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4.6 out of 5 stars38
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-2 of 2 reviews(3 star).Show all reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2002
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2002
This is a good CD. I enjoy listening to it. But it is not the masterpiece I thought it might be (thus the 3 star rating). Perhaps I am just overrating Cohen as an artist, or perhaps he did not place on here the tracks that I would consider his best. Maybe he doesn't have enough material to warrant a nearly 160 minute retrospective. Anyway, let me avoid sounding completely negative, because there are plenty of good things to say about Cohen and about this collection. Before I get to the music I must mention his lyrics. Leonard Cohen's lyrics are absolutely stunning. They make all other artists' lyrics, even good ones, seem trite and unimportant in comparison. The only artist I can think of who compares with Cohen in creativity, boldness, surrealness, sincerity, and just really cool lyrics, is Bob Dylan.
Here are some examples of his brilliant writing:
"Give me back the Berlin Wall. Give me Stalin and Saint Paul. Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima."
(The Future)
"It's hard to hold the hand of anyone
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender"
"And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much
not even laughter"
(Stranger Song)
"I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record"
(Famous Blue Raincoat)
Cohen's trademark is his voice. This collection does a good job of showing it transform from a pleasant, on-key, slightly-nasal, conventional sound (60s) to his gruff, ultra-raspy, ultra-low but still on-key voice of the 90s to today. His voice assists his words by making them seem as though he really believe sin what he is singing.
The only qualms I have are with his music. The first 5 tracks on CD1 are all excellent tracks, from Cohen's legendary first album "Songs of Leonard Cohen." But the rest of CD1 is spotty, ranging from good songs such as "Famous Blue Raincoat" "Chelsea Hotel #2" "Who By Fire" and "I'm Your Man" to songs that within themselves are at times brilliant and at times chintzy (Hallelujah, The Guests, Everybody Knows) to nondescript, unexceptional tracks (Take This Longing, If it be Your Will, Night Comes On) to just plain cheesy (Tower of Song). The first 10 or so tracks on CD1 are very emotional, melodic songs with mostly little besides Cohen's voice and a guitar or 2. Not surprisingly, these turn out to be his best. But on the 2nd half of CD1 Cohen begins throwing in complicated drum sets, synthesizers, and even violins and brass at times. More often than not these instruments reduce the power and quality of his voice and music.
On CD2 we have mostly songs from 1992's "The Future" in which Cohen sounds urgent, powerful, and at times scary, and songs from his 2002 effort "Ten New Songs" which shows a laid-back, reflective Cohen.
Cohen's first 3 tracks on CD2 are a garbled mess: we have a wimpy ballad (Aint no Cure) a..uh...WALTZ! (aptly titled Take this Waltz) and a song that foreshoadows his apocalyptic dronings of "The Future", titled "First we Take Manhattan." "Dance Me to the End of Love" is a excellent live performance of a very well-written song. Songs 5-9 are all from "The Future" and generally they are very good songs. The music may drone on you after repeated listenings, but he is in his top form lyrically and vocally. "The Future" "Democracy" and "Waiting for the Miracle" are 3 of his best, rawest, most powerful tracks ever.
Songs 10-13 are form his latest, "Ten New Songs". Although they are a welcome, laid-back set in which his synthesizer actually sounds good, the songwriting once again is not of the quality I would expect from an "Essential" collection. I would have dumped "Love Itself" and added "By The Rivers Dark" which I consider the best song off "Ten New Songs" "In My Secret Life" is good but "Alexandra Leaving" and "A Thousand Kisses Deep" are mediocre.
Overall a decent collection but you may be better off shelling out a couple more dollars and just buying "Songs of Leonard Cohen" "The Future" and "Ten New Songs"
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