The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Leonard Ciohen's last studio album (2016)
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby jarkko » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:43 pm ... πικείμενη/

Google translation from Greek:

«You want it darker», sharing the impending silence
Thoughts on the latest album "Requiem" by Leonard Cohen

Written by Chris Skyllakos - Literature + Poetry , Music , Thoughts - 24/10/2016

Quiet! An invisible and tacit understanding sounds. A particle that comes unexpectedly from the distant galaxy of Art and suspended in dark space-time. Travels at lightning speed while without luster - what a paradox - finds, us, for receivers. In here, the now, in our chatter, our restless, Earth. It comes, illuminating everything. Lets just some static shadows. In this Empty starts the job. Scratch, scrape, pierce the katakreourgimeni our soul and enters within us, creating our chain Big Bang. And then, peace ...

What music!

The Leonard Cohen, present here and now, in front of everyone and everything, the, incredible dynamic and cosmic energy level, the explosive material. It looks to Wields centuries inside. Material transforms the infinite time in a definite and tangible piece of consciousness. Material conversing with the existence and the transience. And with this, firmly booked the old hands, make conclusive of recapitulation. It offers a poetic, a musician, an expressive masterpiece, a synthesis of all previous attitudes and his passes, forcing anyone stand in his way, become receiver of an unexpected biome. A poignant stillness, after countless storms. "Good night", mumbles, with "dignity like that of elephants removed to die."

The Leonard Cohen, is this moment, right beside me, perhaps in Hydra, forty years ago, or perhaps in his dark room, these latest hours, talking with me while pounding aicha the typewriter keys and each letter inflamed and leaves ashes on the paper. I hear and I look not starting overspray. He does not speak in words. No outline or specific features. And all now, look, unintelligible. Behind him, a pale yellow lamp is fading out due from the slats of the window passes the eerie glow of the moon. I witnessed an artwork exactly the moment of its creation, the time of building and birth of the world and also the end. Requiem. With voice, dipped into the depths of existence, cause my visions. With a, unbearable honesty, candor gives me an affectionate handshake and a scintillating look - and seems to be the last, so unable to turn away hastily look clumsy or pull back the hand -. The minute hand is heard more and more strongly. He looks at the door and comes slowly step out of the room and looking at the ruins to find and others remaining in the weather.

And I come back to reality. Wonder. But seems impossible to do that a man in himself. It requires courage insurmountable, that before the impending death, continues to bow down - although with so much bitterness, but far from repentance - life. It embraces the times, people, moments, happiness and pain, everything came even though it through the entire eternal and inevitable in these little parenthesis, his life. Gives to all concerned, the joy to have him next to them one last time. Now nothing will have power over him. Neither death. The artist, exceeded him. Go over. Placed in life and voluntarily to the pantheon. It seems to be saying and maybe actually says: "I walked into this land, my friends, we turn now to walk through."

«You want it darker». music criticism and interpretative analysis to such a creature, it was no more than mud envy and inhumanity. Instead, forget everything, put the entire disk and repetition, you monks, night in empty and warm room, move aside for giving him the space to flood the senses and your reasoning. Nine songs with unlimited power. One after another, brings more and more obscure. Pitch. Switch off into nothingness. Music, art, man. End and beginning. Nine songs, repeated and indelible spots. A trip. Dark, unbearable, dominant, beautiful. Nine songs empathy. A generous sharing of the impending silence. Testament, handwritten, signed, witnessed time and humanity. Heritage.

Master, I feel grateful that I had the opportunity in my life to share a little of your time and your impact. Like to feel that he already heard tomorrow, "time of year, month to month, day to day, thinking the thought" ... And it's raining outside.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby Born With The Gift Of A G » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:18 pm

LC was awarded joint album of the week (along with Lady Gaga!) in The Sunday Times (UK) on 23rd October 2016:

Albums of the week


You Want It Darker


Bob Dylan recently praised the “point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself” aspect of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting. He was referring to Cohen’s most famous song, Hallelujah — but wait until he hears You Want It Darker. The growing sense of mortality and imminent death has had the same effect on Cohen’s work as it did on Johnny Cash’s: stripped it back to the very essence. And since Cohen’s work was already pretty stripped-back, You Want It Darker is simply one — not necessarily welcome — home truth after another. “I struggled with some demons,” he sings on the title track, but this is not a tale of glory. “They were middle-class and tame,” he quickly qualifies, before adding: “I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.” His voice is deeper and more ominous than ever, the minimal musical settings are perfect, and every song tackles one of the big themes: religion in It Seemed the Better Way; desire in On the Level; life itself on Leaving the Table. The only thing stopping me from claiming that this is his best album since 1984’s Various Positions is the growing suspicion that it might be his best since his 1967 debut.

Reviewer: Mark Edwards
"Little lady.....I AM Kris Kristofferson....."
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby PeGu » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:59 pm

Here's yet another "Best New Music" review. Well-written piece of musical criticism throughout, it has also a rather beautiful ending, which most of us will probably very much relate to. ... it-darker/
Best new music
by Stacey Anderson
Associate Features Editor

Leonard Cohen's 14th studio album feels like a pristine, piously crafted last testament, the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry.

Leonard Cohen has been bidding his farewell for decades, since before we ever met him. In 1966, he opened Beautiful Losers—his mystical, lysergic, gleefully obscene second novel—with the sunset plea, “Can I love you in my own way? I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That’s what sitting on your ass does to your face.” He was just 32 then, rakish without ravaging, not yet celebrated for pairing wry, elegant sacrilege to folk melodies—a year before courting “Suzanne,” 18 from raising his “Hallelujah.” But even then, he was conscious and deferential to the light waning around him.

