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Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
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Anne
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Post by Anne » Sat Oct 23, 2004 7:00 am

October 25, 2004


ARTS
Twilight of the Master
Leonard Cohen’s eccentric new release is sure to challenge even his most loyal fans

By Kris Menon


Leonard Cohen’s latest studio album, Dear Heather, could just as easily have borrowed the title Ecce Homo. Like that rambling self-critique by the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Dear Heather is a strange, at times impenetrable, work completed by a respected and masterly writer late in his career. And like Ecce Homo, the failure or (who knows what most critics will conclude?) genius of Dear Heather will surely be debated for years to come.

In stark contrast to Cohen’s previous studio release, the critically acclaimed Ten New Songs (2001), Dear Heather is underwhelming and incomplete. Ten New Songs showcased the iconic Montreal-born singer’s greatest musical attributes: the gravelly baritone sing-speaking deeply moving poetic verse, set to simple yet emotionally awakening country-folk guitar and piano. Dear Heather offers few flashes of that Cohen brilliance. To get to the gems, Cohen’s fans will have to sift through a fair amount of dirt.

The title track is particularly challenging. A robotic Cohen repeats, in a staccato monotone, the same five lines over and over: “Dear Heather/ Please walk by me again/ With a drink in your hand/ And your legs all white/ From the winter.” The song Morning Glory, which begins with a promising jazz bassline, adds up to a collection of disjointed, muttered phrases that sound more like unfathomable ravings than complex ideas.

The music also goes astray in places. On To a Teacher, Cohen, who turned 70 last month, has penned an interesting long-form poem. But the lyrics—“Did you confuse the Messiah in a mirror/ And rest because he had finally come/ Let me cry help beside you, Teacher/ I have entered under this dark roof”—become lost in a cacophony of background synth beeps and peripheral horns. Throughout the album, the music struggles to get in synch with the words, and vice versa.

Cohen, who has created only 11 studio albums over his remarkable 37-year musical career, shines brightest when his lyrical romanticism takes firm root and where his partner, vocalist Anjani Thomas, assumes center stage. On the arresting cut The Faith, Cohen and Thomas unite his groaning croak and her angelic melodies behind a tight musical composition that is the album’s high point. When the duo belt out “The sea so deep and blind/ The sun, the wild regret/ The club, the wheel, the mind/ O love, aren’t you tired yet?”—it is as if they are daring the listener not to be moved. The two also attain excellence on Tennessee Waltz, in which Cohen, a longtime disciple of Hank Williams, laments of lost love in front of a twangy, honky-tonk guitar.

Cohen, of course, is known for being artistically explorative. As a young writer he turned the literary world on its ear with Beautiful Losers, a novel that had critics comparing Cohen to the likes of James Joyce and Henry Miller. On his early records, he became one of the first musicians to mix the language of the Bible with often-haunting melodies, as with Story of Isaac on 1969’s Songs from a Room. And Cohen has often challenged conventional recording wisdom, adding classical piano, for example, to folk or pop albums—as with Tacoma Trailer, on 1992’s Democracy. With Dear Heather, Cohen clearly is still attempting to break new musical ground. The question listeners will have to ask themselves: Is he nearing the end of his creative rope?

We wouldn’t care were it not for Cohen’s brilliant legacy. His innovative lyrics and singular vocal delivery have pushed the envelope in folk, pop, rock, country and alternative. The list of musicians who have recorded his songs—Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Sheryl Crow and k.d. lang have each done versions of just one song, Hallelujah—is testimony to the depth of his talent and breadth of his following. All of these factors magnify the limitations of Dear Heather. For Nietzsche, Ecce Homo marked the end of a celebrated philosophical journey. Was Ten New Songs the last truly sublime work that we will see from Canada’s great musical innovator? Let’s give the master the benefit of the doubt and hope there is more talent yearning to be set free.

http://www.timecanada.com/story.adp?sto ... &area=_toc
Anne
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Post by Anne » Sat Oct 23, 2004 7:09 am

Now THAT is a review I find ridiculous.

But, I kind of like the writer's 'behold the Man" allusion, in a different sense, as it is right before the attempt to crucify Cohen's work.
Tchocolatl
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Post by Tchocolatl » Sat Oct 23, 2004 2:54 pm

Hello Anne, "Oh! Baby, Baby it's a wild world It's hard to get by just upon a smile", and even with a passport, he may say by now :D

critics-critics-critics we are constently under critics, good, bad, justified, dishonest, constructive, destructive, deep or foolish, friendly or :roll: not, etc. etc. etc. critics-critics-critics The more you show of you the more you are critisized. This is part of the game. But when you start on a bad critisizing mood like he did in this p... article :wink:, well it is tempting to point his flaws. Like among others, that K.D. Lang made a cover of Bird on a Wire also. Did this article is his Ecce Homo? gnack-gnack-gnack. Stop kidding.

I do not like equally the whole work of Leonard Cohen myself ( :oops: and I do not know much about one or other of his albums and/or poetry books - yet), like probably the majority of his fans. I don't know (ok, the next message is a survey about this). At least he is recognising his genius.

