Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything But

Leonard Cohen's previous album (January 2012)
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sirius
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Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything But

Post by sirius » Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:41 am

Leonard Cohen, At 77, Calls His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything But

Posted: 01/24/2012 3:31 pm

Leonard Cohen, At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything But

by Jesse Kornbluth

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-kor ... 27640.html

How do you access the important moments in your life?

Not the moments the world sees.

I mean the great personal moments, the ones that matter most.

I'm certain I'm not alone when I say that music has been a direct pathway to my memory of these moments.

Like this: I am not someone who stays up all night, ever, but when my first book was due and I was just 21 and so scared, I sat at the typewriter until dawn, playing Dylan's Blonde on Blonde over and over as I wrote, and then, as the business day started, I walked the manuscript to my publisher with a confidence I wish I felt every day. Ever since, whenever "Visions of Johanna" shows up....

That memory is the exception. Most connected to music are connected also to women. The happy memories have a varied play list: The Four Tops, Otis Redding, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The heavier memories -- almost all of them -- are linked to the songs of Leonard Cohen.

If you're in the Cohen Cult, you have a list like mine. As someone has said, "You play Leonard after the lovers have left and are in the arms of others." Not always. Sometimes the women were there, and so was a kind of distress you didn't understand and didn't particularly want but couldn't resist -- like a black-and-blue mark you can't help pressing, I used to think. There was something about that pain...

The creator of those songs always knew all about that. He picked up the guitar as a kid because he sensed it could help him with girls. It worked -- Cohen is catnip to many of the women in my life. As Cohen now says, "It was agreeable to have some kind of a reputation or some kind of list of credentials so you didn't have to start from scratch with every woman you walked into." Look around a Cohen concert and even now, when he says it doesn't matter, you'll see women who look at him as their romantic ideal.

Leonard Cohen is now 77. A few years ago, his manager stole most of his money, so he went on a two-year tour, giving long shows that were as close to perfect as anything we're ever likely to see. Everyone who saw Cohen on that tour will hold tight to the image of a thin man in a gray suit, tipping his fedora to his audience in gratitude and humility as he delivered what might euphemistically be called his greatest hits.

"I remember we were playing in Ireland and the reception was so warm that tears came to my eyes and I thought, 'I can't be seen weeping at this point,' then I turned around and saw the guitar player weeping."

When the tour was over, he went into the studio with 10 new songs and recorded a CD ironically titled Old Ideas. That too was bracing -- it's very likely he'll tour again and, perhaps for the last time, we'll see the dapper gent in the gray suit tip his fedora to us in humility and gratitude. I was not exactly looking forward to this CD. His last, Dear Heather, was a weak effort, a marker of decline. Worse than decline; it sounded as if he was borderline addled, incapable of realizing that he really shouldn't be releasing this. But a week before the launch of Old Ideas you can hear a free stream of the entire CD. I couldn't resist. [To hear Old Ideas now, click here. To pre-order the CD -- for $9.99 -- from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]

So... is this an old man's record? It would be easy to make the case. "I've got no future, I know my days are few," he sings. "I thought the past would last me, but the darkness got that too." As for thinking about death -- he practices Zen, you'd better believe his extinction has come up for him. "I've come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that I am going to die," he told a recent interviewer. "So naturally those questions arise and are addressed. But, you know, I like to do it with a beat."

And yet Old Ideas is anything but a valedictory. It's taut, vital music, stripped of the electronic gimmick that sounded so cool a few records ago and got tiresome when they seemed to be covering for weak songs and a weakening voice. You'll hear bits of JJ Cale here, and an echo of "Old Black Joe," and, in the background, smart homages to his own work. (For the best example, listen to "Darkness.")

That's the music. The lyrics are something else: considered, bone-deep, precise. And smart in a way that looks like his best work -- a reach for what is eternally true. Here's his method:

"I don't really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart. I never set out to write a didactic song. It's just my experience. All I've got to put in a song is my own experience."

"My own experience" is precisely why we put on the headphones, light the candles, make ceremony out of listening. Because Leonard Cohen, for those who love him, is older than time and younger than tomorrow. He insists he has no answers -- "Who's to blame in this catastrophe? I never figured that out" -- but we know he does something even more important: He asks the right questions.

BONUS STUFF
Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian had a terrific conversation with Cohen.

And here is a speech he gave when he received an award. Notice how, without notes, he's word-perfect.


