Leonard Cohen anyone? You bet.

Leonard Cohen anyone? You bet.

This post has taken some time to develop. I have been immersing myself in Cohen’s music for about three weeks. Of course, I do not miss Nadia Sirota’s new gig at WQXR’s Q2; Dan Buskirk and Will Constantine spinning Jazz at WPRB; or Marvin Rosen’s “Classical Discoveries” and “Classical Discoveries Goes Avantgarde”, also at WPRB. But, beyond these, it has been pretty much Leonard Cohen steadily.

The genesis of this post was the NPR presentation of the 2009 Leonard Cohen concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Unfortunately, NPR has not renewed the rights to keep the audio of this concert available in their archives.

As an aside, I believe that NPR is not nearly proactive enough in keeping some archival material available. I wanted to begin listening to the NPR archives of the stellar Marian McPartland “Piano Jazz” series. I found that some of what I most wanted to hear was no longer available. I believe that this is short sighted on the part of NPR.

But, the text article about Leonard Cohen is still available at NPR and it is worth reading. There is also a very good article about Leonard Cohen in Wikipedia. I am not going to repeat what is there. For anyone seriously interested, I recommend this well constructed biography.

All I really knew of Leonard Cohen was his song “Suzanne”, on the 1968 album “The Songs of Leonard Cohen”. But listening to the concert on NPR stimulated my interest. Cohen was 74 years old at the time of this concert. His voice, deepened with age, is actually more interesting than what we hear on the early albums, from 1968 through 1979. The early voice is sweet, winsome, and somewhat fragile. There is greater depth beginning with the 1985 album “Various Positions”.

Also, when one listens down through the early albums, the songs begin to take on a sameness that can get boring. Part of this might be Cohen’s parallel career as a writer of poetry and fiction. Sometimes, a wordsmith can fall in love with his own creations. Often, what works as a poem does not work in a song.

Somewhere, I cannot any longer find it, Cohen was described as a reaction to the Beatles’ amped up musical productions. I see him as rather a sort of reaction to Bob Dylan. Both Cohen and Dylan are first and foremost lyricists. Where Dylan’s lyrics are topical, political and complex, Cohen’s are personal, deeply emotional and quite simple.

Cohen is often placed in the genre of folk music. I do not think that this does him justice. I see him as a singer-songwriter, a troubadour. Cohen writes about the whole spectrum of human emotion, love, hate, sadness, loss, depression, the end of life.

As Cohen recorded more material in his career, more instrumentation replaced the solo performances as I show below my present collection. I think that my collection is close to complete.

After the NPR concert, my next experience was with the 2008 “Live in London” concert. The video was presented at some point on PBS. I caught a late night repeat by New Jersey Network. Of course, this presentation is not anywhere close to the complete concert. I now own the complete 2’36” concert. The PBS presentation was 1’30”, and some of that was taken up with pitching.

A second aside: PBS stations are constantly hauling out musical concerts at pledge time. They tell us they are the place for us to come for this music, that they support this music, egad, they are insufferable. They practically never give us a complete concert. They want us to join and give them gobs of money and in return they will send us the CD’s, the DVD, a combo package, whatever. In this case, here is part of what NJN offered: The DVD of the concert for US$70.00. The two-disc CD set for US$90.00. Now, really, what would you want? They both contain the identical 26 songs. More to the point, you can buy the DVD for US$18.93, and the two-disc CD set for US$13.99. You can buy the .mp3 album of both CD’s for US$14.99, so NJN could have bought the materials at Amazon and used them for fulfillment and still turned a tidy profit.

I do not mean to pick on little NJN. They are just this most recent case and involved in the music and the artist which and who are the subject here. WLIW, and its parent WNET, much larger than NJN, are just as guilty of this, sorry, just my opinion, this scam.

I heartily recommend the music of Leonard Cohen. And, I recommend all of it. The way I do this is to get the music in .mp3 and put it on my Zune. I chronologize the music by placing the year of issue ahead of the title of the album. Then, I listen down through a cycle on my exercise walks, plane trips, visits to the dentist, wherever. Regarding the “Live in London” concert, I recommend both the DVD and the album in .mp3. The band, shown below, is really worth watching, especially Javier Mas on a series of twelve-string acoustic instruments.

Here is my collection, complete with personnel:
1968 The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Solo performance

1968 Songs From a Room

Leonard Cohen, Ron Cornelius guitar, Bubba Fowler bass, banjo, violin, guitar, Charlie Daniels bass, violin, accoustic guitar, Bob Johnston keyboards

1971 Songs of Love and Hate

Leonard Cohen (vocals, acoustic guitar);Ron Cornelius (acoustic guitar, electric guitar);Bubba Fowler (acoustic guitar, banjo, bass instrument);Charlie Daniels (acoustic guitar, fiddle, bass instrument);Bob Johnston (piano);Carolyn Hanney, Susan Mussmano (background vocals).

1973 Live Songs

Leonard Cohen, Jennifer Warren, Charlie Daniels and unnamed others

1974 New Skin for the Old Ceremony

Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, harp, Jew’s harp);Leonard Cohen (acoustic guitar);John Lissauer (vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, background vocals);Emily Bindiger, Janis Ian (vocals, background vocals);Erin Dickins, Gail Kantor, Gail Kantor (vocals);Jeff Layton (guitar, banjo, mandolin, trumpet);Ralph Gibson, Ralph Gibson (guitar);Gerald Chamberlain, Gerald Chamberlain (trombone);John Miller , Don Paune bass.