Which is a placidity his followers don’t always share; what other 82-year-old artist could possibly acknowledge his impending mortality and alarm his fans enough to recant? After The New Yorker’s remarkable recent profile quoted him as “ready to die”—depicting a mentally dexterous, physically frail ascetic “confined to barracks” in Los Angeles, solemnly tidying his affairs—Cohen took pains to console his fans, with familiar drollness: “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” But even as he demurs, it’s hard not to play his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, and hear a pristine, piously crafted last testament—a courtly act of finality that extends to the title. (Notice it’s not a question; it’s a prescription.)

Cohen has always kicked up his heels in the ambiguities of love and spirituality—casting prayers to the carnal, getting off on enlightenment. And so this new darkness he offers has dimensions instead of declaratives—it feels, in turn, to lyrically reference the encroaching blackness of death, the insularity of plumbing the soul ever-deeper, a fresh fatalism toward the spinning world. “I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game/I don’t know the people/In your picture frame,” he laments, achingly, on “Leaving the Table,” over a warm and minimal waltz. Later, he intones, “I’m traveling light/It’s au revoir/My once so bright/My fallen star” (“Traveling Light”). It’s delivered with a wink, and no more dramatically brooding than his past work, but it is inescapably morbid; every track is vivid yet still enigmatic as it conjures loss and lamentation of some variety.

This darkness also apparent in the newly fathomless boom of his baritone, which already stripped the floorboards on recent albums Old Ideas and Popular Problems. Whereas the rough edges of his younger, nasal reediness suggested chic bohemian nonchalance, now his low caroling is edged in defiance, and Darker’s production is singularly complementary to it. When he imagines, not so subtly, the stars above him losing light (“If I Didn’t Have Your Love”), his intoning dips below cherubic organs, hinting at what these enamored lyrics soon reveal—that this bright devotional is of the spiritual sort, hewing closer to his past career as a monk than as an Olympic-level ladies’ man. (The most jarring thing about Darker is how utterly devoid of lust it is.) The gracious, spare production adds to the spell—contributed by his son, Adam Cohen, who almost wholly replaces his father’s proclivities for tinny keyboards and stately, gospel-esque female harmonies in favor of violins, warm acoustic guitar, and a cantor male choir. The elder Cohen’s familiar scaffolding of flamenco-influenced guitar remains, a bridge to history.

Cohen is not a songwriter who panders; he speaks above us, sometimes quite literally to higher forms, but also to universality instead of common denominator. Topicality, to him, remains somewhere around the Romantic era. But Cohen is also keen to experiment here. He embraces spry, rootsy bluegrass strings on “Steer Your Way,” which nods back in a few directions—to his college stint in a country band, to 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate (which featured Charlie Daniels on fiddle), to brighter moments on Popular Problems. The album’s final track, for the first time, is a string reprise; it bows out “String Reprise/Treaty,” Cohen’s difficult conversation with his higher power (“I wish there was a treaty we could sign/It’s over now, the water and the wine/We were broken then, but now we’re borderline”) with delicate, mournful dignity.

The album’s heart is exposed early, and plainly, in the title track. Its religious tones veer toward disdainful (“If you are the dealer/I’m out of the game/If you are the healer/I’m broken and lame”) but his oaky growl quickly becomes rapturous. Three times, as the choir drops out, he chants, “Hineni Hineni”—a Hebrew cry of devotion, the reply of a ready worshipper who hears their calling from God and is ready to act in service. Often, it’s the service in the afterlife. His is not a yelp of fervor, or excitable in any shade; the moment is his most quaking, sunken baritone delivery on the album—so deep, it would sound sinister without such compassion imbuing it. It’s the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry. Hopefully, it is one holy dialogue of more still to come. But in this moment, he sounds satisfied; he has loved us in his own way, and he is ready for what awaits him next. But that doesn’t mean we are.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby Goldin » Tue Oct 25, 2016 1:40 am

You Want It Darker press conference - 3 ... 139089644/
In this video, Leonard Cohen discusses his writing process.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby jarkko » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:34 am

Mike Regenstreif's review of "You Want It Darker" has been posted on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches blog.
Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif
Folk-rooted and folk-branched reviews, commentaries, radio playlists and suggestions from veteran music journalist and broadcaster Mike Regenstreif.

Monday, October 24, 2016

You Want It Darker, following rather quickly on the heels of Popular Problems, released in 2014, and Old Ideas, from 2012, is the third in a series of remarkable and deep late-career albums from Leonard Cohen that followed in the wake of his equally remarkable years of late-career tours and live albums. Like the previous two albums – in fact, like most of Leonard’s recordings dating back to Songs of Leonard Cohen from 1967, almost a half-century ago – You Want It Darker is a masterwork filled with conversational and hypnotically mesmerizing song-poems layered with meaning that both reveal more every time they are heard and suggest new avenues of meaning and interpretation rendering them ever mysterious.

The album begins with the title track, which Leonard released on Internet on September 21, his 82nd birthday. It is a song that only an older man could have written; a song from the perspective of someone who has lived long and is prepared for death.

Much was made of Leonard having released the song on his birthday. I think, though, what’s much more significant than his birthday is that he released the song during the Jewish month of Elul, a time when Jews prepare for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

It is a song Leonard sings directly to God. “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my lord,” he sings in the chorus, echoing the words of the biblical patriarch Abraham as he prepared for the near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. But, while Abraham might have been ready to face the death of his son, Leonard, here, seems prepared to confront his own mortality; something Jews traditionally think about during the High Holidays.

