Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Recollections from Leonard Cohen's pre-2008 tours, YouTube clips
Ziyad
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Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by Ziyad » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:03 pm

Given the vogue for artists to play a whole of an album live - I think started by Brian Wilson with Pet Sounds - should Leonard Cohen do that and if so, what LP should get that treatment?

It is incredibly naff (a bit like the word naff itself) for bloated heritage artists to try to get a bit of dosh by regurgitating an old album of theirs - if they are doing it simply for the money or trying to resuscitate a career long finished. Not the case with LC - you don't play for 3+ hours at the age of 74 if money is the driver.

So what LP?

My first thoughts are Songs Of Love And Hate - the best album ever by anyone ever - seems an obvious choice really, doesn't it? And how I would like to hear Joan of Arc and Last Year's Man as well as Avalanche, Dress Rehearsal Rag and Diamonds In The Mine, not to mention Famous Blue Raincoat.

But then a friend of mine mentioned the unmentionable (at least generally within this forum). Wouldn't it be great to hear live again (or for the first time in some cases) the whole of Death Of A Ladies Man. The case for:
- brilliantly underrated melodic songs
- Lenny never plays it live
- Phil Spector is now dead, perhaps the memory of those sessions will no longer bother LC as much
- LC states he doesn't like the production - well here's his chance o do it his way
- as a fan, Lenny playing this album excites me more than any other (apart from possibly Live Songs just for Please Don't Pass Me By) because I cannot predict what he will do and how it will sound

So for me, in order:
1) Death Of A Ladies Man
2) Songs Of Love And Hate
3) Live Songs
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John Etherington
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by John Etherington » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:43 am

My choice would be "Recent Songs" and then the world will finally realise that it is Leonard's "masterpiece unsigned". To which I might add that the only songs that many people may be familiar with on this album are"The Guests" and "The Gypsy's Wife". However, the album contains two of Leonard's greatest ever songs - namely "The Window" and "Ballad of the Absent Mare" plus other such exquisite songs as "Came So Far For Beauty", "The Traitor", "Our Lady of Solitude" and "The Smokey Life".

All good things, John E
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by John Etherington » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:09 am

By the way Ziyad,

You say that Phil Spector is dead, but you obviously made a mistake because, as we know, he's in jail.

I would personally like to hear a pared-down version of "Ladies Man" and "Songs of Love and Hate" is one of my favourite Leonard albums. However, I think that both these albums come from times of pain and anger from which Leonard has moved on. "Recent Songs" has a more spiritual quality and requires the excellent musicianship for which his present band would be well-suited.

I agree that Brian Wilson started the post 2000 trend for playing whole albums, though previously albums such as the Who's "Tommy" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" were played in their entirety. The idea of playing whole albums live has worked extremely well. Wilson has done this again admirably with "Smile" and "That Lucky Old Sun" , while Love did it with "Forever Changes" and the Zombies with "Odessey and Oracle". I've seen all of these albums played live multiple times and found all of them to be nothing less than excellent.

All the best, John E
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by MaryB » Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:40 am

Tough one. It would be between Recent Songs and DOALM.

John, after seeing The Gypsy's Wife performed on this concert tour one can really appreciate what LC and Roscoe and Javier have done to further enhance this song. So many underrated gems on Recent Songs. What they would do with The Ballad of the Absent Mare!

Ziyad, I love your reasoning on DOALM. I also feel that these songs need to be stripped of the Spector sound and reworked. And who better to do it than all the fine performers and musicians of this tour (although my favorite backup vocals will always be Julie and Perla, and a violin - we need a violin). IMHO, this album also has a larger number of uptempo songs which would lend themselves nicely to the larger venues he is now performing in.

I say, do them both! We could even add another since he performs for 3 hours :D . So, my third choice would be Various Positions, no, Dear Heather, no........... Too hard once you start to really think about it!

