Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In appreciation...

I’ll tell you straight off that I appreciate everyone who reads my blog - whether you comment or not, I know you’re out there. But it is nice to get some feedback now and then, and luckily all of mine has been positive, so enough to keep me going (when work/kids/life give me the time…). But I really love it when someone gives me a little something back, as with Seattle-based pal Benji, who after reading my November 11 “There’s Only One" post featuring Leonard Cohen’s debut, had this to say about his fourth release, New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

For your (and for JT's) pleasure, I'd like to suggest a second look at Cohen's 4th Album "New Skin for the Old Ceremony." Cohen is one of the seminal singer-songwriters to me because his life echoes in his songs. From an autobiographical standpoint, his first album introduces us to themes that continue in his later work: hedonism vs religion.

Cohen slowly gives in more and more to the flesh and this album is the last one where those themes really battle. In his 5th and 6th albums he's a wholly carnal being. Then the pendulum swings the other way while he becomes a monk before his return to music with an album of religious songs.

Career arc aside, the diversity of the arrangements on the album sets it apart. In the raucous "Is This What You Wanted (To Live In A House That Is Haunted)" to "Chelsea Hotel" - the Janis Joplin affair inspired ballad that may be the best example of his resigned, confessional style - to moody mysteries like "Who by Fire" and emotional appeals like "Take This Longing," we see the already eclectic Cohen pushing himself as a songwriter.

I could go on, but for JT (who hadn't heard much Cohen) and for your readers, I wanted to make a case for revisting "New Skin For The Old Ceremony."

I had admittedly never heard this album at the time of my initial post, but after reading Benji’s well spoken praise, and knowing Benji knows his know, I decided I needed to pick up a copy. That actually proved more trying than one would think, and after a month when I finally got it, I was in the midst of new baby madness, so it was after the dawning of 2011 when I finally got to sit down and, to put it simply, really enjoy this record.

Honestly, I can’t really add, embellish or improve upon what Benji himself has already said. But I will say that despite the rather heavy themes mentioned above, New Skin for the Old Ceremony is quite an easy, even endearing listen. I won’t say it’s a stab at pop accessibility, songs like Why Don’t You Try are closer to Tin Pan Alley…hmmmm, which I guess 30-40 years earlier WAS pop, but you get what I’m saying. Basically by this point Cohen had progressed as a songwriter, not just a man putting music and melody to poems, but writing with the idea of song as a principle part of the process. Not that the poetry is any way lost, for nothing here is trite, cliché or tongue in cheek, but as raw and exposed as the dramatic opening moments of Suzanne.

So thank you Benji, and again to all my readers. I’m always open for your thoughts and comments. I know I’ve been a bit slow with these lately, but hopefully I’ll be churning them out a bit more in the coming weeks.

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