The melody – despite having been composed by collaborator Patrick Leonard – seems like it comes directly from the synagogue music Leonard heard growing up at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount (a city within the city of Montreal). And, indeed, he turned to Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar choir to sing with him on the song. The choir’s haunting harmonies are heard from the beginning of the song, Leonard himself sounds like he’s singing from the depths of his soul, and the final minute of the song is devoted to Zelermyer repeatedly, and seemingly distantly, singing the word “hineni.”

It is a stunning performance from Leonard, the choir and the cantor. And I must extend kudos to Adam Cohen, Leonard’s son and a talented singer-songwriter himself, who produced this track and much of the rest of the album.

The Shaar choir appears again later in the album to sing haunting harmonies that contrast beautifully with Leonard’s recitation-like singing on “It Seemed the Better Way,” another song – also with a melody composed by Patrick Leonard – in which he muses on the possibility of death.

One of the most affecting songs is “Traveling Light,” which I think may be a farewell song for Marianne Ihlen who died in July. The song can be interpreted as look back to Leonard’s times with Marianne – that inspired such songs as “Bird on the Wire” and, most notably, “So Long, Marianne – as well as an affirmation of the affection that remained after 50 or more years had passed since that time.

Some of the other songs reflect on love, or broken love, but always from a perspective of maturity and with possible layers of interpretation of the kind of love Leonard is referring to.

As I have noted before about Leonard’s songs, they are always open to interpretation and layered with ideas: ideas he had when he conceived the songs; ideas that continued to grow over the days, even years that he worked on them; and the ideas that each of us hears and develops from listening and re-listening to the songs. What I hear in these songs is not necessarily what you will hear, or, perhaps, not even what Leonard Cohen – part Jewish mystic, part Zen monk – might himself have intended.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby cohenadmirer » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:47 pm ... it-darker/
Leonard Cohen Casts a Dim But Holy Glow on ‘You Want It Darker’
By Justin Joffe • 10/25/16 9:14am

Sunday evening marked the beginning of Shemini Atzeret, a Jewish holiday celebrating the end of the harvest festival, Sukkot. While Sukkot signifies the end of the harvesting year, Shemini Atzeret and its celebration of Simchat Torah mark the completion of the year’s Torah readings, the original five books of Moses that make up the Old Testament.

How fitting, then, that Leonard Cohen would bless us with his 14th album of music, You Want It Darker, just before the harvest was over and the scrolls were rewound. That it arrived on a Friday, ushering in Shabbat with a dim but holy glow, is fitting still.

Cohen’s latest collection of songs proves a summation of the poet’s most enduring images, his most illuminated words, shaped into investigations of the soul and the body, the sacred and the profane. He goes back to sitting at someone’s table, a common image in his songs, only to leave the table a few songs later. He slow-dances through another waltz from the era when rock ‘n roll was young, subverting the message of young devotion with his grim, late-in-life reflections.

And by the album’s close he’s thrown away any infatuation with artifacts, from the ruins and altars that have populated his most classic explorations of biblical righteousness, to the unholy shopping mall that has come to define such righteousness today.

Still looming over this collection are his religious laurels, although they’re threatened. We’re inside the mind of a man who so intimately tied his spirituality to the beauty of a lover’s form, but now the form is missing from his life and mourned throughout. This is vintage Cohen in that way, the young poet prince of Montréal, sitting with his loneliness in ascetic reverence and near monastic thoughtfulness. “I’ve always had an attraction to that ascetic kind of life,” Cohen told Michael Harris in 1969. “Not because it’s ascetic, but because it’s aesthetic. I like bare rooms.”

Confined again to solitude, the master gambles alone.

“We have been led to picture Cohen spending his mornings meditating in Armani suits, his afternoons wrestling the muse, his evenings sitting in cafes were he eats, drinks and speaks soulfully but flirtatiously with the pretty larks of the street,” the great author Tom Robbins wrote in ’95. “Quite possibly this is a distorted portrait. The apocryphal, however, has a special kind of truth.”

At another point in his tribute Robbins adds, “No one can say ‘naked’ as nakedly as Leonard Cohen.”

That’s why readers accepted so comfortably that Cohen was “ready to die,” a sentiment spiritually explored on the record and taken out of context from David Remnick’s wonderful New Yorker profile on him from last month, by countless outlets hungry for a clickable headline.

The fragilities of Cohen’s age that Remnick catalogs in the piece—Cohen’s sitting in a medical chair, the compound fractures on his back, his curmudgeon-like willingness to lecture an author for being late and leaving an old man waiting—characterize a man who’s ready to make some grand, final statement. But Cohen’s been making those for years now.

Seeking to correct the line which was severed from its long-form context, Cohen revised his statement to an L.A. crowd weeks later, saying, “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” Later he told the crowd, “I hope we can do this again. I intend to stick around until 120.” Cohen turned 82 last month.

Consider the subtext of You Want It Darker. Much has been made of the opening title track, with its chant of “Hineni” or “הנני,” which translates to “here I am” in Hebrew. Used in the Torah nine times, it is associated with taking responsibility and readiness, rather than a simple statement of location. Cohen claimed to be “going home” two albums ago, on the opening track to Old Ideas. But now, recruiting into his ranks a cantor and his choir from the old Ashkenazi synagogue in Montréal where generations of Cohens have worshipped, where a portrait of his great grandfather hangs on the wall of the temple, Cohen’s no longer going home. He’s there.

