Record Collector, Issue 487, Christmas 2018:
The complete article and list of 70 landmark albums is online at https://recordcollectormag.com/articles ... t-70-yearsTHE 70 LANDMARK ALBUMS OF THE LAST 70 YEARS
In 2018, the long-player turned 70. An opportune moment, then, for RC to pick the 70 key albums of the last 70 years – one per year; one per artist.
Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker (Columbia 88985365071, Europe) £15
Even in a year marked by the loss of so many music legends, Leonard Cohen’s death in November 2016 felt like the extinguishing of a towering, singular flame. But like David Bowie before him, the poet laureate of romantic desolation bowed out after a blazing autumnal resurgence, anticipating his own imminent demise on this sublime final album. Released just weeks before Cohen’s death at 82, You Want It Darker completed a glorious third-act comeback of chart-topping albums and arena-filling live shows. Forced out of semi-retirement by financial necessity, he played almost 400 marathon concerts over five years, which earned him rapturous reviews and unprecedented riches but left him with painful spine problems. He recorded the half-spoken, liturgical vocals for this hymnal swansong at his Hollywood home, with musical collaborators adding skeletally sparse arrangements later.
Brimming with Biblical imagery and bone-dry wit, these nine pared-down tracks ruminate on past obsessions from the high vantage point of old age. Leaving The Table likens failing sexual powers to a played-out game of poker, and Treaty sifts for glowing embers of reconciliation in the ashes of a long-spent love. But the Grammy-winning title track is the real masterpiece here, Cohen weighing up a lifetime of spiritual and romantic questing in his sardonic sandpaper rasp, invoking Hebrew prayer with the haunting refrain: “Hineni, hineni /I’m ready, my lord.” Like Bowie before him, the Zen Master of song composed the soundtrack to his own death and died, as he lived, with enormous grace and humility. You Want It Darker was his Blackstar, his self-engraved headstone, his last hallelujah. SD