Saturday, October 22, 2016

Leonard Cohen Radio Special & Show # 636

Montreal singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen initially started out his career as a poet and novelist. He released several books of poetry and novels, his first being Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956 prior to being known as a musician. Although he had always loved and became involved in poetry, Cohen played guitar and was even in a country and western band called the Buckskin Boys in his youth. In 1967, Cohen moved to the US in order to pursue a career as a folk singer due to his lack of financial success as a writer. He became involved with the Andy Warhol factory crowd. His song “Suzanne” was the song that started him on the course to be a musical artist in a more serious capacity. Judy Collins covered this song and it became a hit for her. This brought Cohen to the attention of John Hammond, who initially was going to produce Cohen’s first album for Columbia Records, but when got sick during the recording sessions, Hammond was replaced by John Simon to produce the record. Songs Of Leonard Cohen was released in December of 1967.

Songs Of Leonard Cohen contained songs such as “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”, “Master Song”, “Sisters Of Mercy” and “So Long, Marianne”, Cohen’s next album Songs From A Room featured a slightly different approach. Released in 1969, this album would feature one of his best-known songs “Bird On A Wire”. The song was inspired by his time living in Hydra, in Greece. At the time he was living there, telephone poles were being installed for the first time there and birds would sit on the lines. This is part of what inspired the music to this song. It was also inspired, along with a few other songs such as “So Long, Marianne”, by his Marianne Ihlen, Cohen’s girlfriend while living in Greece and his muse. The version of this song that appears on 1969’s Songs From A Room features a simple production style and does not feature drums. The songs on this album are notable for their simple production style, which differed from the recordings of Bob Dylan, who had also been produced by Bob Johnston. In 1971, Johnston once again produced Cohen for his album, Songs Of Love & Hate. This album was grittier, lyrically and musically and featured compositions such as “Avalanche”, “Joan Of Arc”, “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the dirty rock oriented track “Diamonds In The Mine”.

Leonard Cohen continued to record albums and even write poetry. In 1984 he released Various Positions. Initially declared as not good enough by his record company, Various Positions would contain not only one of Cohen’s most famous compositions, but a song that has been covered by too many artists to name. That song was “Hallelujah”. He worked with Phil Spector on 1977’s Death Of A Ladies Man and in 1988, he released the synth rock oriented album I’m Your Man. Leonard Cohen returned to the live stage after not performing for many years in 2010. Live and studio albums followed. In October of 2016, at the age of 82 Leonard Cohen released You Want It Darker. An album produced with his son Adam Cohen.

Cohen’s songs resonate with people on a different level in a similar way that the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan do. The comparisons between Cohen is something that does come up often, but their music stands on their own as both separate and unique in their own ways. Leonard Cohen’s songs have been said to focus on themes of sadness. Dylan himself in a recent New Yorker article said that he sees “No disenchantment in his songs” and while there are definitely elements of the macabre found in Cohen’s lyrics that is not all that is there in the music. There is much more than that. Like a story that can be re-read and new details found, Cohen’s music is much more than music that focuses on sadness. Other subjects that often pop up in Cohen’s lyrics are religion, sexuality, isolation and politics among other things. The lyrics feature layers that demand repeat listens, and this is something that has stayed constant in all of Cohen’s albums, regardless of when they were released.

For this episode of Revolution Rock, along with my co-host Adam, we did a program that featured the music of Leonard Cohen. One song is played from each of his studio albums, some live recordings and other nuggets. We also expand on many of the themes in the above article and elaborate more on certain elements of Leonard Cohen’s music. You can download/listen to this episode in the link below the playlist.

Leonard Cohen Playlist:

1. Leonard Cohen - Thousands (Book Of Longing - 2006)
2. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (You Want It Darker - 2016)
3. Leonard Cohen - Story Of Isaac (Songs From A Room - 1969)
4. Leonard Cohen - There Is A War (New Skin For The Old Ceremony - 1974)
5. Leonard Cohen - Blessed Is The Memory (Songs Of Leonard Cohen Outtake - 1967/2007)
6. Leonard Cohen - Memories (Death Of A Ladies Man - 1977)
7. Leonard Cohen - Diamonds In The Mine (Songs Of Love & Hate - 1971)
8. Leonard Cohen - Dance Me To The End Of Love (Various Positions - 1984)
9. Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows (I'm Your Man - 1988)
10. Leonard Cohen - There For You (Dear Heather - 2004)
11. Leonard Cohen - Slow (Popular Problems - 2014)
12. Leonard Cohen - Different Sides (Old Ideas - 2012)
13. Leonard Cohen - The Future (The Future - 1992)
14. Leonard Cohen - That Don't Make It Junk (Ten New Songs - 2001)
15. Leonard Cohen - The Guests (Recent Songs - 1979)
16. Leonard Cohen - Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye (Songs Of Leonard Cohen - 1967)
17. Leonard Cohen - Bird On A Wire (Live 1968) (Live At The BBC 1968)
18. Leonard Cohen - Red River Valley (Live 1979) (The Other Leonard Cohen Album - 2010)
19. Leonard Cohen - Fingerprints (Death Of A Ladies Man - 1977)
20. Leonard Cohen - Who By Fire (New Skin For The Old Ceremony - 1974)
21. Leonard Cohen - Travelling Light (You Want It Darker - 2016)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 22.

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