songs of solitude, despair and resignation. Besides The Partisan, a song about the French resistance with its beautiful French verses and female vocals, all compositions are by Cohen.
The most popular number here is Bird On A Wire that has been covered by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, Tim Hardin, The Neville Brothers and Jennifer Warnes.
For some reason, the opening lines of Bunch Of Lonesome Heroes make me think of Frodo's journey to Mordor in Lord Of The Rings: "A bunch of lonesome and very quarrelsome heroes/Were smoking out upon the open road." Other highlights include The Story Of Isaac and The Old Revolution, in both of which Cohen's characteristic Biblical imagery surfaces, and the somber Lady Midnight with its many layers of meaning.
Seems So Long Ago is a wistful confessional dirge whilst You Know Who I Am is a delicate love poem with esoteric undertones: "I am the one who loves changing from nothing to one". The mood lightens up on the former closing track Tonight Will Be Fine with its catchy melody, driving rhythm and erotic lyric, although even here the sadness is just a sigh away.
This reissue booklet includes liner notes by Anthony DeCurtis, one full-color and four black & white photographs plus a full-color painting of a chair. Both extra tracks were originally produced by David Crosby and for reissue by Bruce Dickinson. The first, Like A Bird, is an earlier version of Bird On The Wire. This version is less flowing, more halting than the familiar one. Nothing To One is the earlier version of You Know Who I Am.
Cohen's sublime music has a transcendent, spiritual quality. These haunting songs "from a room" have lost none of their poetic impact after 4 decades; their grace, elegance and beauty shine on.
on 5 August 2007
Je baguenaudais dans mes mels lorsqu'amazon m'a proposé des titres que j'aimerais sans doute recevoir et j'ai souri en y trouvant "songs from a room" de mon "maître" Léonard Cohen.
Cet album accompagne ma vie depuis qu'il est sorti et nourrit mes fantasmes les plus divers sur l'amour, la mort, la liberté et le rêve d'un séjour en grèce sur Hydra bien sur.
Alors la découverte de 2 bonus tracks a illuminé mon dimanche d'été et j'ai lu avec grand intérêt et attention les contributions des autres fans de léonard. J'ajoute ces quelques lignes pour affirmer que nous devons être un genre de secte qui suivons léonard dans sa quête depuis 1969 (érotic year ,if there is one, said Serge gainsbourg)et rappeler que Kris Kristofferson a promis de graver les premiers vers de "Bird on the wire" sur sa pierre tombale...ce qui est un vrai hommage. Comme le disait léonard en concert : "j'espère qu'il tiendra parole".
on 5 December 2008
My eldest brother acquired Songs From a Room in 1969. I borrowed it and took it to a friend's house where, by mistake, I left it by a sunny window and the vinyl disc warped. My brother was unamused and made me buy it off him. It remains one of my prize posessions, warp and all. In Old Revolution and Bird on the Wire, the rumble of the needle is most pronounced as it struggles to ride the steady wave. It has become part of the music for me. The pictures and the frayed paper spine of the cover, but most of all the songs make me feel happy to have heard Leonard Cohen. The songs are of a different age. For those of us struggling to remember who we are, these songs offer an aide memoire, a way back. Not nostalgia but a recovery of value. They're simply wonderful.