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leonardcohen oldideas
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Title: Old Ideas
Genre: Folk/Rock
Release Date: 27th January 2012
Label: Sony Music

Album Review

"I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn’t have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube"

The opening self-deprecating yet wise lyrics (‘Going Home’) to LEONARD COHEN’s ‘Old Ideas’, his new album in eight years, set the thematic tone that COHEN is going to be delving into with an understated passion. If you spend the time with the legend, Cohen is going to sing/speak and square up about life and issues with that ancient dude living upstairs above our souls. Though thus spiritual in nature these dialoguesque monologues offer a window to an astute, seasoned and experienced understanding of life and its travails, love, loss, wreckage and reflections on the ultimate exit. These are beautiful and evocative elegiac contemplations -reckonings at the autumn of one’s life pending

“Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it's better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore”

Musically you will hear minimalistic compositions in a spirit of what COHEN refers to as “European cabaret” though in many places it’s quintessentially American (especially ‘Lullaby’ where the harmonica gives it a distinct feel of the vast spaces and of American folk and country music). You will encounter mostly quiet piano, strings, trumpet, organ, lingering guitars, soft backing vocals with wonderfully textured female voices, which together with the spiritual themes sometimes lend the music a gospel kind of atmosphere, there is also a waft of blues. All of the elements conjure up mood which is very laidback and soothing and together with COHEN’s honey textured baritone it’s a balm or a best whiskey for a weathered and life-battered being/soul. And after all, you can round it up with a remedial spirit of ‘Come Healing’, the song some hail as a successor to ‘Hallelujah’ and though it’s a wonderful song, I doubt it can match it in scope of emotion - it’s much softer and less intense, not to mention the hook is not as memorable as in that COHEN’s classic song.

“And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O, see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart”

In fact, this album is not concerned with what is and is not a “hit”, songs to be picked out into the future “Best of” releases, it’s a deeply personal album that offers to each and every listener a journey where one is bound to find the song or songs that spoke to them the most according to their own taste, depth and experience. The one that quickly grew into my fondness is ‘Darkness’

“I caught the darkness
It was drinking from your cup
I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I said, "Is this contagious?"
You said, "Just drink it up.””

It has a wonderful rhythm, blues feel; it’s also a song where you might see yourself engulfed in some old smoky joint back in time, reflecting in solitude or silent company. Poetry-wise it’s maybe reminiscent of the best of Bukowski. Of course some of COHEN’s vocal delves into spoken word to make this as (unpretentiously) poetic as it can be. The following ‘Anyhow’ is transported by spoken word as if a bridge between the two songs. It’s a very deep song about the ravages of love with some fittingly heavy piano parts. It is simultaneously hardest but also the most cathartic listen in its honesty, insight and the request for forgiveness/ mercy/ salvation for past wounds albeit with no expectation of it, the no-hope of this gives it a more real feel and earths the song to the fleshy roots of a heart rather than into some airy fairy ending. Though ‘Crazy To Love You’ is still theme-heavy the tone lightens up. So which one will speak to you the most is up to you...

You may ask why I’ve included so many lyrics into the review, but LEONARD COHEN is not just a song-writer and singer, but also a poet and with the minimalistic touch regarding music here his message and words are prominent and the centrepiece of the album. The production really serves and taps intuitively into what COHEN tried to achieve with his ‘Old Ideas’.

For those who will be wanting to have the deluxe editions there is also a treat of COHEN’s own sketch presented as a numbered lithograph. Whether you will be getting that edition or the ‘plain’ one, it’s a sure must have - not only because COHEN is such a seminal influence on so much of music out there, but because as an album it’s a sure treasure.


01. Going Home - 3:51
02. Amen - 7:36
03. Show Me the Place- 4:09
04. Darkness - 4:30
05. Anyhow - 3:09
06. Crazy to Love You - 3:06
07. Come Healing - 2:53
08. Banjo - 3:23
09. Lullaby - 4:46
10. Different Sides - 4:06


Leonard Cohen (and guests)


Cover Picture

leonardcohen oldideas


Music: 10
Sound: 10
Total: 10 / 10

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