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January 31, 2012 / jhsaeger

Tuesday’s Best: Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas

     It is unlikely that many reviews of Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas will omit the album’s memorable first lines, as the seventy-seven year-old Cohen begins the record with “I love to speak with Leonard/He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy bastard/Living in a suit.”  The self-deprecating lyrics help set the tone for the record, whose lyrics deal primarily with love and religion.  Cohen’s 12th studio album, Old Ideas is the Canadian’s first since 2004’s Dear Heather.   
   Cohen’s usual religious themes most openly emanate from Old Ideas through “Amen” and “Come Healing.”  Unlike the vivid imagery that comes in “Amen,” “Come Healing” is written as if it were a gospel song that could be sung by a full choir, and not just the now-gravely-voiced Cohen.  Even though Cohen doesn’t have the vocal chords he possessed in his prime, he makes up for it with perfect phrasing to help accentuate his typically astute lyric writing
     After three very mellow tracks, “Darkness” provides the record with a surprising up-tempo track.  With a hook provided by a wicked acoustic guitar riff, “Darkness” jumps out in the record because it is sandwiched by series of low-key, softer music.  One track towards the end of the record that  especially stands out is “Banjo,” which has a distinct Southern feel to it that is bolstered by a female vocal arrangement that flashes shades of gospel music. 
     Among the cast of all-star session musicians who were assembled to play on Old Ideas was singer Jennifer Warnes, who had previously sung on Cohen’s Recent Songs (1979), Various Positions (1985), and I’m Your Man (1988).
    Leonard Cohen has been writing words that have made the world think for over half a century, whether they have been as a song lyric, in a book, or a stanza in a poem.  Old Ideas is best taken in as a CD or in vinyl, not a download, as flipping through the pages of lyrics is as rewarding as listen to them. 
Other Cool Stuff Tht Comes Out This Week: Ringo Starr: Ringo 2012, Lana Del Rey: Lana Del Rey, Gotye, Making Mirrors (as a CD and vinyl)

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