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by East Eden February 17, 2012
If you know nothing about him, the first entrance of his voice on his 2012 album ‘Old Ideas’, will tell you that Leonard Cohen is more than a musician. One phrase, spoken onto the record like God himself, an inch from the microphone, tells you our narrator is a storyteller; a storyteller who doesn’t tell stories from a distance – other than the distance of time. Our subject has been a poet, a drinker, a family man, a freight hopper, maybe even a dancer with a cigarette making smoke circles in a rundown dorm room at McGill University- where he studied law, poetry and debate.
On a musical level, Cohen presents a variety of ideas and influences, often employing the help of gospel-style background singers and bluesy piano players. Some songs like “Crazy to Love You” are perfect architecture and simpler, only voice and guitar, whereas the opening track, “Going Home” utilizes modern production and more complex orchestration.
If the second track, “Amen” leaves you seven-minutes-bewildered and lost on first hearing, something like “Show me the Place,” which immediately follows, is the type of song one can only write after sixty years of writing songs. Songs like these show the world again that Cohen is the type of songwriter who only comes along once every thousand years- and at times his voice sounds one thousand years old.
In essence this is what ‘Old Ideas’ presents, and maybe even what the title means: a prophetic and troubled narration from a man who has been through the alpha and omega of emotions: depression and addiction, success and failure, even riches and bankruptcy (in the last decade even). These are ‘Old Ideas’ that have rang through the minds of man for a thousand years of the same feelings… and if the musical styles do not fit your fancy or if the tone of Cohen’s voice is not what you are looking for, surely we can all agree that Cohen embodies what it is like to be a human being, growing old, and perhaps channeling better than anyone else into ten tracks of music, the peaks and valleys of simply being alive.
Leonard Cohen, Show me the place (Old Ideas, 2012)
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