Even with this return, Cohen is not complacent. He’s at a loss this time around.

That loss starts to play out over the album’s next track, “Treaty”, when he “wishes there was a treaty we could sign…between your love and mine.” I’m reminded of Cohen’s song “Night Comes On” from Various Positions, in which he alludes to the Yom Kippur War: “We were fighting in Egypt when they signed this agreement, that nobody else had to die.” Here in “Treaty” the agreement seems a distant pipe dream, while the idea that his love will be reciprocated sounds less inevitable still. That old song personified “the night” as a woman (“and the night came on, she was very calm”), but Cohen’s current nights seem to have no women in them at all.

More clues come still in “Treaty”. Cohen sits at this old lover’s table every night, transforming the surface into a meeting place, a common ground. He sings of Jubilee, a biblical festival from Leviticus 25 that marks a period, every 49 years, when slaves would be set free and debts would be resolved. Cohen’s celebrating his liberation by saying that he has long been a slave to love, but now he’s free. Like his most affecting moments, it’s bittersweet.

Whose love has ended, releasing him from bondage? A line toward the end of the song suggests he’s singing to Marianne Ihlen—“I’m so sorry for that ghost I made you be, only one of us was real, and that was me.” Cohen has long treated Marianne as a near-messianic figure in his life and work, immortalizing their first parting in song. “In the mid-’60s, as Cohen started to record his songs and win worldly success, Marianne became known to his fans as that antique figure—the muse,” writes Remnick.
Is she the ghost Cohen’s apologizing to? His willingne
ss to render her love a romantic antiquity for the sake of his songs certainly suggests so, as did the days leading up to her death earlier this year. It was an odd story to go viral, but Cohen wrote Ihlen a letter days just before her passing, which was read at her funeral. “Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon,” he wrote. “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

For legions of adoring fans, the timeless song “So Long, Marianne” then became a dirge, somberly rooted in the present.

Reading Remnick’s profile, Cohen’s lucidity in remembering the years when he met Marianne while living on the Greek Island of Hydra read like a bohemian dream.“There would be a gardenia on my desk perfuming the whole room,” he said. “There would be a little sandwich at noon. Sweetness, sweetness everywhere.”
The drugs, the exotic location, the muse—all these elements became a part of Cohen’s mythos, and he might regret weaving Marianne into it, even suggesting that he’s responsible for making her a ghost. Cohen’s narrative here than becomes less about him reaching for a clever final sonic statement, the way Bowie made his exit, and more a sort of Johnny and June Carter Cash dynamic—when the one you’ve always loved is gone, it’s hard not to feel at a loss.

A Greek instrument called a bouzouki, similar to a mandolin, can be heard later on the song “Traveling Light”, suggesting that Cohen still remembers their days on Hydra with a sacred lucidity. “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God,” he told Remnick. “Generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”

Robbins also counted those years as key to the transformation of his mystique. “In Manhattan, grit drifted into his ink bottle,” he wrote. “In Vienna, his spice box exploded. On the Greek island of Hydra, Orpheus came to him at dawn astride a transparent donkey and restrung his cheap guitar. From that moment on, he shamelessly and willingly exposed himself to the contagion of music. To the secretly religious curiosity of the traveler was added the openly foolhardy dignity of the troubadour. By the time he returned to America, songs were working in him like bees in an attic. Connoisseurs developed cravings for his nocturnal honey, despite the fact that hearts were occasionally stung.”

Buried in Cohen’s talk of traveling light is a deeper wisdom still. Cohen never claimed to be any sort of learned sage about Kabbalah, the study of Jewish mysticism, but his work often mirrors Kabbalah’s five worlds, charting man’s quest toward enlightenment, past veils and concealment. The true essence of God has long been hidden, just like the beauty of a woman who Cohen can’t convince to undress. The act of physical creation becomes a gateway to witnessing divine forms, until man sees the light of God, unobscured, in primordial essence.
Cohen’s embrace of counterculture meant he saw value in the capacity of cosmic and psychedelic esotericism to generate a similar sense of infinite meaning in modern life and bring him closer to the divine. For that reason he’s always reminded me of the great countercultural Rabbi, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

Reb Zalman was famous for ushering in the Jewish Renewal movement, which embraced Gaia consciousness to realize that our planet was a living thing. He tripped acid with Tim Leary and advocated psychedelic experimentation as means of bringing one closer to God. It was only then that we could examine the image of a burning bush as the first recorded psychedelic experience in history. Reb Zalman’s studies legitimized the esotericism of Kabbalah for later generations of pop stars and yoga moms to swallow later, in diluted forms.

There’s a story that Remnick recounts with Cohen, toward the end of Cohen’s ’72 world tour, where he leaves the stage in Israel after the show isn’t going well, and is resurrected through an improvised acid trip. Ira Nadel’s Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen    also captures the moment beautifully, where the psychedelic indulgence doesn’t separate Cohen from the reality at hand, but somehow brings him closer to it.

“The pressure of performing the final concert of the tour in the holy city of Jerusalem had contributed to his state,” writes Nadel. “In the dressing room, a distraught Cohen rejected the pleas of his musicians and manager to return to the stage. Several Israeli promoters, overhearing the conversation, walked out to the crowd and conveyed the news: Cohen would not be performing and they would receive their money back. The young audience responded by singing the Hebrew song, [“Hevenu Shalom Aleichem”]. Backstage, Cohen suddenly decided he needed a shave; rummaging in his guitar case for his razor, he spied an envelope with some acid from years ago. He turned to his band and inquired: ‘Should we not try some?’ ‘Why not?’ they answered.

