Top positive review
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Lenfest - creativity undimmed
on 14 December 2010
I've been having a little bit of a revisit of Cohen's work. I was certainly one of those intense young women who found his music and lyrics compulsively thoughtful, sexy and lyrical on albums such as Bird On a Wire. I then drifted away from non-classical music for a long while, so missed what Leonard Cohen was up to. To be honest, the later albums are a revelation, how much Cohen's experience as a deep-thinking individual, musician and poet continues.
This album, beautifully enhanced by the backing vocals (and indeed production) of Sharon Robinson, has a smoky, smooth jazz, torch song feel.
The voice has dropped and cracked with age, and some of the songs almost sprechsung in delivery, but Cohen's lyrics are always worth focusing on. The musicality is provided by Robinson's mellifluous, floated backing vocals, often slightly on the off-beat, setting up interesting tensions - most notably on the achingly beautiful, textured Alexandra Leaving - which seems to contain many possible meanings within it. I also really loved the connected songs, A Thousand Kisses Deep (I'm back on Boogie St) and the penultimate track, Boogie St - lines, and indeed, musical threads echo between the two. Religious imagery and the juxtaposition of sexual connection and connection to something transcendent and immaterial continues to twine through these songs, Cohen's deep engagement with the mysteriousness of embodiment, a life which is matter and spirit.
Instrumentally, I found this less engaging than a much earlier album Recent Songs where Cohen used many instruments from different traditions, and styles of playing, to produce a tapestry of sounds; this album relying more on Sharon Robinson: 'All tracks arranged programmed and performed by Sharon Robinson' - so the use of synthesiser keyboards misses something wild, dynamic, untamed which was provided by the diversity of musicianship on the previous mentioned album. Her vocals though, are gorgeous