[Cross-posted from HeadButler.com]
Last edited by sirius on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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mutti
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by mutti » Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:12 am

touched me this article...can't say much but this is good and got me in the gut and heart.
thanks for posting.
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by mnkyface » Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:15 am

Leonard Cohen, for those who love him, is older than time and younger than tomorrow.
I love that. :D
"In this world of shallow, he is the abyss."~ YouTube commenter greg450318
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by Inna » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:16 pm

sirius wrote:

His last, Dear Heather, was a weak effort, a marker of decline. Worse than decline; it sounded as if he was borderline addled, incapable of realizing that he really shouldn't be releasing this.


[Cross-posted from HeadButler.com]


I think it is utterly disrespectful to call Dear Heather all that. I agree that the songs on that album are very taste specific, very different from his previous efforts, but to call it "weak" and "borderline addled," to call him "incapable of realizing" it, makes me feel uncomfortable and disagreeable to say the least.
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by holydove » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:16 am

Inna wrote:
I think it is utterly disrespectful to call Dear Heather all that. I agree that the songs on that album are very taste specific, very different from his previous efforts, but to call it "weak" and "borderline addled," to call him "incapable of realizing" it, makes me feel uncomfortable and disagreeable to say the least.
Inna, I agree with you completely. I think Dear Heather contains alot of creativity & beauty, & I love it as much as any of Leonard's albums. That's my opinion, & a reviewer also has the right to an opinion, but it's rather disgusting how some of them proclaim their negative judgments as though their opinions are gospel. And in this case, the opinion is really unacceptably harsh & extreme, & he/she offers nothing to support the judgment, which, IMO, has no basis in reality whatsoever.
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by LisaLCFan » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:16 am

I agree with Inna and holydove, I thought those comments about Leonard and Dear Heather were deeply offensive.
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by MattW » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:31 pm

holydove wrote:I think Dear Heather contains alot of creativity & beauty, & I love it as much as any of Leonard's albums. That's my opinion, & a reviewer also has the right to an opinion, but it's rather disgusting how some of them proclaim their negative judgments as though their opinions are gospel. And in this case, the opinion is really unacceptably harsh & extreme, & he/she offers nothing to support the judgment, which, IMO, has no basis in reality whatsoever.
Leonard Cohen or his genius as a songwriter and performer are not diminished by the fact (and that is not an opinion, it is a fact) that not all his albums are equally good. He himself would be the first one to admit that (he has repeatedly talked about his own favourite songs in interviews) -- like any human being, Mr. Cohen too is not perfect. And I believe it would serve any serious discussion of his work well if even we fans would admit that "Dear Heather" is not on par with his greatest efforts. If your honest opinion is that the title track is on the same level artistically as "Hallelujah", "Suzanne", "Everybody Knows" or "Light as The Breeze"... well, as you say, everybody's got the right to have an opinion ;)

While I think that the author of the original article is too harsh in his assesment of "Dear Heather" and I agree that it is not that bad and in fact a beautiful and moving piece of work, it is, if you ask me, not nearly as good as "I'm Your Man", "Songs Of Leonard Cohen", "Songs Of Love And Hate", "The Future" or most of his other records. Tellingly, no songs (or almost none, since I didn't follow every setlist) from that record were performed on the last tour, so I guess, Mr. Cohen is at least aware of their limited potential as crowd-pleasers. [EDIT: Not that I want to equate artistic quality with popularity here.]

It would be a little sad if all we had to say about Leonard Cohen is that each and every song of his is pure genius, each record a flawless masterpiece and each and every lyric pure wisdom. What I always enjoy when talking about art (with friends, strangers, on the net and in real life) are the very different views and interpretations, how what one person loves another one hates, likes *and* dislikes, how even the greatest fan can find fault with his or her favourite artist -- because that, to me, is the difference between the mindless fawning crush of teenaged kid and the interested, spirited critical appreciation of an adult.

YMMV, of course.

Matthias
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by LisaLCFan » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:50 pm

I was not offended by the fact that the writer did not like Dear Heather, because, of course, not everyone is going to love (or even like) everything Leonard does, nor love/like it all equally. I was offended by the remarks about Leonard's supposed state of mind, which were extremely disrepectful.
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Re: Leonard Cohen At 77, His New CD Old Ideas. It's Anything

Post by Inna » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:54 pm

LisaLCFan wrote:I was not offended by the fact that the writer did not like Dear Heather, because, of course, not everyone is going to love (or even like) everything Leonard does, nor love/like it all equally. I was offended by the remarks about Leonard's supposed state of mind, which were extremely disrepectful.
Absolutely Lisa and Holydove. It is wrong, disrespectful and simply rude. Of any artist, let alone of such caliber, one should not make remarks such as these, regardless of personal taste preferences.
"climb on your tears and be silent, like the rose on its ladder of thorn."
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