“I love to speak with Leonard he’s a sportsman and a shepherd he’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.
But he does say what I tell him even though it isn’t welcome he just doesn’t have the freedom to refuse…”
And so begins ‘Going Home’ – the first track – on Leonard Cohen’s new album ‘Old Ideas’. It is his first collection of new songs in seven years but as always it is true, beautiful, funny, humane and life-affirming.
Now in his seventy-eighth year you could excuse him for an album of songs that deal with religion, sex, God and mortality but of course he was doing exactly the same 44 years ago with his debut ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’. The fact that his latest work matches his seminal debut tells you everything you know about the living legend that is Leonard.
The beautiful music is sparse and dark, beautiful and simple, sexy and sinister. A myriad of instruments, finger-picking guitar and soothing strings with the glorious vocal additions of longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters on board ‘Old Ideas’ is a masterly work. Classic Cohen if you want.
As ever at the forefront of this charming record are the impeccably restrained and rich baritone vocals from Cohen. Sounding spiritual on ‘Come Healing’ or mischievous while asking God where he wants his “slave to go” on ‘Show me the Place’. Other times it drops to a whisper or broods in the background but all the time speaking the words that have been crafted in gold.
On the album’s closer ‘Different Sides’ Leonard “frankly doesn’t like their tone” when he croons: “You want to change the way I make love but I want to leave it alone.”
It is genius – he is a genius and from all his travails he has given us another glimpse into his world. It is a world of beauty and intrigue. It is the world of Leonard Cohen and while we might not live in it we can take the odd rare glimpse into it.
The young pretenders can only look on in admiration… Thank you Leonard, thank you for the album of the year.
“I love to speak with Leonard he’s a sportsman and a shepherd he’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.”