“And ‘like the Eucharist,’ Cohen has said, ‘I ripped open the envelope and handed out small portions to each band member.’ A quick shave, a cigarette, and then out to the stage to receive a tumultuous welcome. The LSD took effect as he started to play and he saw the crowd unite into the grand image of ‘the Ancient of Days’ from Daniel’s dream in the Old Testament. This image, ‘the Ancient of Days’ who had witnessed all history, asked him, ‘Is this All, this performing on the stage?’ Deliver or go home was the admonition. At that moment, Cohen had been singing ‘So Long, Marianne’ intensely and a vision of Marianne appeared to him. He began to cry and, to hide his tears, turned to the band—only to discover that they, too, were in tears.”

Consider Cohen’s evoking the eucharist here as one of many examples when his worldliness eclipsed strictly Semitic theologies. While Kabbalah goes back to the middle ages, Cohen’s merging of spirituality and sex seems also to hark back to that time, too, as we see in the cover image of New Skin For An Old Ceremony, which depicts an engraving of two angels about to fuck from the alchemical text Rosarium philosophorum. 

“It is not possible, in my opinion, to appreciate the kabbalistic resonances in Cohen without considering his complex fascination with this fundamental Christological creed,” Elliot Wolfson writes in his New Jerusalem Glowing: Songs and Poems of Leonard Cohen in a Kabbalistic Key. “At the moment, we must focus our lens more narrowly on the impact of the Christian monastic ideal on the blend of eroticism and asceticism that characterizes Cohen’s ever changing, yet distinctly recognizable, spiritual yearning.”

That yearning took many other forms, too, whether up on California’s Mount Baldy as he studied to become a Zen monk, or down with Remnick in his Los Angeles apartment. “To this day, Cohen reads deeply in a multivolume edition of the Zohar, the principal text of Jewish mysticism; the Hebrew Bible; and Buddhist texts,” writes Remnick. “In our conversations, he mentioned the Gnostic Gospels, Lurianic Kabbalah, books of Hindu philosophy, Carl Jung’s Answer to Job, and Gershom Scholem’s biography of Sabbatai Sevi, a self-proclaimed Messiah of the 17th century.”

These are the deeply spiritual recesses of the mind where Cohen reaches across the room, where the table transforms from a mutual place of compromise in “Treaty” to a surface for gambling a few songs later in “Leaving the Table”.

The latter tune is a waltz that plays like “Memories” from Cohen’s Death of a Ladies Man, which went back to an imagined dance in his high school gym had the Nazis won, with Cohen pinning an Iron Cross to his lapel. In that moment of threat, Cohen rises to the challenge of reclamation—”I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl, I said, ‘Look, you don’t know me now, but very soon you will!’ ”

“Leaving the Table” has a similar sense of old-timey schmaltz, signifying another act of reclamation—Cohen’s no longer seeking the mercy of love. He says he’s out of the game, and no longer needs a pardon. He’s danced to the end of love, and still figuring out what comes after.

But there’s joy even in Cohen’s freedom from love’s bondage. If the mind and the body are on one spiritual axis, maybe mercy and judgement are on another.

Cohen’s still lamenting the destruction of that exchange on “Seemed the Better Way”, but that leads right into “Steer Your Way”, when he navigates away from his own dualities and bipolar absolutions, to suggest an optimism in abandoning them. After going past the altar and the mall, he steers past artifacts less tangible: “Steer your heart past the truth that you believed in yesterday, such as fundamental goodness and the wisdom of the Way. Steer your heart, precious heart, past the women whom you bought, year by year, month by month, day by day, thought by thought.”

Maybe it’s a downer to consider that Cohen’s connection to the “wisdom of the Way” has been lost, or maybe he’s liberated by the realization that all his spiritual exercises, all the dog-eared pages to his well-worn tomes, were in pursuit of understanding something far more esoteric than those words—how to make love stay.

The flawless “Master Song” off his first album comes to mind when dwelling on the beauty he’d always seen in possession—”Your Master took you traveling, at least that’s what you said, and now do you come back to bring your prisoner wine and bread?” It’s as if Cohen’s finally woken up to the ugliness of such possession and the tainted legacy it leaves, all these years later, when no amount of beauty can wash the realization away.

“Master Song” encapsulates that gritty side of the ’60s that baby boomers never really talk about all that much, the comedown from enlightenment when the dose wears off and a petty, fleeting insecurity gives way to tremendous jealousy. The woman who he’s brought to the “Master” could equally be a shared lover or a ritual sacrifice. Either way, she’s with the Master now, and her thighs are ruins. But he and the Master are connected, no matter how much Cohen feels betrayed. And to some older lover of hers, Cohen was probably a Master, too.
“There is evidence that the honoree might be privy to the secret of the universe,” writes Robbins, “which, in case you’re wondering, is simply this: everything is connected. Everything. Many, if not most, of the links are difficult to determine. The instrument, the apparatus, the focused ray that can uncover and illuminate those connections is language. And just as a sudden infatuation often will light up a person’s biochemical atmosphere more pyrotechnically than any deep, abiding attachment, so an unlikely, unexpected burst of linguistic imagination will usually reveal greater truths than the most exacting scholarship.”

