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Old 09-02-2009, 11:22 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Well, at least you've got a copy of 1000 Kisses Deep now eh. Good to hear you've seen the light anyway - all you've gotta do now is get into Scott Walker

Oddly enough, I forgot this thread even existed. I'm only two entries from finishing the Gram Parsons one, so I'll be going through the rest of Lenny C's stuff with a fine tooth comb soon enough.
Dunno about Walker, not a fan of his vocals atm but will give it a go...

No rush as long as you don't abandon it.
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Old 09-02-2009, 11:32 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Dunno about Walker, not a fan of his vocals atm but will give it a go...

No rush as long as you don't abandon it.
Walker's definitely worth a go at least. If you look in that Beginner's Guide To Thread in General Music there are a couple of compilations I made - one of his older, melodic stuff, one of his later, avante-garde stuff. Should be a nice overview of the good bits for ya.

Definitely won't abandon this thread. Trouble is that after Songs Of Love and Hate I've got quite a few decent/so-so albums I don't feel very passionate about to get through before I get to the better stuff again. Still, we'll see how it all pans out eh.
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Old 09-02-2009, 11:40 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Will head over to that thread then.
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Old 10-08-2009, 04:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Seeing as I've got a long weekend ahead of me, and one that'll consist of me sitting and staring at this monitor waiting for something moderate for a lot of the time, I'm gonna get this updated again over the next few days.

Stay tuned!
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Old 10-08-2009, 09:33 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Happy happy
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Old 10-08-2009, 11:00 PM   #16 (permalink)
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^ I'm so good at sticking to my word

Songs From a Room
1969, Columbia Studio A (Nashville TN), Columbia Records

1. Bird on the Wire
2. Story of Isaac
3. A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes
4. The Partisan
5. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
6. The Old Revolution
7. The Butcher
8. You Know Who I Am
9. Lady Midnight
10. Tonight Will Be Fine


Considered too dark to be deemed a commercial success in the most obvious sense of the phrase, the Songs Of Leonard Cohen, while largely being a commercial failure, did earn Cohen a sizeable cult following among folk's audience of the day, particularly in the UK where it beat the odds to peak at #13 in the album charts and then remain there for over a year. Upon the buzz about it fading, it was high time to record the followup.

For the Nashville sessions in October '68, Cohen opted to hire Bob Johnston (who'd work with Dylan, Cash, Simon and Garfunkel over the years) instead of reacquainting himself with John Simon (with whom he'd had a bone or two to pick regarding the mixing of his debut). Despite what I'd call the success of the fuller, more well-honed sound of his debut, this was in a bid to give Cohen's second effort a more uncluttered, rootsy and kind of spartan appeal. So it was that, armed with a dozen-odd new songs, a host of suitably subtle session musicians and the expectation of his new audience, Songs From a Room was recorded.

What results is a good enough although not spectacular album in my opinion. In a musical sense, all the songs from a room bar the magnificent Lady Midnight have that very sedated feel that one could easily expect from any lo-fi, late-60s folk album, in this case even more so given the fact that Cohen ditches the more lavish production style of his debut. Clocking at a mere 35 minutes, things do fall a little on the short side too, which makes it clear from the outset that this is where Cohen, being a published poet at the time and all, wanted melody, extended instrumental breaks and all that mumbo-jumbo to take a back seat to the messages he wanted to get across.

So, basically, the strength of this album isn't in the heart-warming style and lush delivery like the Songs Of Leonard Cohen, but instead the focus is on the lyrics that Cohen sings gently over the top of some very reined-in backing tracks. Seeing as what tends to catch my attention in a piece of music is some kind of musical hook more than an eloquent lyric, this made this album quite a tough pill to swallow for me at first. On the first listen then, besides the smooth-as-bread-and-butter guitar on Story Of Isaac, the ear-opening parallel between the acoustic and bass guitar on You Know Who I Am and the bright chords that underpin Lady Midnight, not a lot really stuck in my head after finishing with it. In that way, then, it's not really an album I'd recommend to those who don't really have an ear for a lo-fi acoustic folk. It definitely does reward repeated listening though, as the story of the suicidal Nancy Challies of Montreal in Seems So Long Ago Nancy, the biblical reference of Story Of Isaac, the beauty of the Partisan and the flair of the lovesong Tonight Will Be Fine unravels as the album starts to make that much more sense as a unit.

All in all, Songs From a Room makes for a very sedated listen, and goes well with an airing in the dead of night. Seeing as the strengths and hooks are in the lyrics and not always the music though, I don't think this'll hit the spot if you don't have a lot of patience for its sound. At least not immediately anyway - while I do appreciate it a lot more than I used to, I'd say the following rating does it justice, at least the way I see it.

