Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated—The Album, currently appearing on compact disc.

Boomers, sit down!

Leonard Cohen is 74 years old and slightly more than halfway through an 18-month “come-back” tour. He is playing to sold-out houses in venues far larger than he ever filled in his 60s heyday as the Troubadour of Despair and he is reducing jaded and verbose critics to simple declarative sentences such as, This is the best show I have ever attended!

Live in London was recorded early on in the tour. I listened to it this week-end. About 3 bars into the second song, I thought, Something’s wrong here, I can’t be hearing this now. Sure enough, I had mistakenly started with disc 2! This is a recording lovingly organized and performed with genuine intention -- in other words, an album. I corrected my mistake and went on the journey Leonard Cohen had set for me.

It’s quite a trip. There are many high points: Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, most famously covered by Judy Collins is one; Anthem, which concludes the first set is another. Hallelujah, his most covered song (200 and counting) is the peak of the second set, but Cohen is too skilled and too kind a performer to leave you hanging, there is much more music before the end.

At 2 and ½ hours this album asks for a substantial listening commitment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lend itself to multi-tasking, it refuses to stay in the background and your boss will notice your glazed eyes and open mouth. You could just download a few of the high points, like Anthem or Hallelujah -- you’ll like them, you’ll probably like them a lot, but if you listen to them in context you’ll be transfixed, perhaps even transformed.

Next stop on the tour: Lisbon, Friday night. Gather a few friends and your beverage of choice; put the CD in the box and Be There!

Leonard Cohen: he’s on tour and he’s at your library.

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