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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by tomsakic » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:39 pm

Ten New Songs.
commonweal
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by commonweal » Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:37 pm

Recent Songs, obviously.

But the one I think I have most difficulty re-imagining the present band playing is Dear Heather, so that would be interesting.

But Recent Songs. Obviously.
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by John Etherington » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:34 am

Glad you agree with me commonweal! I think the idea of Leonard playing a whole album live is an interesting one, and I would like to consider the idea as more of a possibility than a fantasy. When you look at the albums that others have played live however it is most usually the album that is considered to be their greatest classic (see examples above). If we hear that Van Morrison is playing "Astral Weeks" or Patti Smith "Horses", we know exactly why that album is being chosen. However, it's not so clear-cut with Leonard, since most of his albums are cult classics and the one which has probably acheived the greatest success is "I'm Your Man" - most of which is included in his present set, anyway (there would not be much point in playing the whole of "The Future" either, for the same reason). Another possibility (classic-wise) would be "Songs of Leonard Cohen" but the whole of that album is probably not best-suited to Leonard's present voice and band. In all reality, I think it is inconceivable that Leonard would suddenly play "Death of a Ladies Man" live. It would be hard to replicate the pain and angst of "Songs of Love and Hate" and to play "Live Songs" live also seems like an improbable concept (even though it's my favourite live album). Tom Sakic's suggestion"Ten New Songs" would obviously work well, though some of the best of it is currently very familiar live. Mary Bs's suggestion "Various Positions" isn't a bad idea either, but I don't know if it would be such a good idea to shine the spotlight on the original album at this stage. We now have a better version of "Hallelujah" and the sound quality on the original album wasn't so great Thus, of all possibilities I still believe that "Recent Songs" would be the one that would be a revelation to the widest number of people.

All good things, John E
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by friscogrl » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:18 am

I,m Your Man. He already is singing a lot of the songs in concert. But I would want him to drop Jazz Police.
I agree with John E that Songs of Love and Hate is a great album but I could not imagine him singing that whole album now. He IS in a different place and I could not him imagine him screaming (which I love) in some of the songs. Some times it is difficult for me to reconcile that leonard with the leonard we are seeing perform now.

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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by commonweal » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:15 pm

On further reflection my choices would be as follows:

1. Recent Songs
2. New Skin for the Old Ceremony
3. Songs from a Room

For the following reasons:

1. Recent Songs, as John E has argued many times on this forum, is Leonard's masterpiece. But, further, it would sound magnificent given Leonard's voice at the moment and given his current band. And, as John says, its subject matter and mood are an apt fit (much more so that SLH and the unmentionable album that preceded RS).

2. New Skin (curiously one of John E's least favourite albums, as I recall) is, in my view, another stroke of genius which, again, suits the current band. Chelsea Hotel and Who by Fire are already highlights of the tour. A Singer Must Die, There is a War, Why Don't You Try and the mighty towering stand up and be counted monster of a song that is Take this Longing would be awesome, surely, just now.

3. Songs from a Room, again a much under-represented album on the current tour, with only Bird on the Wire and The Partisan having been played. Imagine Tonight will be Fine, The Old Revolution or the sublime agony of Seems so Long Ago Nancy.


After Recent Songs my favourite album is probably Songs of Love and Hate, but for all the reasons given already here I would vote for these three over SLH, just now. And I frankly don't understand the choice of I'm Your Man given as the whole album (minus Jazz Police and I Can't Forget) is already on the set list, night after night.

Talking of which, I'd better set off for Liverpool. Leonard, please bring back the Gypsy's Wife and Chelsea Hotel tonight, and, if you feel you're in the mood for it, by all means sing the whole of any of your albums!

