The Songs of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen (1968)

Album no. 114/1001

Leonard Cohen was a Canadian poet and novelist who changed careers at 33 when he realised musicians were getting way more girls than him (citation needed).

During the sixties he hung around Warhol’s factory a bit, maybe picking up pointers from The Velvet Underground and Nico.

This is Cohen’s first album, and the recording was a bit weird. He had never really played with other musicians before, and to calm himself down had a full-length mirror brought into the studio so he could look at himself while he played. Whatever works I guess. Aside from writing ‘Hallelujah’, Cohen is arguably best known for the glowing references to him on The Young Ones.

Have you listened to this album before?

NK: Never before.

CL: Negative. Never heard much by old mate Leonard before – other than his ubiquitous ‘Hallelujah’.

NK: This is a weird confession, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard his version of that. I’ve heard John Cale’s version (it’s in Shrek) and Jeff Buckley’s (which was in The OC), but never the original. Sorry Lenny.

Standout track

NK: This is…….pretty much what I was expecting, only not as bad! I’m not crazy about it, but I thought this was going to be a real drag. ‘So Long, Marrianne’ is my pick of the tracks, it’s got a little big more life in it than the rest. ‘Suzanne’ is pretty good as well.

CL: I have to agree with you – both of those tracks are the only ones that go anywhere. There’s so much boring guitar-strumming and monotonous sing/talking I found it difficult to stick with.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

NK: Can you tell he was a poet before he gave songs a go? I think you sort of can, although to be fair the lyrics aren’t any weirder than some of the psychedelic stuff we’ve had.

CL: Ugh. A poet. Of course. I don’t know, this seemed so incredibly self-indulgent. And the music was so boring. If you want to be a poet, just do that! Don’t chuck some second-rate guitar into it.

NK: I thought he was a bit rough on ‘Master Song’ when he said

“I think you’re playing far too rough, for a lady who’s been to the moon”.

If this lady has been to the moon she can play as rough as she likes as far as I’m concerned. Listen to this if you don’t mind minimalist instrumentation and a lot of lyrics.

Why has this album been included on the list?

NK: I am not completely sure. There’s a coherent vision here in terms of how everything sounds. It’s a pretty accomplished first outing, that’s for sure. I would guess this paves the way for the depressed singer-songwriter to make it big? The lyrics are pretty dense, I’ll say that for it. It did get a bit samey, but it’s hardly the first album to have had that issue. I am not sure about this. I expected to hate it and I didn’t, but I still didn’t really like it, and now I’m confused.

CL: I think it’s pretty well-established that I don’t have a big thing for lyrics, so I really thnk this is lost on me. I’d probably have to give it a real good listen again to pay proper attention, but… I don’t really want to.

Will you be listening again?  

NK: I don’t know. From a practical not-having-much-time standpoint, probably not. But I didn’t hate this, and I wonder if I’d like it more if I gave it another go. There are three more of his albums on the list, so I might just make do with them.

CL: Nah. If I want poetry I’ll read it. (Just kidding, I don’t want poetry).

Rating

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to The Songs of Leonard Cohen on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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