Maybe Cohen’s true lover has always been language, whether the words be illuminated by past masters or written in his own hand. Now, free from the bondage of love, he can finally see his words for what they are—memories of the flesh and prophecies of the spirit.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby yopietro » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:21 pm

The article above is an excellent piece (save the author's fundamental mischaracterization of "Memories" as a 'what if the Nazis had won' hypothetical dance).
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Joy versus pain: Adam Cohen on working with father Leonard

Postby Gurinder » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:01 am

Here is the link to an interview with Adam on CBC's q radio show with Tom Power. ... -1.3818479
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby Bennyboy » Wed Oct 26, 2016 10:02 am

Not sure if this has been posted before, but here's KCRW's broadcast of the press release - interesting in that we get Leonard reciting his short piece about the hummingbird which was referenced in the New Yorker article. ... nard-cohen

And the full unedited version of the interview is here: ... ate-101316
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby mutti » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:28 pm

Interview by Pico Iyer from the Walrus

How the Light Goes Out
Is Leonard Cohen’s new album his last will and testament?

It’s probably not advisable to listen to Leonard Cohen’s newest, and possibly final, album alone in a cabin in the darkness of the Alberta woods after nightfall. And yet, as Cohen might protest, I had no choice. You Want it Darker, as the set of nine songs is entitled, could probably make the brightest soul feel as if he or she is in a tiny cell as the light goes out, hearing the firing squad assemble in the corridor. The man who began his life singing constantly of travelling and “passing through” has come to rest, it seems, in absolute stillness.

Nearly all of Cohen’s songs over the past ten years—dark and grave at the best of times, and ever more elegiac—have been about death. It’s a death he spent five and a half years preparing for while living as a monk in the Mount Baldy Zen Center, near Los Angeles, in his sixties, and a death that acquired a metaphorical dimension when he came down from the mountain to find that a friend had defrauded him of his life’s savings, rendering him all but bankrupt. Long taken with the unexpected—especially when it comes to outliving death notices—Cohen went on the road again, at seventy-three, and turned into, improbably, one of the world’s most beloved recording artists. His 1984 hymn, “Hallelujah,” become the fastest downloaded single in European history; the album he released in 2012 at the age of seventy-seven, called, with scrupulous lack of drama Old Ideas, soared to the top of the charts in seventeen countries.

Yet even that wintry requiem, which began with a song called “Going Home” (about a home that is clearly in the hereafter), and even the more public album he released when he was eighty, Popular Problems, may not have prepared his following for his new one. The title song sounds very much as if it’s addressed to God, and very quickly the singer more or less announces his own death. Cohen’s has always been a world defined by judgment—punishment and sentencing and “sin”—but that has never meant that he believes in justice. At the end of his days, he intones, “I’m ready, my Lord,” but with little expectation, one feels, of that Lord being merciful or kind.
While Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan have wandered through any number of musical forms and philosophies, Cohen stands his ground, delivering his lines like the last man on a sinking ship.

In Popular Problems, two years ago, the singer—grandson and great-grandson of the head of his boyhood synagogue in Montreal—kept shuttling back and forth, always in motion, between the observant Judaism he has never relinquished and the Zen practice of slashing through belief in anything, Zen practice included. Here, such maneuvers seem almost immaterial. It hardly matters if there’s a God or not in the face of a pain “that is far more real than you.” The gulf between the final song on his previous record—an upbeat reminder that “You Got Me Singing” (even though the news was bad)—and the first, title song on You Want It Darker, in which Cohen seems to be singing Kaddish for himself, is abject.

Cohen’s readiness to take on ultimate issues from every angle—in his first recorded song, “Suzanne,” the observant Jewish seeker was already invoking Jesus as his model—has long made him a kind of renegade theologian. And his great gift as a poet is to write with fierce lucidity about mystery. Here, by the third song, he’s crooning, “When I turned my back on the devil, I turned my back on the angel, too.”

It’s a nice idea—that darkness is a non-negotiable part of the package—but it’s also a sobering line, coming from one who, in his earliest songs, was kept from the angels by a woman rather than by religious observances. In his desolating valedictory on the new record, “Steer Your Way,” he urges us to look through the “fable of Creation and the Fall,” to go past “the truth that you believed in yesterday/ Such as fundamental goodness and the Wisdom of the Way.” The fact that the final, almost instrumental piece on the record echoes musically his celebrated song, “Anthem,” about “how the light gets in,” only reminds us that this threnody is about how the light seeps out. All doors are sealed.

The last time I visited Cohen, in his bare home in a neglected part of Los Angeles, he told me that in old age “they” take away your ability to drink, to smoke, to make love, until all you can do is work; the new record, produced while he was fighting off excruciating back pain, along with other afflictions, feels like his final defiant challenge to the universe. When he calls out “Hineni” in the opening song—Abraham’s words to God, “Here I am”—the cry has a barely contained militancy. Perhaps only Cohen would begin a record with a heavenly choir and then assure us that the temple is empty, as are the heavens themselves.

Part of cohen’s power has always, of course, derived from the fact that the “I” in his songs is rooted and precise—it’s hard not to feel he’s laying his soul bare—even as the “you” that features in most of his intimate confessions is all encompassing. In the classical tradition embodied by John Donne and the Bible’s Song of Songs, not to mention Rumi, Cohen’s love songs often sound as if they’re addressed to God. Yet the minute you start reading them as prayers, he’ll throw in a “naked” or “flesh” or “thigh,” so that they tremble like paeans to the power of a goddess, too. On You Want it Darker, however, there’s barely a trace of sensual consolation; where his mumbled croaks are usually sweetened by high-voiced female backup singers, here they’re put in place by an all-male liturgical group from the synagogue. Where most of his songs are flung into an accommodating open space, here it sounds as if they’re cast into a void.

