You Were in it For Your Beauty Too: Leonard Cohen’s Hungry Kiss

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I tried to use Death of a Ladies' Man as Leonard Cohen’s Then-Album to accompany his Now-Album, 2012’s Old Ideas, but Death of a Ladies' Man is all about Phil Spector.  It is symptomatic of the 70s that anyone thought Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen belonged in the same city—or era—never mind the same studio.  At any rate, it is time someone got rid of Spector, creating a Death of a Ladies' Man naked in the manner of Let It Be Naked—as odd as that sounds.

Wearing Little

The naked (or semi-naked) Cohen albums were his first two, 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen and 1969’s Songs from a Room.  His third album is Songs of Love and Hate.  His fourth is Songs of...just kidding, it’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

All of the Songs of...albums are good ones. Those first two are brilliantly minimalist, easily replicable if Cohen chose to sit on a stool somewhere and sing with guitar.  The Spector incident was like a pivot point in his moving away from this simplicity.  Thankfully Cohen did not further collaborate with Spector, though the move from minimalism to full band has been rewarding for all fans, even those who support the simplicity and purity of his early work.

Poetry-AM Fusion

I’m Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992) represent the culmination of that move from the early ones, those poet-with-guitar albums, to these AM-breaching classics. These two albums satisfy those who read Cohen’s poetry and those didn’t know he wrote books—both appreciative audiences. Honourable mention in this class goes to Various Positions, which contains “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “Hallelujah.”

Wearing Something Tight

In this fusion of poetry and AM recognition, it is The Future that takes the prize.  “The Future” and “Democracy” (with its jabs at the USA’s political situation and mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre) are poetry, and yet both received radio play.  “Light as a Breeze” is a wonderful Cohen mixture of sex, religion, and politics—again a perfect fusion of pop and poetry, somehow. Top of the list for this fusion, though, is the best tune yet written about last call, “Closing Time.” If its only existence were as a poem it would be the best poem about last call.  It’s good either way, poetry-AM fusion about the end of the night.


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