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A truly 'essential' retrospective
on 22 October 2016
More often than not, Sony's 'Essential' range provide the casual buyer with a truly definitive collection of a high-profile artist's work. In the case of Leonard Cohern, who hand picked these tracks out himself, as well as remastering them with Bob Ludwig, this is certainly true.
Released originally in 2002, these two discs take you on a magical journey through the eye's of one of the world's greatest poets of the past 50 years. Although I've always been an admirer, I was quite taken aback at just how many of these excellent songs I was to fall in love with after the first listen. In neat chronological order, we have highlights from all of Leonard's studio albums which were released prior to 2002. With ten albums, that's a pretty big body of work by anyone's standards, and absolutely fascinating to own a part of everything from his 1968 debut album 'Songs of Leonard Cohen', to 2001's 'Ten New Songs'. With my edition, released in 2010, there is a live recording Tennessee Waltz', which closes out the second disc.
I enjoy most of Leonard's work from his entire career, but do tend to prefer his earliest work the most. 'Hallelujah' is a classic, one of the best songs ever written in my opinion, but my affections are firmly closer to the beauty of 'Sisters of Mercy', 'Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye', and two later tracks, the darkly humorous 'Tower of Song', and 'Waiting for the Miracle', presented on the second CD in it's full 7 minute, 43 seconds form.
Mr. Cohen has the power to take you to a different planet with his magical songs with their visionary lyrics that are so often very Bob Dylan-isque. His distinctive voice has always been special, and like Marianne Faithfull (a great fan who has recorded several of his songs (brilliantly!) on her more recent albums, including 'Tower of Song'), it has grown more and more world-weary. With the recent material, you feel as though you are listening to the thoughts and feelings of a wise old man with all the wisdom and life experience the world has had to offer him. His songs deal with a wide variety of topics, from romance to politics, and issues such as sexuality and religion.
When you discover just how many brilliant, ageless songs this man has written in his time, it's hardly surprising that he has been covered by so many artists of such great diversity as Nick Cave and the Seeds, Johnny Cash, James, Elton John, Suzanne Vega, Willie Nelson, and held in high regard by today's leading musicians, including Alex Turner, who recently revealed he had one of his songs ('Is This What You Wanted', not included on here), on heavy rotation of his Spotify playlist. Without any question, the man has made his mark, and 'The Essential Leonard Cohen' is a fine example of what a true, genuine artist should be.