In old age, Cohen indulges in much less wordplay and droll irony than in younger days: the rhymes in his quatrains are relatively straightforward, and they proceed along the aisle, accompanied by mournful strings and simple, hypnotic piano, like hymns with explosives attached. You can hear the ghosts of earlier songs in melodies and lyrics—two of the songs reframe his memorable line from the Zen temple, “I don’t trust my inner feelings / Inner feelings come and go” (itself an echo of the line from Psalms, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool”)—and when he growls, “I used to play one mean guitar,” you can’t help but recall his self-mocking line of decades ago about being born with a “golden voice.” To catch echoes of the reeling revelry of his 1992 “Closing Time” on his new album’s final song is to be reminded that that title carries a bitter finality now.

But really this record mostly takes us back to the riddled, naked collection of psalms, Book of Mercy, he published in 1984, at the same time as his indelible songs “Halleuljah” and “If It Be Your Will.” In the past two years or so, Cohen has lost both his longtime Zen teacher and friend, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, and his sister, Esther. The fame he’s won hasn’t seemed to offer much to someone who won the Governor General’s Award almost half a century ago and was announcing the “death of a ladies’ man” in the late 1970s. After the relatively colourful artwork adorning his last two albums—he’d even released a self-portrait from his computer saying, “Happy At Last”—this farewell is stark and monochrome. When he sings, “I guess I’m just somebody who/has given up on the me-and-you,” he’s saying goodbye not just to dualisms, but to every last trace of romance or physical solace.

Cohen’s gift, for forty years now, has come with reporting for duty, in the face of very real life, even though he knows the odds are stacked and there’s no beating the house. His protestations of obedience are given steel by a sense of furious willpower and determination. While his peers, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, have wandered through any number of musical forms and philosophies respectively, Cohen stands his ground, delivering his lines like the last man on a sinking ship. He’s still capable of wit—“I was fighting with temptation, but I didn’t want to win”—and he still takes pains to spurn every orthodoxy and New Age cliché. The references to “dealing” and “killing the flame” that greet us on You Want it Darker’s opening song were all over his first album, forty-nine years ago. But his ferocious commitment to an Old Testament order has him wrestling with the angel until his very last breath. The man who told me, more than twenty years ago, that he didn’t want to be performing at eighty, “the oldest folk-singer around,” has now produced six albums since he turned sixty-seven.

If this is indeed the record on which Cohen goes out, as they say, it will be a fitting testament and capstone to a remarkable career. So many of our great writers, from Philip Roth to Derek Walcott, are, understandably, composing elegies and retrospectives as they near the end, but few settle for as little sentiment or reassurance as Cohen. It feels as if he’s made his way past all justifications and rationales. “I don’t need a reason for what I became,” he sings here, “I’ve got these excuses, they’re tired and lame.” He’s not buying into any drama of the self or its conflicts—“I struggled with some demons / They were middle-class and tame”—and he’s not asking for any favors. As so often, the portrait he uses on the cover could hardly be less flattering; this record, produced by his son, Adam, was largely put together, as usual, in his living-room and backyard.

There are all kinds of secrets tucked into the folds of the songs—notice how the Jewish cantor’s solo sounds startlingly similar to that of a Syrian woman on Cohen’s last record, listen to the particular posthumousness with which Cohen delivers the actual word “death” on “It Seemed the Better Way.” He hasn’t lost his gift for harrowing and uplifting us in the same breath. But on this outing, the man who specializes in intimacy feels as if he’s on very close terms with oblivion.

To conclude the record, the impenitent stranger from Montreal brings on strings to play an instrumental reprise of the second song on the album, “Treaty.” At the very end, Cohen’s voice appears, unexpectedly, again to express a final hopeless wish—and a last-gasp adieu to both water and wine. The man whose first album had one song called “So Long, Marianne,” and another called “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” said a final so long to Marianne Ihlen, his much-hymned lover, in a rending letter three months ago. Now he’s found a way to say goodbye to everyone and everything—especially, perhaps, to whatever he might be tempted to kneel before.

Pico Iyer has written for Harper’s, Time, and The New York Review of Books.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby Goldin » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:48 pm

Bennyboy wrote:And the full unedited version of the interview is here: ... ate-101316
Thanks so much for sharing!
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby Goldin » Thu Oct 27, 2016 6:16 pm

You Want It Darker press conference - 4 ... 142649644/
In this video, Leonard Cohen discusses his family.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby jarkko » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:45 pm

Here is the complete transcription of the interview with Leonard and other key persons at the Release Event in Los Angeles on October 13:
(It's a 18 page pdf file)
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Postby MarieM » Fri Oct 28, 2016 10:16 am

Hard to call this a review of the new album. More like a thank you. ... nard-cohen

Tablet Magazine

All We Need Is Love—and Leonard Cohen

At 82, the prophet releases another profound and beautiful chapter in his manual for living with defeat
By Liel Leibovitz
October 28, 2016

What does a man do? bears and dares;
and how does a little boy fare? He fares.
(“Mr. Pou & The Alphabet,” John Berryman)

I’m turning 40 in a few weeks. I wasn’t expecting it. Like most of us, I’ve spent a lifetime learning a vocabulary fit to describe only the thrusts and pleasures of youth. I have many words for hope. I have odes to future plans. And I have faith. But don’t ask me about my right knee—it creaks now like the floor of an old hotel—or about the dread I feel each night, watching my children sleep and knowing that I can’t protect them, not from everything, not forever. I’ve lived a hard and sobering life, but my failures still confound me, and, on certain cold nights, so do my desires. And my heart breaks too easily these days, weighed down by the darkness that creeps in from every crack in the culture. I don’t know the words to describe the path forward, mine and ours. Thank God my rabbi, Leonard Cohen, does.

