on July 3, 2003
The first album of Leonard Cohen is his best. Moody, mysterious, dark, romantic, and spooky. Yes, spooky. Songs of Leonard Cohen are all of these and more. His deep nasal voice mixed with John Simon's light soundscapes is timeless. This is truly a classic recording that should be owned by any fan of music. This is not simply folk music. It is excellent poetry, beautifully arranged instrumentation, and simply haunting music.
What really draws me into Cohen's music is the way he uses biblical imagery to tell interesting stories. "Just some Joseph looking for a manger...", "And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water..." As a Christian, I found this very intriguing, especially how his songs may or may not have anything to do with these references at all.
I have listened to other Cohen recordings, but this is Leonard in his purest form. This is not music to work out to, but if you are in the mood to relax or listen to something light that makes you think, this would be one of the top ten albums in that category.
on December 6, 2001
Leonard Cohen had always been nervous about entering the music business. He had been composing songs long before he started his career as a novelist and poet but his dry, croaky voice and gloomy songwriting style always led him to believe there would be little market his work in the Chuck Berry-based world of popular music in the nineteen-fifties and early sixties. That changed when Bob Dylan and the folk-rock movement of the mid-sixties proved that stark production, an unspectacular voice, a sole and somber acoustic guitar and a set of seriously inspired and graceful verses could muster magic and find a fanbase. When July Collins scored a hit with Cohen's song, "Suzanne" in 1966, the writer finally decided to try his hand at recording his debut album.
The first take on Cohen's distinct musical vision was an excellent one. Cohen muses about the gentle beauty of love ("Sisters of Mercy," "Suzanne") and the warm safety of illusion ("The Stranger Song," "Winter Lady") and howls at the desolation of betrayal, loneliness and loss ("Stories of the Street," "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong," "So Long Marianne"). The listener always feels as if he or she is with the artist and his cast of abused and abusive lovers, walking through their gray, wintery world. The utter iciness of Songs of Leonard Cohen can become a bit tedious but the fine story telling, shocking intimacy and levels of lyrical cleverness and elegance virtually unknown to Cohen's folk rock peers ("I loved you in the morning/Our kisses deep and warm/Your hair upon the pillow/Like a sleepy golden storm/Yes many loved before us/I know that we are not new/In city and in forest they smiled like me and you/But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie/Your eyes are soft with sorrow/Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.") nicely save it.
Despite its merit, Songs of Leonard Cohen did not bring Cohen a sizable audience or a significant standing in the folk rock world (There was not yet a sect of that flowery, sentimental world for work as dark as Cohen's). It did, however, provide him a small, cult audience for whom he could comfortably record follow-ups to Songs of Leonard Cohen. But the singer would, to this day, remain a lone wolf. The talent, skill and originality that would always set this shadowy, sullen figure apart and above the typical folky was already in full bloom on his stunning debut.
on July 8, 1999
Leonard Cohen achieves a creative peak with this album. Songs like "Suzanne," "Winter Lady" and "The Master Song" are beautiful because they are heart felt and perceptive, but also because they are desolate, lonely and haunting.
"Suzanne" is very famous by now, everyone who has ever heard of Cohen immediately identifies him by this song. It is a haunting song, his comments about Jesus are daring and very visual. Immediately one is drawn into this cosmic romance the speaker is experiencing and the figure of Suzanne is mysterious and ethereal, a guide of some sort, probably not of this world. One could go on and on about this song, there is a great deal worth analyzing and explicating, but it is that initial impression and feeling one has when hearing the song that is worth remembering.
I find that this album is fairly uneven, the first five songs greatly outshine the remaining five. One becomes very expectant when hearing Cohen's first five offerings, so it is easy to be disappointed. I feel that one should purchase this album due to the merits of those first songs alone. They truly are extraordinary and stand apart in both pop and folk songwriting circles. Cohen's writing is masterful.
on November 6, 2000
i first heard of cohen when he was referenced by kurt cobain. after checking him out i bought this album. i was taken away. this album is extrordinary. escpecially lyrically. let me just say that it got only a four because a) people are too generous with 5's and b) the middle 3 songs don t match up to the rest. that being said this album is great. lyrically few songs ever rival it. how many artist today can write songs with complex rhyme schemes and intangible metaphors. his voice is also moving. favorit tracks include 'master song' 'stories of the street' 'stranger song' and the final 'hey. one of us cannot be wrong' this album is a must for any song writer, lover of truly good music, one who enjoys poetry, or any essential colleciton.