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Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 29 / 2 / 2012

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
Label: Columbia
Format: CD


Effective twelfth studio album and first release in eight years for Leonard Cohen.

Old Ideas’ is only Leonard Cohen's twelfth studio album. At the prime age of 77 years, he has come back to us with his first studio album in eight years and since 2004’s ‘Dear Heather’, and delivered a record that as my partner upon hearing it said, “How can I compare to Leonard Cohen?" ‘Old Ideas’ is anything but what its title suggests. It sounds fresh and crisp, and effortless in its delivery. Despite seeming like it has all come very naturally, that is not always the case, as Cohen by his own admission has had off and on problems writing lyrics and music for years. Much as I love his fellow Canadian, Neil Young, Cohen was always the Man to me. I didn’t fall under his spell to 1992 when, I saw him on 'The Future' tour, and within a year I went out and bought his complete works. ‘Old Ideas’ has ten tracks that come in under just 42 minutes, and opens in almost a holy way with ‘Going Home’. Leonard, describes himself on it as “a lazy bastard in a suit,” and reveals on it by doing so that he has a huge chunk of humour, which people sometimes don’t see. This first song is a song of contrasts, sad in tone but also taking some joy from life. Musically it's simple, but at the same time very effective. ‘Amen’ is sung in the style of Tom Waits, and is reminiscent and a sort of sequel to the songs on his 1992 album, ‘The Future’, which remains only just my favourite album of his. Leonard has always used female backing vocalists whom he gives the name of “the Angels”, and here the angel on this recording, long time collaborator Sharon Robinson, sounds like exactly like that…an angel, and the cream to Leonard's black coffee-soaked voice. ‘Show Me the Place’ is slowly delivered, backed by soft piano and on backing vocals Jennifer Warnes ,who has worked with Cohen since the early 1970s. Leonard’s voice is reminiscent of Lee Marvin performing ‘Wanderin' Star’. A pitch perfect violin adds extra sadness to it tears. ‘Darkness’, the track that has got Cohen fans most excited in web forums,and which features both Warnes and the Webb Sisters on backing vocals, is smooth and funky in an easy listening way , while ‘Anyhow’ is slow and spoken white jazz number, like Tindersticks at a late night café playing into the Paris night. ‘Crazy to Love You’ has the feel of his 1967 debut album, ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’. It is limited in it's simple but effective guitar playing and Leonard’s sharp, stripped back voice, and is absolutely charming . ‘Come Healing’, the debut single, is another gentle, velvet-voiced number, while ‘Banjo’ is soft and slow and an absolute tearjerker. I had to hide my tears from my partner when I first heard it. It killed me totally. ‘Lullaby’ again sounds like it could have appeared on ‘The Future’. It has a gentle guitar and a slow vocal that is roasted with the sweet harmonies of Sharon Robinson. ‘Different Sides’, the final track, is almost a dance track in the much the same way that ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ was from 1984’s ‘Various Positions’. Cohen concludes the album galloping along with his killer smile seducing us all. I will be very surprised if ‘Old Ideas’ doesn’t make one of my top three albums of the year.

Track Listing:-
1 Going Home
2 Amen
3 Show Me the Place
4 Darkness
5 Anyhow
6 Crazy to Love You
7 Come Healing
8 Banjo
9 Lullaby
10 Different Sides

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