Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Motion Picture Soundtrack: Various Artists
I have to admit that I come to this CD with more than a little bias. For more than forty years, I’ve been a fan of Leonard Cohen the poet, the man, the musician, the artist. In 1964, while I was sitting in a high-school class not doing much of anything, a friend loaned me Cohen’s book A Spice Box of Earth, published less than a decade earlier. At the time, the only singing Cohen was doing was with his little Country and Western band in Montreal. I was hooked.
When I was a young poet, my greatest living influence was Leonard Cohen. I read all of his poetry. I studied and revered it like some Holy writ. As soon as Beautiful Losers was published, I bought and read it and discovered the prose of Leonard Cohen. When his first album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released, I rushed to buy a copy. As Cohen evolved as an artist, so on some lower plateau did I evolve.
I remember, somewhere around 1970, an influential publication [I think it was Rolling Stone but can't remember for sure] had on its cover an illustration of all the great music stars of the day, stacked like a pyramid. The illustration was titled “The Rock Pile.” At the time, Cohen was still pretty much considered a folk artist, but there he was, Leonard Cohen, a Canadian poet, right at the top of the rock pile. Ask me if I was impressed.
The people I spend the most time with are writers, musicians, painters, actors and other artists. In this community, Leonard Cohen is more than simply an icon, more than a towering idol. Cohen is the ideal toward which we each aspire. It’s not that any of us wants to actually become Cohen, but that we want to achieve the depth and beauty and power in our own work that we find in Cohen’s.
This CD, like the motion picture from which these soundtrack recordings were drawn, is a loving tribute to the man and to his words and music. Listening to the performances, you can feel the love, the deep and enduring respect that these artists have for Leonard Cohen. There is a tangible beauty here that goes beyond simply the performances and should touch any listener, even one unfamiliar with the works of this Canadian poet.
Originally conceived by the Canadian Consulate in New York as a live outdoor concert in Brooklyn titled Came So Far For Beauty: An Evening Of Leonard Cohen Songs Under The Stars, the concept soon grew. Performances were mounted in Brighton, England and Sydney, Australia and ultimately film of these concerts became Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man. In the end, concert producer Hal Willner and film director Lian Linson have created an unique and lasting tribute to the artistry of Leonard Cohen.
The selection of artists on this release is outstanding, both for its diversity and for the very high quality of the performances these artists deliver. Fronting the band are Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Nick Cave, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainright, Anthony, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Perla Batalla, Julie Christensen, U2, and Leonard Cohen himself. The backing band includes Batalla and Christensen, Steven Bernstein, Rob Burger,Charlie Burnham, Dave Coulter, Don Falzone, Smokey Hormel, Briggan Krauss, Maxim Moston, Chris Spedding, Joan Wasser, and Kenny Wolleson.
Each of these new interpretations of Cohen songs is excellent. There are some powerful treatments here of Cohen’s words and music and, while the theme is unified, each performance is unique and stands on its own. Without writing a small book, it would be impossible to comment on each of these songs, and to comment on only one or two would be unfair to the others. The excellence of the work presented here is a fitting tribute to Leonard Cohen, the artist and the man.
If I’m disappointed in this release at all, it’s only that there isn’t more. There were many more performances in the film, enough that a double CD set could have been created without much difficulty. What I’ve heard here has been tasty, but it’s only made me hungry for the rest of it.
This CD belongs in the collection of every Leonard Cohen fan. It should also be added to the collection of anyone who wants to learn more about the work of Leonard Cohen. I would definitely recommend this soundtrack recording to anyone.
You can find everything you could want to know about the film Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man at it’s own website. The site looks like a poster for the film but most of the credits in gold at the bottom are links to other pages. Click on the “soundtrack” link and you’ll find a full track listing for this CD plus a player on which you can listen to clips of the songs. If you want to know more about Leonard Cohen, just type his name into your search engine. There’s a lot out there.
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