Wordsmith Leonard Cohen is back after a lengthy absence from recording. In the time that he has been away, Cohen joined a buddhist monastery and had his fortune swindled by a long-fingered manager.
Release: January 2012
Genre: Folk, Blues, Spoken Word
- “Going Home” – 3:51
- “Amen” – 7:36
- “Show Me the Place” – 4:09
- “Darkness” – 4:30
- “Anyhow” – 3:09
- “Crazy to Love You” – 3:06
- “Come Healing” – 2:53
- “Banjo” – 3:23
- “Lullaby” – 4:46
- “Different Sides” – 4:06
Being forced to go on tour and head back into the studio might have made for hackneyed songwriting and force Cohen to pander to a folk loving audience, half full on the modern offerings of Dylan. With so few great folk or folk and blues acts around it comes as a Godsend to have Cohen release ‘Old Ideas’.
The songs are careful meditations on loss, death, old age and suffering. On ‘Going Home’ Leonard’s raspy baritone muses on mortality and how the thought of death offers freedom from the daily pretences of life. On this and other tracks the gospel sounding back up singers add a lovely counter to Cohen’s dry and straight vocal delivery, which is barely above a whisper.
‘Amen’ sounds like the music for a carnival side-show act. It crawls along with great banjo licks popping up and down. ‘Show me the Place’ is heartfelt and filled with sorrow with the piano and organ accompaniment adding tenderness and fragility. The bluesy feel of ‘Darkness’ offers the most commercial sound on the album despite death being its principal theme. Words like, ‘I got no future I know my days are few’ are bleak and raw, not the kind of track you’ll hear on ‘MTV’.
The Bob Dylan comparisons have beeb swirling around Cohen his whole career. On ‘Old Ideas’ you can hear the similarities but whereas Dylan had a more expansive musical outlook, Cohen’s is restrained and mere backdrop for his words. This album will not appeal to the average listener, it’s dry as a bone and hard to digest. Those familiar with Cohen’s work will love it for its wry wit and offbeat musical offerings but to be honest the album is not the masterpiece critics are labelling it as.
Poetry and music can only go so far and at times Cohen’s talking becomes dreary and overbearing. With only two or three tracks delivering interesting musical accompaniment it falls on Cohen’s words to make a track interesting but after three songs this becomes tiresome. Still, listening to the album calms you and makes you ponder about some of the things Leonard speaks about and that in itself is a great achievement.