25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Suitable Primer
The name Leonard Cohen first came to my attention way back in the day when Suzanne was released. It was a fairly popular and much-covered song, but it never occurred to me to actually buy the album. I was into much musically heavier things at the time and so my awareness of Cohen gradually receded into distant memory.
Nowadays, my musical interests are much wider and...
Published on March 28 2004 by Kurt Harding
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Non-essential Leonard Cohen
I have every album Leonard Cohen ever recorded, and think that he is a brilliant but somewhat uneven composer. This collection should have contained his absolute best material, to introduce non-fans to the full range ofg his talent. Yet, there are several negligible songs included here, while some of his best known and most beloved are omitted. Where are Joan of Arc...
Published on Nov. 13 2002 by Paul Grant
Most Helpful First | Newest First
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Suitable Primer,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)The name Leonard Cohen first came to my attention way back in the day when Suzanne was released. It was a fairly popular and much-covered song, but it never occurred to me to actually buy the album. I was into much musically heavier things at the time and so my awareness of Cohen gradually receded into distant memory.
Nowadays, my musical interests are much wider and my pockets deeper, so I took a chance on Cohen's CD Ten New Songs when it was released several years ago. It took a while to get into, but I liked some of the songs immediately. My rule with music is that if I like a CD I've purchased by an unfamiliar artist, I buy something else by that artist also in order to give myself a broader enjoyment and understanding of their work. And so it went with Cohen. I picked up several more CDs and liked them enough to feel confident that I would be pleased with The Essential Leonard Cohen.
I have read all the reviews posted here, both positive and negative, and observe that its a given with any compilation that one will always feel that some songs were included that shouldn't have been and some obvious winners omitted. My candidate for ejection is Alexandra Leaving. I would have much preferred to see Boogie Street included or possibly Joan of Arc in its stead.
I think the CD is nicely divided into two periods because as several reviewers have noted, Cohen seems to have two voices. A lot of songs on the first CD one might classify as neo-folk, for lack of a better term. On this, I like Suzanne, The Partisan, Hallelujah, and I'm Your Man best.
On the second CD, the music is more in the direction of soul tinged rock with the occasional nod to country. And Cohen's deepening voice on the second CD imbues the music with more mystery and even occasional menace. I prefer the second disc with its apocalyptic renderings of First We Take Manhattan and The Future. Cohen's blood-chilling delivery on the latter combined with its scathing lyrics should give everyone a lot to think about. Closing Time wouldn't be out of place in any country dancehall and could probably be an alt-country radio hit. A Thousand Kisses Deep is evocative of the work of Michael Franks during his Objects of Desire period. But next to The Future, you might find the live recording of the dreamy and romantic Dance Me To The End of Love to be the surprise best cut. It is really tremendous. Juxtaposed with the former, it shows Cohen to be a man of huge talent who can literately express the gamut of human emotion through song.
This CD is not really for those who have all of Leonard Cohen's recordings already, but it is a suitable primer for anyone who wants an overview of this underrated musician's work.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for Leonard Cohen,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)This is a must for any Leonard Cohen complete-ist's collection! I have every CD he's ever put out and yet I find myself frequently choosing this set in order to conveniently listen to favorites from a variety of Leonard's previous CDs. A fabulous collection from an amazing artist!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Non-essential Leonard Cohen,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)I have every album Leonard Cohen ever recorded, and think that he is a brilliant but somewhat uneven composer. This collection should have contained his absolute best material, to introduce non-fans to the full range ofg his talent. Yet, there are several negligible songs included here, while some of his best known and most beloved are omitted. Where are Joan of Arc and So Long Marianne, or the trenchant Field Commander Cohen, the brilliant Dress Rehearsal Rag and the mesmerising Iodine?
Still, you have to start someplace I guess. If I were you, I'd start at the beginning and work my way through, but if you have no Leonard Cohen in your collecyion, this will do, I guess.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enhanced by a 3rd disc,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Audio CD)This 3.0 edition with its third disc is a magnificent retrospective. The first two discs draw heavily on Cohen's legendary earlier work like Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (Disc One, Tracks 1 to 11), and on later albums like Various Positions, I'm Your Man, The Future and Ten New Songs. The live albums are not represented at all, a great pity in the case of Live Songs of which Passing Through and Please Don't Pass Me By are particularly rare & unknown.
No doubt it deserves five stars - particularly since the artist himself made this selection - but I do miss some favorites, like the graceful The Window from Recent Songs (1979), Heart With No Companion from Various Positions (1985), which in my opinion would have been a better choice than Hallelujah (compare John Cale's great cover of this song on the I'm Your Fan tribute album) and Take This Waltz from I'm Your Man (1988).
I completely agree with the choice of tracks from The Future and Ten New Songs, especially the magnificent Alexandra Leaving, now joined by The Rivers Dark on the 3rd disc. Famous Blue Raincoat is joined by Love Calls You By Your Name to represent Songs of Love and Hate (1971). This album's masterpieces like Joan Of Arc and Diamonds In The Mine, amongst my favorites, have been omitted.