See some of you in England tonight, I hope (... and next week in Ireland).
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by somewhat_nifty » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:17 pm

Interesting concept. I think I’d have to agree with the suggestion of Recent Songs for all the reasons given above – I think the current band could really run with it, given how great The Gypsy’s Wife sounded on this tour, and Leonard’s got even more of the right voice for Humbled in Love now! I’d be very keen to hear Death of a Ladies Man de-Spectorised, but a lot of the songs are quite intimate and perhaps wouldn’t work so well in concert (I’d still love to hear Memories and Don’t Go Home With... though).

Songs of Love and Hate would also be a good choice I think – although some of the songs are bleak and angry on it, they don’t have to be when performed – I’m thinking of the BBC version of Dress Rehearsal Rag or the later 70s/80s versions of Diamonds in the Mine, and Joan of Arc would sound beautiful with the Webb Sisters performing the female parts like on the 94 live album.

He does practically all of I’m Your Man currently, so I’d like to hear something different – I think my final decision would be for Recent Songs.
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by jarkko » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:23 pm

I would love to hear the rest of the songs on "Ten New Songs" and some from "Dear Heather" performed live, Leonard with this amazing band!
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by Womanfromaroom » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:35 pm

"Recent Songs", "Songs of Love and Hate" - but also "New Skin for the Old Ceremony" and, yes, "Dear Heather"! Aren't we modest? ;-)
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Ziyad
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by Ziyad » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:39 pm

It's interesting what JohnE says about the relative darkness of SOLAH and DOALM which contrast with Leonard's mental state today, but I don't think that should stop LC from performing those albums. I agree with somewhat_nifty's view that the songs do not need to be performed in the same bleak and angry style. But I do think a pared down Lenny would work very well for both of those albums so I wouldn't necessarily use the current band but concentrate more on a semi-acoustic feel.

I think an interesting question is whether a performing artist needs to be in a similar mental state to the composer to do a piece of music justice. On the whole I think not though I will concede it may make a difference (a bit wishy washy that statement!) - but at the risk of using a corny cliche, I see no reason why the so called Laughing Lenny could not still manage incredible versions of the more depressing aspects of his oeuvre. In fact, I believe that those albums would be the most rewarding live (of all his records) and I think they could even give the originals a run for their money - despite the fact that they will not come from such a dark and lonely place.

Apart from Death Of A Ladies Man and Songs Of Love And Hate, and Live Songs as I posted above, I agree with commonweal that New Skin and Songs From A Room would be very interesting to hear, and New Skin especially would work well with the current band. Unlike many of you, I have always been relatively unsure about Recent Songs. My first reaction on its release was that it was LC by numbers very much in the style of his previous albums (excluding DOALM and New Skin) though as the years go by I acknowledge that I was being hasty in my judgement - so yes I would like to hear it all live.

Of course the problem is that there is no LC LP that I wouldn't want to hear live in its entirety, so maybe the answer is to have a month of LC gigs where he plays everyone of his albums live. Now that would be a wonderful fantasy. Please Mr Cohen, book the Royal Albert Hall for a month next summer and make one obsessive fan very happy...
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by Womanfromaroom » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:39 pm

I am just listening to "Songs of Leonard Cohen", and thinking about it, I would just love to hear him sing him the entire rest of the album which we don't hear at his concerts at the moment... His current take on "Teachers" or "Stories of the Street", "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong" (interestingly enough mentioned as a reserve title on the Cologne setlist) and, above all, "Master Song" would interest me very much, to say the least. And somehow, it would be like having come full circle - to end where it once started. Which does not mean, however, that after that, there could not be still something new... Like the long-awaited new album which we will then probably want to hear him play live in its entirety, too... ;-)
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Re: Which LP Should Leonard play live in its entirety?

Post by bridger15 » Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:31 pm

Womanfromaroom wrote:I would just love to hear him sing him the entire rest of the album which we don't hear at his concerts at the moment... )
Recently, I was thinking along these same lines. So I burned a playlist of songs, from several albums, that are not performed in the concerts. I started with SOLH, my favorite album. So, that's my vote for this survey.
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