1977 Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Leonard Cohen (vocals); Clydie King, Gerald Garrett, Oma Drake, Julia Tillman Waters, Billy Diez, Lorna Willard, Ronee Blakley, Venetta Fields, Bob Dylan, Brenda Bryant (vocals, background vocals); Sneaky Pete Kleinow (guitar, slide guitar); Dan Kessel (guitar, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, background vocals); Phil Spector (guitar, keyboards, background vocals); David Kessel (guitar, background vocals); Art Munson, Art Blaine, David Isaac, Jesse Ed Davis , Ray Pohlman (guitar); Al Perkins (slide guitar); Bobby Bruce (violin, fiddle); Don Menza, Steve Douglas (flute, saxophone, wind); Jay Migliori (saxophone); Conte Candoli (trumpet); Jack Redman, Charles Loper, Jack Redmond (trombone); Don Randi, Michael Lang , Mike Lang, Mike Long, Pete Jolly, Tom Hensley, Barry Goldberg , Bill Mays (keyboards); Devra Robitaille, Bob Robitaille (synthesizer); Terry Gibbs (vibraphone, percussion); Ray Neapolitan (upright bass, electric bass); Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner (drums); Emil Radocchia, Gene Estes, Robert Zimmitti (percussion); Sherlie Matthews, Gerry Garrett, Allen Ginsberg, Oren Waters, Bill Thedford, Julia Tillman (background vocals).

1979 Recent Songs

Leonard Cohen (vocals); Julia Tillman Waters, Roger St Kennerly, Jennifer Warnes, Jim Gilstrap, Maxine Willard Waters, Stephanie Spruill (vocals); Ricardo Gonzalez, Everado Sandoval, John Bilezikjian, Mitch Watkins (guitar); Earl Dumler (oboe); Paul Ostermayer (saxophone); Jose Perez, Pablo Sandoval (trumpet); Garth Hudson, John Lissauer, Randy Waldman, Bill Ginn (keyboards); Steve Meador (drums).

1985 Various Positions

Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar); Jennifer Warnes (vocals); Sid McGinnis (guitar); Kenneth Kosek (fiddle); Ron Getman (harmonica, background vocals); John Lissauer (piano, keyboards, background vocals); John Crowder (bass, background vocals); Richard Crooks (drums); Lani Groves, Erin Dickins, Merle Miller, Yvonne Lewis, Anjani Thomas, Crissie Faith (background vocals).

1988 I’m Your Man

Leonard Cohen (vocals, arranger, various instruments); Anjani, Jennifer Warnes, Evelyine Hebey, Mayel Assouly, Elisabeth Valletti, Jude Johnstone (vocals); Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Jeff Fisher (arrangers, various instruments); Michel Robidoux (arranger, keyboards, drums); Roscoe Beck (arranger); Bob Stanley (guitar); Sneaky Pete Kleinow (steel guitar); John Bilezikjian (oud); Raffi Hakopian (violin); Richard Baudet (saxophone); Larry Cohen (keyboards); Peter Kisilenko (bass); Vinnie Colaiuta, Tom Brechtlein (drums); Lenny Castro (percussion).

1992 The Future

Leonard Cohen (vocals); Dean Parks (guitar, mandolin); Bob Metzger (guitar, bass); Paul Jackson Jr., Dennis Herring (guitar); Bob Furgo (violin); Brandon Fields, Lon Price (tenor saxophone); Greg Smith (baritone saxophone); Lee R. Thronburg (trumpet, trombone); Steve Lindsey (piano, organ, Mellotron, keyboards); Jim Cox, Greg Phillinganes (piano); Randy Kerber (keyboards, synthesizer); Jeff Fisher (keyboards); Bob Glaub, Lee Sklar (bass); James Gadson, Ed Greene, Steve Meador, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums); Lenny Castro (percussion); Bill Ginn, Steve Croes (programming); Anjani Thomas, Tony Warren, Valerie Pinkston-Mayo, LA Mass Choir, Peggy Blue, Edna Wright, Jean Johnson, Jacquelyn Gouche-Farris, David Morgan (background vocals).

2001 Ten New Songs

Leonard Cohen (vocals); Sharon Robinson (vocals, keyboards, synthesizer, programming); Bob Metzger (guitar).

2004 Dear Heather

Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, Jew’s harp); Leonard Cohen (piano); Sharon Robinson (vocals, various instruments); John Crowder (vocals, bass guitar); Raffi Hakopian, Raffi Hakopian (violin); Paul Ostermayer, Paul Ostermayer (flute); Sarah Kramer, Sarah Kramer (trumpet); Roscoe Beck (bass instrument); Stan Sargeant (bass guitar); Johnny Friday, Johnny Friday (drums); Mitch Watkins (vocals, guitar, electric guitar); Ron Getman (vocals, steel guitar); Anjani Thomas (vocals, piano, background vocals); John Bilezikjian (oud); Garth Hudson (accordion); Bob Sheppard (tenor saxophone); Bill Ginn (piano); Richard Crooks (drums).

2008 Live in London

Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Bob Metzger (guitar, pedal steel guitar); Charley Webb, Charles Webb (guitar, background vocals); Javier Mas (12-string guitar, bandurria, lute, archlute); Javier Más (12-string guitar, bandurria, archlute); Hattie Webb, Hattie Webb (harp, background vocals); Dino Soldo (harmonica, keyboards, wind, background vocals); Neil Larsen (keyboards); Roscoe Beck (upright bass, electric bass, background vocals); Rafael Gayol (drums, percussion); Sharon Robinson (background vocals).

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