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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Let us now evaluate yet another Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Senor Leonard Cohen. Mr. Cohen has been in the music news quite a bit over the last year or so, having shows, collapsing on stage and the like. In nearly all of the stories I've read about Cohen, without knowing anything about him aside from the fact he wrote the Shrekly famous song "Hallelujah," he has been proclaimed as a "legendary." Being the curious cat that I am, I started to pursue his work a bit this past summer. I checked out a few of his top Youtube tunes and decided that he was not worthy of any more of my time, despite him looking like a pretty hip old man with his fedora and pin-striped suits. Of course, he has come up again and I decided to give him another chance and listen to full albums, starting with the beginning.

Leonard Cohen's first studio album, aptly named Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released in 1967. The sound of this album can be described as a mix between Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. It is pure, vintage folk singer/songwriter music, and it is actually very, very good. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album in its totality. Cohen does not have an amazing voice, but he, like most musicians who don't sing the best, finds a way to utilize it to his advantage. His lyrics are the backbone of the songs and are far more important than the vocals. The songs usually clock in at about 5 minutes and they each have a story to tell. His acoustic guitar work is also quite good. The supporting instrumentation is also very tasteful. The production is through the proverbial roof. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has the slightest affinity towards folk or singer/songwriters, it is completely worth your time. Kudos on this effort.

Here comes the bad news, folks. I'm sorry, but from what I can tell, nearly everything from the 70s on is borderline unlistenable. The album that the gun toting Phil Spector produced, Death of a Ladies' Man, pretty much encompasses everything that was wrong with the 70s. I could barely make it through 4 songs before moving to the 80s. Let me tell you, it only gets worse. The 1988 album I'm Your Man is what happens when you give a singer/songwriter synthesizers, that is to say, bad things. This album is pure synth and crap. It's as if Duran Duran and Depeche Mode took a shit on Bob Dylan's harmonica and then Cohen decided to sing over it. Cohen's voice is amazingly different than his first release. He now sports a sultry, smokey bass voice that tries to do what it used to, but in a lower register. It honestly seems like he's in love with his own voice and is astounded by how low and gravely it can sound. The sounds and styles just do not match up.

Despite the terribleness of everything past his first release, it is easy to see how he has influenced others and why he is, in fact, important. In the beginning he is a great folk musician with amazing lyrics. From then on he still has the lyrics, but his music is just not good. Therefore, it is acceptable that he be influential because of his lyrical abilities. In fact, the man was a published author/novelist before any of his music became famous, and it shows.

I'm glad I got to listen to that first 1967 album, it really was a treat for the ole ears. And yes, I know he wrote "Hallelujah" long after the first album and that the song is not terrible, it is actually a very good song. Once again, his lyrics are the best part. I do not despise Leonard Cohen like I did before and now know where his true talent is, and it's not in the music, and that's ok.

NEXT UP: Lynryd Skynyrd


  1. Give a singer/song-writer a synthesizer and he will make horrible music. Agreed. Though I still dig a few songs from that 1988 album.

  2. NOBODY SHITS ON DYLAN'S HARMONICA AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. I guess maybe his son does on a regular basis, BUT NOBODY ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. The new black on brown is a little hard on the 'ol eyeballs, at least as far as extended readin' goes.