The Darker Album and the Songs

Leonard Cohen's last studio album (2016)
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Bennyboy » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:55 pm

I like how he sings 'fart by fart' in 'Steer Your Way''
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by jerry » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:24 pm

Bennyboy wrote:I like how he sings 'fart by fart' in 'Steer Your Way''
?????? What?
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Unspoken Words » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:20 pm

Since yesterday on first hearing the full album I am just captivated by how profound an effect it has had on me. The previous two albums I did not entirely warm to (and only listened to a few times) but this one has me totally enraptured. Mark Edwards in his review in the Sunday Times of 23rd October said

'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'.

I am starting to think this way as well. It is certainly up there with the best since 1967 in my opinion which after 49 years is a great testament to Leonard and all involved.

Within the album there are lots of melodies, instrumentation and sounds which sound familiar to others from C20th music (Leaving the Table for example has a Lucinda Williams feel ; Fruits of my Labour, Blue, Right on Time, Are you Alright, Essence etc.,) but this seems to make it more welcome to the soul.

The Treaty is Leonards 'Abide With Me'. Listening to it Abide With Me was also ringing in my head.

This album will resonate for a long time.
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Steer Your Way & The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Post by gretabertella » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:17 am

The other day a friend of mine pointed out the similarity between "as he died to make men holy, let us die to make things cheap" in Steer Your Way and "as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free" in The Battle Hymn of the Republic ( ... e_Republic).
That line in Leonard's song probably sounds quite familiar to every US citizen. Since I am not American, it didn't to me, and I had no idea LC was mocking that very popular song.
I like to share my (actually my friend's) discovery with every person who - like me, lives on the other side of the darkness. I mean, of the ocean.
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Re: Steer Your Way & The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Post by Goldin » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:27 am

Thanks, Gretabertella! - anyway, this was discovered in yet another part of the world, in Asia: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=36631#p359188 :D
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Re: Steer Your Way & The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Post by gretabertella » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:33 am

Ach! I missed that post from the other-other side of the darkn... ocean.
Thanks, Goldin.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by DerekH » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:38 pm

As you can see from my number of previous posts I am a man of few words and am not moved easily to putting my thoughts to paper.I have been a long time follower of Leonard Cohen since 1966 when ‘Suzanne’ was played in a school assembly.
I have all his albums and have seen all his performances that it was physically possible for me to get to. Over the years each album was treated with much anticipation before its release. I absolutely adore ‘Songs of love and hate’ and always have from the first play. Although the albums in the intervening years have been great with individual songs superb ‘You want it darker’ for me is the album LC has always threatened to deliver. I have waited all these years and it has finally arrived and was worth every second I have waited. Truly a masterpiece.
Just when i thought the LC autumn harvest could not get any better it has.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by DBCohen » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:42 pm

I feel obliged to contribute to the discussion of the new album, although it would have been better perhaps to take some more time to reflect on it. I thought I’d comment on the whole album at once, but it seems there is so much to say, so like Joe did - and I really admire his take on the concept of the album and on the first two songs – I shall also deal with it one song at a time. I wish to apologize in advance in case I repeat some things already said by others before. I’ll begin with two general observations.

One of the most outstanding aspects of LC's poetical work all along is that his poems and songs (like most high quality poetry) can be interpreted in more than one way. In the case of this album it is once again clear that each one of the songs can be referring either to an ultimate reality or to a human reality, or simultaneously to both. This seems to be the case with almost every song on this album. “Love” for LC may always have two objects, above and below.

Another point that struck me is the presence of Jesus in the majority of the songs. In the past LC sometimes referred to Jesus by name (as in “Suzanne” and one or two other songs), but in many other cases he relates to him indirectly, through quotations or hints (sometimes deeply concealed, as in “The Window” or “If It Be Your Will”); this is also the case on this album. I wonder why Jesus looms so large for LC at this point in his life. Since he is obviously still strongly connected to his Jewish roots, it seems to me that, as in the past, Jesus is important to him as a figure embodying love, suffering and mercy, transcending any specific religion.

In the first song, “You Want It Darker”, one is struck – as Lightening has observed – with the problem of the “you”; who is he addressing? There seems to be a paradox at the heart of this song: on the one hand there are complaints against him, but on the other, readiness to accept the Lord. Perhaps, as was suggested, there’s more than one “you” here.

“If you are the dealer” – since early on, the motif of gambling appears repeatedly in LC’s work (cards, dice, horses), and in this album it takes central stage in “Leaving The Table”, so I’ll refer to it over there. I’m skipping to the refrain.

“Magnified and sanctified / Be thy Holy Name” – this is a direct translation of the opening words of the Kadish, an important part of the Jewish daily prayer; we referred to it during the Book of Mercy discussion (see BoM 9). “The Name”, of course, was also a central motif in BoM. And by the way, BoM (1984) already included the notions of darkness, old age and failure; see chapters 27, 32 and more. “Dark” and “darkness” appear about 20 times in the book; see for example chapter 46: “Blessed are you who speaks from the darkness”. Here he wants it even “darker”.