7/10




If anyone's wondering, these'll get much longer and more interesting by the time I get to the albums I listen to an insane amount.
Nice review and all, even though I disagree, but to call Seems So Long Ago Nancy sedated in any way, and to not praise it the high heavens is ridiculous.
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Old 10-09-2009, 03:08 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Nice review and all, even though I disagree, but to call Seems So Long Ago Nancy sedated in any way, and to not praise it the high heavens is ridiculous.
Eh, personal tastes and all that. That album as a whole's never really grabbed me the way the debut and the next one I'll review have though.

Thanks for the feedback anyways
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Old 10-12-2009, 02:03 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Ok, I can finally legitimately update this thread again...

Songs Of Love and Hate
1971, Columbia Studio A (Nashville TN) & Trident Studios (London), Columbia Records

1. Avalanche
2. Last Year's Man
3. Dress Rehearsal Rag
4. Diamonds In the Mine
5. Love Calls You by Your Name
6. Famous Blue Raincoat
7. Sing Another Song, Boys
8. Joan of Arc


Having developed something of a cult following in the US and UK with his first two albums, seeing as both had penetrated the top 10 albums chart in the latter and sold moderately in the former yet not produced any real number of hit singles, Cohen took to the road for a year, writing a handful of new songs in the process before the time to take to the studio came again. Both his albums beforehand, at least under the umbrella of folk music, were albums of extremes - while Songs Of Leonard Cohen represented the more atmospheric side of folk rock (and very well too), Songs From a Room (in the main) had a much more lo-fi and gritty, sedated kind of feel. Seeing as Cohen has, 99% of the time, used music as more of a vehicle for his poetic talents, the next logical move was to combine the two and see how successful both sets of songwriting and production ethics were when done at the same time.

Fittingly as the song that kicks proceedings off, Avalanche represents this kind of combination of sounds superbly, as over the top of a superb acoustic guitar motif and gently simmering yet foreboding string arrangement does one of Cohen's finest lyrics a whole world of justice, as he fills in the gaps in the sonic picture with his trademark grainy vocal. To put it simply, it's songs like this which sum up Cohen's strength as a songwriter. It's true to say that he's hardly the best singer the world has ever known, but as he sings of stepping 'into an avalanche, it covered up my soul' and how 'you who wish to conquer pain, you must learn what makes me kind' and 'the crumbs of love that you offer me, they're the crumbs I've left behind', he simply doesn't need to be. The words and the almost ambient musical backing just speaks to you in ways that other kinds of music and many, many other artists simply couldn't. Considering who wrote this lyric, it's quite a compliment to say that it's among the man's finest too.

As I said earlier, the album of a whole takes the strengths of the two albums that came before and executes them both perfectly. Last Year's Man, for instance, sounds a lot like one of the better moments of Songs From a Room, and the same can be said of Joan Of Arc - both of which maintain that pensive, lo-fi folk sound, the kind that lets Cohen's poetry alone speak for the music (although the latter does feature an intriguing use of overlapping vocal tracks). There's the occasional strangely lively song here too, like the superb Diamonds In the Mine which, perhaps even more strangely, makes use of quite a memorable and melodic chorus.

So, we see some more conventional and mainstream song structures creeping into Cohen's repertoire too, like the frankly amazing Famous Blue Raincoat. Like Avalanche before it, it's definitely not only one of my absolute favourites from the album (if not of all time), but it's the perfect representation of what the man's got going for him when it comes to being a songwriter. Quite simply one of the most painfully sad yet beautiful songs of all time.

Overall, the album is simply fantastic. Although Love Call's You By Your Name is probably the sole weakpoint, and maybe a studio version of Sing Another Song, Boys would've kept the album flowing slightly better, in being a combination of the sounds of both his earlier albums, Songs Of Love and Hate here definitely outdo them both. As you'll see while this thread continues, there are several tiers to Cohen's discography in terms of quality, and this is definitely in the top one.

9/10



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Old 10-12-2009, 04:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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So far SOL&H is my favorite Cohen album, but what I've heard from Ten New Songs is also worth mentioning. I have much respect for good old Leonard, easily being within my favorite ten artists. I'm really looking forward to what you have to say, I'll keep an eye on this. =D
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Old 10-12-2009, 10:45 PM   #20 (permalink)
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As your a Cohen fan I'd assume you've read this: A Thousand Kisses Deep
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