The Third Disc
Besides the aforementioned Love Calls You By Your Name and By The Rivers Dark inspired by Psalm 137 about singing by the rivers of Babylon (markedly less optimistic than the Boney M megahit!), it contains one further track each from Songs From A Room, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Death of a Ladies' Man, Recent Songs, Ten New Songs & Dear Heather.
Gravitas at its gravest, Death of a Ladies' Man has a majestic arrangement in which waves of multi-layered doom-laden vocals unfold in crests and in troughs where a single female voice momentarily caress Cohen's. The instrumental sound is similarly constructed, so when waning a single instrument or hypnotic instrumental pattern comes fleetingly to the fore. With its overall drone-like ambience this song is as oppressive as Lou Reed's The Bells on the Street Hassle album.
This is a great compilation of Cohen's poetic and melodic genius, infused as it is with a unique spiritual quality. One can trace the maturing of his vocals; it became distinctly weightier and wearier from the 1992 album The Future. The trend has continued down to Dear Heather, and it makes the contrast between his voice and the female vocals even more sublime.
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)I loved it, Leonard Cohen is one of Canada's true tresures, and I will never tire of listening to him and his music.
4.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)Hard to say anything bad about this man. He is truly one of a kind. A writer and a performer. Saw a tv clip once of Prince Charles talking about Cohen and that is high praise from high up!
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Leonard Cohen, you will like this,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)A lot of oldies on here that I have not heard for a long time. Some that I know better covered by other artists and nice to hear his take on them.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great CD,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Audio CD)My husband and I continue to enjoy this CD. We listen to it regularly. What an interesting voice. The songs are also very easy to listen to and to learn the words.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is There Such a Thing as Non-Essential Leonard Cohen?,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)LC, I'm your fan. Have been since I first heard Suzanne going on four decades ago. I used to sing it walking down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley; it was a phenomenal song then and it still is. This 31 song double CD covers Cohen's career from Suzanne taking your hand and leading to the river to Alexandra leaving with her lord. There is nothing that should not be on this collection, unlike many so-called Essential collections when there is almost always one or more "what the heck is THAT song doing here" moment. My only complaint is that it could easily have had 7 or 8 more cuts; Songs from a Room is badly underrepresented -- where is the unbelievably sad Seems So Long Ago, Nancy and the Hours-like Tonight Will Be Fine, with its lyric that captured Cohen then and does now as well, "I choose the rooms I live in with care/the windows are small and the walls almost bare?" And while I'm mighty happy to have Cohen's version of Famous Blue Raincoat, why not his definitive Joan of Arc? Oh, well, enough carping. Those who have most or all of Cohen's work may not need this -- although popped into the CD player it is a magnificant overview of how consistently strong his work has been for decades, none of the Dylan peaks and valleys. But for those who have only a couple of the albums or are looking to get introduced, this CD is definitive and, oh, yes, essential.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Potrait of An Artist As Both A Sage and Sinner,
This review is from: The Essential Leonard Cohen (Rm) (2CD) (Audio CD)The beauty of Leonard Cohen is he has always followed his own eccentric path and I see no duality between Cohen, the young romantic rake who ages into the embittered sensualist. It was always clear that Field Commander L. Cohen was going to dance us to the end of love, regardless of the consequences. Wheter it's the young revolutionary partisan, or the world weary cynic railing against the excesses of "democracy", Cohen has never been satisfied with the political or moral status quo. His career is based on dissatisfaction with the things as they are. For Cohen, redemption is impossible without wallowing in the mire. I can't imagine living the last 35 years of my life without the music of L. Cohen. It is the autobiography of a man unafraid to be both master and slave to desire. There is no contradiction between Cohen the folk singer and Cohen the post-modern electronic poet, just as it's difficult to draw distinctions between Dylan the folk singer and Dylan the rock and roll star. Two sides of the same man that coexist as complimentary halves of the same man.
Cohen may well be the most poetic songwriter of his generation. Well before he ever released "Songs of Leonard Cohen", he was a published poet and a literary icon in Canada. His more recent appeal among younger Bohemians for his existential honesty, differs from first generation hippies who celebrated Cohen as the embodiment of Eros and free love. His minmalist musical approach is a stark counterpoint to his poetic text which is lush with imagery, double meanings and ambivalent wordplay. "Sisters of Mercy" can be read as either a celebration of the good works of, either nuns or prostitutes depending on your viewpoint. "Hallelujah" makes a holy sacrament of uninhibited sexuality. Cohen always challenged the notion of duality in his themes by equating the sacred with the profane. His life's mission his been afflict discomfort on those who see the world in mutally exlusive terms of moral postivism.
Cohen was the reckless romantic who spent several years in a Bhuddist monastary and now he has returned as an aging Siddartha to challenge our conventional wisdom about life, love and morality. "The Essential Leonard Cohen" is the journey of a seeker of the truth beginning with a potrait of an artist as a young man, and ending with jaded musings of a sage and sinner who discovers the more he learns about life, the less he really knows. This is Cohen the zen-master who has nothing left to prove. We are wiser people for Cohen's long jouney into the heart of darkness and if you want the unadulterated truth about love and life, Leonard Cohen will be the first to step forward and fearlessly proclaim, "I'm your man."
Most Helpful First | Newest First