He released a new album last week, his 14th. I won’t bother searching for the right adjectives to describe it; that would be dumb, like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the tallest mountain. It’s Cohen’s line, delivered in response to the news that his contemporary, Dylan, had just won the Nobel Prize. But Cohen could’ve easily been talking about himself: His new album is majestic, but its beauty gains nothing from description. Like a mountain, it is immediately and completely evident, inscrutable and inescapable. Like a mountain, it prompts a reckoning.

Which is not to suggest that the album is ominous. Its title may be You Want It Darker, but darkness has always found Cohen ambivalent; he may appreciate the purity of despair, but it has never been his drug. Unlike Dylan—for whom it’s never dark yet but always getting there—Cohen sees more layers to the night. His songbook is a manual for living with defeat, and its force has never been as moving or as clear as it is in the nine songs that make up his latest release.

Consider the following, from “Steer Your Way”:

Steer your path through the pain
that is far more real than you
That has smashed the Cosmic Model,
that has blinded every View
And please don’t make me go there,
though there be a God or not
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

It’s about as elegant an expression of Jewish theology as we have ever received. In its infancy—as the late Rabbi Alan Lew notes in his wonderful book This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, a title of which Cohen, I imagine, would approve—the old religion had a rosy-eyed view of the world. Four things, the Babylonian Talmud teaches us, “will cause God to tear up the decree of judgment which has been issued against a person: acts of righteousness, fervent prayer, changing one’s name, and changing one’s behavior.” But if you’ve lived as long as Cohen has—he’s 82 now, just a kid with a crazy dream—you know that prayer and good deeds and all kinds of change aren’t enough and that sometimes the righteous, whatever their name may be, are struck down and suffer and die. Judaism realized this, too, eventually, which is why the liturgy came to offer an amended view of fate. The Unetaneh Tokef prayer, for example, which Cohen had translated into a transcendent song, tells us that “Teshuvah, prayer, and righteous deeds can transform the evil of the decree.”

Not, mind you, change it, let alone tear it up: Just transform it. Our best efforts at repentance and rebirth, Rabbi Lew wisely noted, “will not change what happens to us; rather, they will change us.” That is the essence—of Judaism, of growing older with grace, and of Cohen’s new album, an essential guide to both; it’s going to get darker, it always does, but that’s all the more reason to try harder, not an invitation to surrender.

There’s fight in every one of Cohen’s new songs, illuminated by the wisdom of his years but powered by a lust for life that is rare even in artists who are decades younger. “I was fighting with temptation / But I didn’t want to win,” he sings with an almost audible wink, “A man like me don’t like to see / Temptation caving in.” It’s an invigorating sentiment, reminding us that even our most glaring flaws are not without their secret joys, and that our missteps, too, eventually take us to where we need to be. We may love and lose, we may try and we may stumble, but we feel, and the more we do the more alive we are even as we slouch toward the great eternal rest. “I heard the snake was baffled by his sin,” he muses in one of the album’s finest expressions of this profound idea, “He shed his scales to find the snake within / but born again is born without a skin / The poison enters into everything.” Teshuvah, or return—to righteousness, to our true selves, to those we love—is often difficult, sometimes deadly, always essential. There’s simply no other way.

I have no idea if the Lord of Song consults the Hebrew calendar, but it can hardly be a coincidence that Cohen’s album was released during Sukkot, our most Cohenesque of holidays. Immediately following the Day of Judgment and the Day of Atonement, Sukkot instructs us in ritual, as Cohen does us in song, to rejoice in brokenness. We are commanded to leave our comfortable homes—a subtle reminder that they’re not as stable and sheltering as we’d like to think—and instead eat and sleep in a ramshackle structure that’s nothing if not a monument to impermanence. Having spent the Days of Awe in meditation and prayer, we begin the year with a physical reminder that all must and does pass, and that the best we can do with the time we are given is to knock down our walls and open our doors and our hearts.

It’s a radical notion for a culture like ours, so solipsistic and so sophomorically obsessed with unequivocal triumphs. But Cohen has always been there for us, our singing prophet, reminding us to bear and dare, asking us to steer our hearts not to higher ground, to some more perfect ideal, or even to God, but back into ourselves, and into the hearts of others, no matter how painful it may be. Like a magical mantra, his wisdom grows more powerful with each repetition, pulling us away from our distractions and into its light. With this perfect new album we may begin to transcend: All we need is love—and Leonard Cohen.
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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Postby Roy » Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:44 am

Weekend Rock Question: What Is the Best Leonard Cohen Album?
Cast your vote in our weekly poll ... um-w447321


Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in London in 1974. Michael Putland/Getty

Leonard Cohen's new album You Want It Darker landed on shelves this week. Produced by his son Adam, it's Cohen's 14th studio LP, going all the way back to 1967's Songs of Leonard Cohen. Early reviews have been very strong, though the 82 year old is unlikely to promote it with any sort of live activity due to back problems that have greatly limited his mobility.

Now we have a question for you: What is Leonard Cohen's best album? Feel free to vote for an old school favorite like Songs From a Room and New Skin for the Old Ceremony, something from his 1980s comeback like Various Positions and I'm Your Man or a more recent work like Old Ideas and Popular Problems. You can even pick his polarizing Phil Spector-produced disc Death of a Ladies' Man. Just please only vote once and just for a single album.

You can vote here in the comments, on or on Twitter using the hashtag #WeekendRock.
Last edited by Roy on Thu Nov 03, 2016 5:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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