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July 22, 2024

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Leonard Cohen
The Essential Leonard Cohen (Columbia)

By: Glenn BurnSilver

Leonard Cohen is one of the greatest songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century, which is why almost no one knows who he is. Cohen songs touch on love, sadness, joy and anguish in a voice that is at once melancholy, dark, cynical and poignant. Cohen got his start during the late sixties folk revival that saw the introduction of such artists as Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot, penning such now-classic numbers as "Suzanne," "Sisters Of Mercy" and "Bird On A Wire." The early seventies saw a shift in Cohen's direction, as the music became more "electric," with timely orchestration and angelic background singers on many numbers, a trademark that can be found throughout his career. "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Chelsea Hotel #2" were the defining moments in this musical turn. Cohen was on the verge of falling off the radar for much of the eighties before reappearing in 1988 with the powerful I'm your Man, which represents 6 of the 31 songs here. Reestablished as a musical force, The Future was Cohen's follow up, another strong album with songs about the end of the world, hope, a sardonic view of what the future holds and an extremely cynical view of big government as it really is. Earlier this year, Cohen's first work in ten years, Ten New Songs, was released. The four songs represented here are light and sparse, yet rich in body and spirit, captured by Cohen's gravelly baritone voice. The Essential Leonard Cohen is a prodigious introduction to a master of timeless music.
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