Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

August 11: Leonard Cohen – New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974)

New Skin for the Old Ceremony

…I must say I’m pleased with the album. It’s good. I’m not ashamed of it and am ready to stand by it. Rather than think of it as a masterpiece, I prefer to look at it as a little gem.
~Leonard Cohen (to Melody Maker’s Harvey Kubernik in March 1975)

That miraculously intimate voice has become more expressive and confident over the years without losing its beguiling flat amateurishness. Some of the new songs are less than memorable, but the settings, by John Lissauer, have the bizarre feel of John Simon’s “overproduction” on Cohen’s first album, which I always believed suited his studied vulgarity perfectly. A-
~Robert Christgau (

.. The lyrics are filled with abstract yet vivid images, and the album primarily uses the metaphor of love and relationships as battlegrounds (“There Is a War,” “Field Commander Cohen”). Cohen is clearly singing from the heart, and he chronicles his relationship with Janis Joplin in “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.” This is one of his best album..
~Vik Lyengar (

Chelsea Hotel #2

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.
Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.
Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

Continue reading August 11: Leonard Cohen – New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974)

The Best Songs: Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen)

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leonard cohen

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

The problem with that song is that I’ve forgotten the actual triangle. Whether it was my own – of course, I always felt that there was an invisible male seducing the woman I was with, now whether this one was incarnate or merely imaginary I don’t remember, I’ve always had the sense that either I’ve been that figure in relation to another couple or there’d been a figure like that in relation to my marriage. I don’t quite remember but I did have this feeling that there was always a third party, sometimes me, sometimes another man, sometimes another woman. It was a song I’ve never been satisfied with. It’s not that I’ve resisted an impressionistic approach to songwriting, but I’ve never felt that this one, that I really nailed the lyric. I’m ready to concede something to the mystery, but secretly I’ve always felt that there was something about the song that was unclear. So I’ve been very happy with some of the imagery, but a lot of the imagery.
~Leonard Cohen (BBC Radio Interview 1994)

Sometime in the early 1970s, a thief stole Leonard Cohen’s old raincoat from Marianne Ihlen’s New York apartment. God only know what happened to it, but the thief almost certainly had no idea he was stealing an object that belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if not the Smithsonian. It was that very coat that inspired Cohen to write one of his most beloved and mysterious songs. It’s written in the form of a letter, possibly to the narrator’s brother, who stole his lover, Jane.

Famous Blue Raincoat (from the album – Songs of Love and Hate)

Continue reading The Best Songs: Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen)

Leonard Cohen: Live in London (2009)

leonard  cohen live in london

..Cohen sounds genuinely moved by the affectionate reception he receives from his audience, and he seems determined to give them a show to match their loyalty, and with his band (who he frequently lauds during the performance) he truly gives of himself; if this isn’t quite the strongest live performance Cohen has released for public consumption, it’s certainly the warmest and the most emotionally resonant. Perhaps fate forced Leonard Cohen’s hand to stage the tour documented in part on Live in London, but it seems that fate knows just what it’s doing, and this album eloquently demonstrates how much Cohen still has to offer, and how clearly his music still speaks to him (and us).
~Mark Deming (

London’s O2 Arena
July 17, 2008

For over four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. Sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force. Documentaries, awards, tribute albums and the ongoing march of artists eager to record his songs all acknowledge the peerless contribution Cohen has made to what one of his titles aptly calls “The Tower of Song.”

In 2008 Leonard Cohen embarked on his first tour in 15 years. Quickly recognized as musical folklore in the making, 29 of the original dates sold out almost immediately, leaving fans and critics alike hailing the show as a once in a lifetime experience. By popular demand, the Canadian/UK tour was extended and by the end of that year it had reached 84 markets worldwide, selling more than 700,000 tickets. The Live In London release fully captures and recreates the extraordinary show from that tour that earned Cohen more than 80 five-star reviews for his performances.

Continue reading Leonard Cohen: Live in London (2009)

Classic documentary: Leonard Cohen Bird On A Wire (1974)


Classic Documentary: Leonard Cohen Bird On The Wire  (Documentary, 1974)

On March 18th 1972, Leonard Cohen began a 20-city European tour, beginning in Dublin and ending in Jerusalem on April 21st. Other cities included London at the Royal Albert Hall, Paris, Stockholm, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin and Tel Aviv. This film is an impression of what happened during that tour.


Bird on a Wire is a great documentary of Leonard Cohen in his prime. Tony Palmer was given complete and intimate access to Cohen, filming him on stage, backstage, on the bus and in hotel rooms. The band is incredible. There are songs where Jennifer Warnes and Donna Washburn stand behind Cohen and sing over his shoulder, sharing one microphone. Most of the concert footage is very close on Cohen’s face, giving the movie a strangely intimate feel.

The movie begins a couple of days before the Tel Aviv concert. This is not just a concert film. The live performances are interspersed with insightful interviews in which Cohen talks about a range of topics:  “I don’t have a good voice, everybody knows that” and the difficulties of performing personal songs night after night on stage. Cohen has always been candid but it doesn’t get more personal than this.

The world premiere of this feature film by Tony Palmer was at the Rainbow Theater on July 5, 1974, in London. The original version cost over 120.000 USD to produce, but Cohen was not satisfied. He spent six months in England editing and rearranging the film to show the deeper elements in music, the conditions that produced it, and his interaction with the audiences. It contains songs from albums as well as concerts, including those of Berlin, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Israel in March and April 1972. It is a documentary rather than an art film.
– Ira Nadel: Life in Art and Dorman & Rawlins: Prophet of the Heart

The footage from the last show in Jerusalem is amazing.  Halfway through the show, Cohen walks off stage, quoting Kabbalah and saying that he just wasn’t giving a good concert.

A stoned(he seems so) Cohen jokes about being “bombed in Jerusalem” and after smoking some ( a lot of) cigarettes, he goes back on stage to deliver a legendary encore that included Famous Blue Raincoat.

Continue reading Classic documentary: Leonard Cohen Bird On A Wire (1974)

Video of the day: Leonard Cohen Songs from the road


Video of the day: Leonard Cohen Songs from the road

Songs from the Road is a live album/and concert clip collection by  Leonard Cohen. Released on September 14, 2010, it is his twentieth album.This is a great release both on audio formats and video, great sound and nice filming.

The audience is non-intrusive but warm. They are appreciating the music, but they are firmly in the background. Leonard Cohen wraps his warm velvet voice around every syllable. His backing vocalists complement him with angelic beauty. The band is tight and precise.

The songs are taped on different arenas but they flow effortlessly and it’s not a distraction at all. There are just small colour differences on the stage from one song to another, very subtle and classy.

Highlight for me: Hallelujah at sunset at Coachella, pure magic!


Leonard Cohen Songs From The Road:

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