“Vilified and crucified / In the human frame” – obviously, an allusion to Jesus.

“A million candles burning / For the help that never came” – this may refer to human suffering generally, but I have a feeling it may refer particularly to the Holocaust (and again a paradox - why didn’t he help? – followed by readiness to accept).

“Hineni” – is usually rendered “here I am” in English translations of the Bible. It first appears in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 22:1, when God calls on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac; it is repeated in verse 11, when the angel stops Abraham from slaughtering his son. In Jewish tradition this was regarded as the absolute expression of faith. This word appears in several other crucial moments, as when God is revealed for the first time to Moses (Exodus 3:4), to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4) and to Isaiah (6:8). So LC is following here a long and particular tradition, reflected also in the use of the synagogue choir and the cantor, which is really inspired.

“There’s a lover in the story” – this verse demonstrates again the duality of possibilities mentioned above.

“They’re lining up the prisoners” – this may refer again to the Holocaust but also to any other case of brutality and injustice. The middle class demons are a typical case of self-depreciation.

So, as in many cases encountered before, one can’t “solve” an LC song easily, and as in life, we must learn to live with a fractured reality. However, those who carefully listen to LC’s voice (or voices) are fortunate to be supplied with a “manual for living with defeat”, as he put it earlier.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Joe Way » Thu Oct 27, 2016 5:44 am

Hi Doron,
Thank you for your thoughts and your kind words about my first thoughts on listening to this autumnal work from Leonard. I agree that Leonard weaves enough mystery into his songs to defy a definitive interpretation of any of his works, but that doesn't mean that we can't suggest directions and images that lead us to possible meanings. I'm glad that you agree to help us try. We can always re-interpret later!

I've always been impressed with Leonard's skillful use of pronouns. I honestly think that someone could write a scholarly paper on his use of them in poems and songs. When he puts "You" into the title of the work and the title song, it does give you pause. Lightening's observation about whether it is a statement or a question is something that really hadn't occurred to me previously.

I know that everyone wants to express their more general impressions about the album as a whole and that this is the thread to do it in. We might want to start a separate thread that discusses the songs in order-much like you did for Book of Mercy that everyone can discuss the individual songs. For myself, I was so excited and had so many, many thoughts that I couldn't resist starting to record them here. Getting a new Cohen album brings back the same feelings to me that Christmas morning did as a child-and getting this album is like getting the gift that you really, really wanted.

So we'll see what other people say. I'm prepared to wait a bit to start this if you feel it is best to take more time to reflect on it.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Judy » Thu Oct 27, 2016 10:22 am

Joe Way wrote: Dancing in the street-Jubilee and celebration, but he also talks about having “sold ourselves for love but now we’re free.” This harks back to Babylon.
Hi Joe, thank you so much for your thoughts but can you please explain the connection with Babylon.
Looking forward to more ...
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Annemieke » Thu Oct 27, 2016 11:30 am

I am enjoying the new album of Leonard Cohen a lot. Me and my boyfriend loved PP so incredibly much (my favourite album of LC) and so I had a lot of hopes.
Through the darkness I sense so much peace of mind. Yes everything is dark and no it doesn't matter. Leonards music always makes me happy. And peaceful. It always makes me disconnect from the nonsense and reach the essence.
Its a pity he will never come for a tour to South Africa. I sometimes imagine this, but I know it isn't possible anymore. Luckily I will have the songs forever.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Annemieke » Thu Oct 27, 2016 11:54 am

Oh I forgot to mention that my favourite songs are Leaving the Table, If I Didn't Have Your Love, Treaty and Steer Your Way.

x A
Last edited by Annemieke on Thu Oct 27, 2016 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Maarten » Thu Oct 27, 2016 12:04 pm

Joe and Doron

Please keep those thoughts on the new album coming! I always enjoy reading your input about lyrics, references to poets and religion. I'm more of a lurker when it comes to analysing new material and not so much a contributor, but that doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it!
By the way: no need to wait with sharing your interpretations until you have covered the entire album: one song at the time is perfect for me! :-)


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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Annemieke » Thu Oct 27, 2016 12:13 pm

Joe Way wrote: Then comes a really important passage “I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be. Only one of us was real and that was me.”

If indeed, he is talking to the “creator” this represents the “doubt” that the whole story isn’t real. Only the narrator is real.
I read this part as that he used to make a ghost of God in his past, with God not actually being real in his mind. And that he now apologises for this.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by DBCohen » Thu Oct 27, 2016 2:55 pm

Thank you Maarten and Joe for your kind words.

Joe, I wonder if it is really necessary to start a new thread; my feeling is that although many people are captivated by the album, it might prove difficult to revive the spirit of the extensive discussion we had back then. The Forum has changed a lot in recent years and many old hands seem to no longer be active on it. Still, I do hope that more people will join in, as I’ve always believed that the more the merrier.
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