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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 4, 2012
Leonard Cohen has been old for a long time, yet it seems that something even older has been speaking through his voice for even longer. "I know my days are few", says the voice in one of these new songs, and those of us past 60 will perhaps best appreciate that feeling. But a deeper and far more universal feeling has come across in Cohen's music ever since his first album, and it's never been more authentic than it is in "Old Ideas".

What's old about this record, and yet again renewed, is "the penitential hymn" and the plea for mercy from an unbending Law and a Lord whose grace is given but rarely. Cohen's persona is at once the victim, the perpetrator and the observer, but never the innocent bystander, of life in this world -- rather a withstander, who stands with the rest of us even when we stand against each other. His time-ravaged voice, his words polished as rocks left behind by a glacier long ago, "gather up the brokenness" of all our hearts.

This time around we have ten songs of three to five minutes each, and every one is deeply resonant. As usual with Cohen, but more than ever here, the boundary line between speaking and singing, between poem and song, almost disappears. Yet this album is surprisingly tuneful -- not upbeat of course, but achingly melodic, and the arrangements bring this out with a variety of contributions from solo violin, cornet and other instruments. Indeed this is more varied musically than many of Cohen's records, each song having its own sound, and as we learn from the liner notes, its own set of producers, arrangers, engineers and musicians collaborating with Cohen. The women's voices (including those of Dana Glover, Sharon Robinson, the Webb Sisters, and Jennifer Warnes) are especially and variously wonderful here. (The liner notes also show us, by including scanned pages of Cohen's notebooks, the seemingly endless revision process of the poet -- and though all the lyrics are printed here, they don't always match the words you hear.)

In the one song which most resembles `the blues', the singer has "caught the darkness" like a contagious disease from the lover he's singing to, almost grimly proud that he's "got it worse than you." Yet in other songs we see "the darkness yielding," even if it yields only to the irony of being "saved by a blessed fatigue". But for me, the most intriguing of these "old ideas" is the intense dialogue between two sides of Leonard Cohen which we hear in the first and last song ("Going Home" and "Different Sides"). Here again is the old Cohen who is most universal when most personal, whose songs somehow let us hear something new just when we thought we'd plumbed the depth of their mystery. Old ideas? As old as "the wind in the trees talking in tongues."
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on February 7, 2012
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.
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on April 13, 2012
I bought this album recently and am completely hooked. I've been listening to it over and over again. I pretty much grew up with his music over the years and have seen his voice change, but the quality of poetry never does. I guess that is one aspect that has ruled supreme since his emergence from McGill university years ago. This is not just good songwriting, but complex poetry and emotions put forward simply through haunting melodies. Thank God for the liner notes with this CD as the words resonate crystal clear. It is whispered in your ear with melody and sometimes ...just a word whisper, slowly softly. Lenny Cohen is always reflective and self critical, even when he is commenting on society in general, and this one comes out right on top. Love it. I hope here is a message in this for record companies that have pushed an excessive amount of (c)rap with bad poetry, hip hop with uncontrolled angst and low level pop for mass consumption. After many years and decades of suffering (and perhaps led by You Tube revival), good melody, good poetry and just mature creation by the Masters is back. Thank God for 'old ideas'.
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on April 14, 2013
Leonard Cohen's "Old Ideas" surprized me by being not "old" at all. There is a freshness in the new material that was unexpected. Unlike many "legends" who come out late with a new album the product is often inferior to their "golden days". But, Cohen does not disapppint with this latest album. There are lovely melodies drawn for a variety of genres. The poetry is often beautiful and deep as befits this true icon. This is a "must" for true fans, and could well reach a broad audience unfamiliar with this giant who truly towers above most contemporary artists.
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on April 4, 2012
Leonard Cohen again shows why poetry and music are such a potent combination in his hands. He just keeps getting deeper into the heart of meaning and thought. Excellent album worth listening again and again.
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on March 13, 2012
Après toutes les années à attendre un nouveau CD
de Monsieur Leonard Cohen celui-ci se surpasse encore
une fois.Musique comme paroles.
Il faut l'avoir dans sa collection.
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on February 20, 2013
Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! HIs last album is even better than than his first!!! How does anyone do that!!!Only Leonard Cohan can span the decades and come up with another phenomenal recording that's virtually ageless. Every song's a winner on this beautiful album!!
Like a fine, fine bottle of wine, Leonard, this album's from a vintage batch!! Highly spiritual and deeply moving and healing album!! Hats off to you Leonard! Buy it!!
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on February 3, 2012
Let it be clearly understood that I like everything Leonard. The man is a national treasure. Be that as it may, it was with curiosity that I approached yet another album by this most gentle of seniors.

"Old Ideas" is, in a word, superb. The wisdom of the man is distilled to the simplest of understated melodies, the gravel of the voice trailing smoke through the soul of eternity. This is not the album of yet another aging singer from the Sixties. It is the album of a man just now reaching the pinnacle of refinement.

Granted, Leonard may not be to everyone's tastes, but, to anyone who seeks understanding, this album is not an epilogue. It is essential.

"Show me the place where you want your slave to go." Show me indeed.
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on January 12, 2013
There were two CD's in Leonard Cohen's collection that I listen to every now and then and love and they are "The future" and "10 new songs". Now there is three. This is maybe the best album of his career and the best I purchased in 2012.

I recommend it to all fans of Leonard Cohen and anyone who has heard a Cohen song they liked.
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on February 28, 2012
Not merely riding on his reputation, Cohen continues to wrestle with love, its essence and its effects on 'normal' life. This recording keeps his voice up front for ninty percent of the time; the instrumental breaks are little jewels, and the vocal backup is non-intrusive icing. I play it a lot and it keeps getting better.
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