The Essential Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
The Essential Leonard Cohen

(Columbia/Legacy/Sony)

First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2003, Volume 10, #1

Written by John Metzger

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Before revealing his songwriting talents to the world, Leonard Cohen was a successful novelist. But his heart was clearly set on performance, and after both Judy Collins and Noel Harrison scored hit versions of his song Suzanne, Cohen found himself making his stage debut at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival, and he subsequently was signed to Columbia Records.

Thirty-four years and ten studio albums later comes The Essential Leonard Cohen ó a 31-song career retrospective that more than lives up to its name. As the double disc plays on, one realizes how much, and yet how little, Cohenís style has changed over the years, and the tuneful poetry that is extracted from last yearís Ten New Songs feels like the natural extension of his debut Songs of Leonard Cohen. Itís interesting, too, to hear how Cohen influenced and was influenced by other artists throughout his career. He draws from Donovan (Suzanne), Simon & Garfunkel (The Stranger Song), and The Velvet Underground (Sisters of Mercy); and he hints at the music yet to come from Belle & Sebastian (Hey, Thatís No Way to Say Goodbye), Pink Floyd (Bird on a Wire), and Nick Cave (Famous Blue Raincoat), to name a few.

Each of the tracks on The Essential Leonard Cohen was hand-selected by the poet himself, lending a personal touch to this overview of his career. Some artists might struggle with such a task, but Cohen has succeeded brilliantly by choosing tunes that combine the finest poetry with the most haunting music while keeping a balanced chronological perspective. Indeed, the only way to get a more complete picture is to purchase all of Cohenís albums, and the Essential Leonard Cohen very well might pique oneís interest enough to do that. For most, however, this set will suffice just fine. starstarstarstarstar

The Essential Leonard Cohen is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2002 The Music Box