The Leonard Cohen 80th Birthday Mix Tape

In honour of Leonard Cohen’s eightieth birthday this week, I put together a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite songs and cover versions.

A Side 

1. The Stranger Song (live 1967) from Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968)
2. Famous Blue Raincoat (live 1979) from Songs of Love and Hate (1970)
3. Bird on a Wire (live 2009) from Songs from a Room (1969)
4. Lover Lover Lover (live 1976) from New Skin for the old Ceremony (1974)
5. Who by Fire (live with Sonny Rollins) from New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). I also love the version of this song on Live in London (2009).
6. True Love Leaves no Traces from Death of a Ladies Man (1977)
7. Everybody Knows (live 1988) from I’m Your Man (1988)
8. If it Be Your Will (live?) from Various Positions (1984)
9. Waiting for the Miracle from The Future (1992)
10. The Darkness from Old Ideas (2012)

 B Side – The Covers 

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Soundtrack to February & March

How much Leonard Cohen have I been listening to recently? So much, that I seem to have fairly well spanned his career, starting with Songs of Love and Hate (1970) and ending with his latest album, Old Ideas.  My mother says that Songs of Love and Hate is “just groaning”, but for me this is an album so miserable that it manages to cross the line into cathartic and even strangely uplifting. 1974’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony  has a bitter, accusatory edge in songs like ‘Is this what you wanted?’ and ‘A Singer Must Die’, but there’s also the exhilarating repetitiveness of ‘Lover, Lover, Lover’ and the poignant ‘Who by Fire?’  The most famous song on the album is ‘Chelsea Hotel’ which Cohen wrote about his brief affair with Janis Joplin.  He later said he regretted writing the song, but I find it quite touching, especially the line “We may be ugly, but we have the music”. I actually have a T-shirt with the album cover on it, which I’m not allowed to wear very often because it’s a bit rude.  Recent Songs (1979) is a jazzier, more chilled out and funky affair. I think these songs actually come across better on the live recording of the 1979 tour. Still, the album contains one of my favourite Cohen songs, the deeply unfeminist but gorgeous, ‘The Traitor’.  I haven’t really got to know the new album yet, but on one listen I found it melodic and melancholic, with Cohen’s worn-out voice making it all the more moving somehow.

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Soundtrack to January

I got Kristin Hersh’s live album Cats and Mice for Christmas.  Recorded in San Francisco in 2009, it has a generous 19 tracks drawn mostly from Learn to Sing Like a Star and Crooked, and an excellent production.  I gave the Throwing Muses’s 1996 album Limbo an outing, although I have to say this is the one album of their’s that I don’t entirely get.  I also listened to Star (1993) from Tanya Donnelly’s post-throwing Muses band Belly, an indie-pop album that stills sounds really fresh.

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Soundtrack to November

Music post even later this month.  I seem to have lost the last couple of weeks somewhere along the way.

Oh well, the seasonal listening continued in November with more of the artists that I tend to associate with winter.  I’m still working my way through Johnny Cash’s Unearthed (2003) collection, mainly focussing on the second disc, Trouble in Mind, a collection of covers which ends with a quite sublime version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on a Wire’.

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