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A PROPER LEONARD COHEN ALBUM AT LONG LAST?,
This review is from: Old Ideas (Audio CD)This review will address the big question: is Old Ideas a proper Leonard Cohen album like The Future, his last (20 years ago) great effort? The only thing on the two studio albums subsequent to The Future that matched any of his highs was "In My Secret Life", deceptive opener to 2001's Ten New Songs. That track had rinky-dink instrumentation and eternal truth in just the right combination, the kind that floored listeners of the album I'm Your Man.
It's of course silly to complain that Laughing Len sings about death too much. Death is one of the life forces of poetry, Leonard's other great line of work. Death is an understandable preoccupation of almost all art, and just about every kind of music apart from the fluffiest pop consciously drenches itself in it. So, that Cohen studies the process and ideas of death is unremarkable in itself.
The old ham has been closing down, ageing and dying with particular vigour for nearly quarter of a century, though. It's a paradoxically sincere shtick, and it began in earnest with "I Can't Forget" and "Tower Of Song".
Death is closer than ever. Leonard Cohen has had to come out of retirement for Old Ideas and these poetic last throes are, in line with the natural order of things, more real than ever.
How well put are the goodbyes on Old Ideas, though, given that Leonard Cohen said them all a few times a long time ago, eased himself into retirement, artistically said hello to death, all that? Do "Going Home" and what follows make for a curious encore?
Leonard Cohen is markedly paradoxical. His lavish humility tells you he's long sustained a tremendous ego. If he leaks self-aggrandisement in the studio, he does so most in his penchant for anthems. A couple turn up on Old Ideas. The problem with "Show Me The Place" and "Come Healing" is if anything musical rather than lyrical. It's OK, understandable. Anthems and hymns involve a precarious bit of magic to work fully. Think of the rinky-dink form, in terms of the accompaniment and the word, of "If It Be Your Will", one of last century's great hymns.
Old Ideas is overwhelmingly easy to accept all in all. The accompaniment is natural. More important, Leonard Cohen does what you're supposed to do, takes the old to make it new. Most important, the ideas that he manages to make new are several of the wisest, as well as some of the oldest, that we have.
This review is too long already. I'd rather you find the magic in "Amen", "Darkness", "Crazy To Love You" and all the others yourself anyway. I just wanted to help point you in the right direction: Old Ideas is as good as any great Leonard Cohen album. You have nothing to fear if that's what you want, exactly that to love. I trust you know how much a great Leonard Cohen album means, how dearly to hold something like that.