For the rest, I think - but I did not hear the album, and I am not a musical critic, that he mixted on this album "real" songs and some kind of "musical reading of poetry", doing poetry with the help of the music instead of music with the help of poetry, using what could be strange effects to classic taste and that he make it clear by the contrasts of how different the experimental material is from the tradional. But ey! The critic may be in the truth, but it would be strange, very strange. Cohen and his way to polish up things, how bizarre it may seem at first, sometimes, did not use me of this sort of careless release.

Leonard Cohen said in an interview that you should have a thick skin in this field of activity to survive to critics... and flattery :D

I guess that he recognized also by this comment, the necessity to have feed-back that is useful, not just this or that.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Natalie
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Time Canada

Post by Natalie » Sat Oct 23, 2004 3:32 pm

I was so irked when I read the Time Canada article that I wrote to Kris Menon: kris_menon@timeinc.com

Dear Kris,

I just finished reading “Twilight of the Master: Leonard Cohen’s eccentric new release is sure to challenge even his most loyal fans.” When you write an article, Kris, how much research do you do? Leonard Cohen was kind enough to release his new album, “Dear Heather” to his “most loyal fans” at a Leonard Cohen Event held in New York during the middle of June. This Event was attended by 200 Leonard Cohen fans from around the world, including myself. We absolutely LOVED “Dear Heather.” You can go to the most comprehensive Leonard Cohen website: http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com to find out what his “most loyal fans” said about “Dear Heather.”

Best regards,

Natalie Fuhr
Midnight
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Post by Midnight » Sat Oct 23, 2004 7:32 pm

I will wait to hear the album before I make up my mind...but the little jabs in all of the reviews about the musical content of the album does not bode well.
Tchocolatl
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Post by Tchocolatl » Sun Oct 24, 2004 3:14 am

Maybe they are made by musicians that do not know much about poetry.

I just read this afternoon that he may be the precusor (a little bit tong-in-cheekly) of spoken word because in 1958 he recited poetry on a musical background by the jazz septet of pianist Maury Kay, on St.Catherine(yes, named after the Saint you all know) Street's Club the Birdland, in Montréal.

For me this artist is a poet before everything else and in everything he does. Poet he was, poet he stayed.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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lizzytysh
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Post by lizzytysh » Sun Oct 24, 2004 6:02 am

Excellent insight, Tchocolatl ~

From
Maybe they are made by musicians that do not know much about poetry.


To
For me this artist is a poet before everything else and in everything he does. Poet he was, poet he stayed.
~ Lizzy
Tchocolatl
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Post by Tchocolatl » Sun Oct 24, 2004 4:41 pm

Thank you, the middle of my previous comment was to show that this is not just a foolish comment from somebody who have too much imagination and is too much a fan, blinded, but it could have a base in reality as a fact.

:D

In this paper they compared a picture of young Cohen and Hoffman and said they could have been twins separated when born. Too funny. Just like your insight I tought.

Altough I recognize it too, how can one could not, I find Cohen far more attractive then Hoffman, however. Charisma. You are born with it or not, I guess. So much strong energy around Leonard Cohen, that he carries, so different from Dustin Hoffman. I like Hoffman a lot, I have to say. This has nothing to do. But Cohen is really something else. :)
Last edited by Tchocolatl on Sun Oct 24, 2004 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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lizzytysh
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Post by lizzytysh » Sun Oct 24, 2004 4:46 pm

Yes, I agree, Tchocolatl ~ similarities in features do not necessarily extend or transcend to similarities in energy.

Your comment would have held up without the middle portion, but it certainly gave it further substance.
jurica
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Post by jurica » Sun Oct 24, 2004 6:12 pm

i don't see what's wrong with this review.

you can agree or dissagree with some things, but it's well articulated. unlike most other reviews i've seen lately, it explains why this album is probably the most unlikely LC album of all times.

and it is VERY challenging. at least it was to me.
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Post by tomsakic » Mon Oct 25, 2004 10:40 am

I am sick of critics these days. It started with that review in Rolling Stone last week. I will stop to read them. I can't see "the lack of musical capacity" anywhere, especially not on Undertow, as that Rolling Stone wrote last week.
I really don't think that some of those writers are really educated.
Tchocolatl
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There is no business like showbiness

Post by Tchocolatl » Tue Oct 26, 2004 2:58 am

Hum... I was slow on this. I should have figure it before. It struck me just last night and after having read an article from a 3-D newspaper, you know, the sort my neighbor sometimes had to took from the mud where the delevery boy had trown it by a rainy saturday morning.

Ey! boys and girls hear this : HE DID NOT WANT TO ENTER THE MEDIA CIRCUS that time. Lions are hungry. Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant

This, you have to pay.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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lizzytysh
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Post by lizzytysh » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:00 am

HE DID NOT WANT TO ENTER THE MEDIA CIRCUS that time. Lions are hungry.
So true.

I agree, also, Tom ~ "the lack of musical capacity"?....."the lack of musical capacity"?....."the lack of musical capacity"? :roll:
Tchocolatl
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Post by Tchocolatl » Tue Oct 26, 2004 6:32 am

Yes, I did not want to shout, just stress the fact, however. :)

All those critics can not destroy the reality. Some will like Dear Heather, others will not. I am almost certain that I will, let see, what I'll feel. :D
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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