SONGS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS WRITTEN BY LEONARD COHEN.

Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen.

Label: Ace Records.

Format CD.

Release Date: ‘25th’ November 2022.

Just over six years ago, on October the ’21st’ 2016, Canadian singer-songwriter, novelist and poet Leonard Cohen releasedYou Want It Darker to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, it turned out to be that last album released during his lifetime.

Just seventeen days later, on the ‘7th’ of November 2016, Leonard Cohen passed away aged eighty-two.  That day, music lost a true great whose recording career had spanned nearly fifty years. 

During that time, Leonard Cohen released a total of fourteen studio albums as well as eight live albums. They’re a remainder of one of music’s most enduring, cerebral and thought-provoking singer-songwriters.

Leonard Cohen wasn’t scared of asking the big questions and tackling subjects that other singer-songwriters shied away from. This included everything from religion and politics to isolation, depression as well as relationships and sexuality right through to loss and death. That was the case right up until his final album You Want It Darker.

On the album, Leonard Cohen revisited familiar subjects, death, God and even humour. Maybe he found this therapeutic or cathartic? Or it may have been his way of coping with death? This was similar to Dylan Thomas writing the villanelle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. However, Leonard Cohen didn’t: “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Instead he was rueful, reflective, offered advice and gave thanks on If I Didn’t Have Your Love. It was one of the highlights of the You Want It Darker. However, it was the title-track that won a Grammy Award in January 2018 for the Best Rock Performance. Many critics and cultural commentators thought that this was a fitting end to a long and illustrious career.

However, during a recording career that spanned six decades, Leonard Cohen won many of the most prestigious awards.  That’s no surprise as he released a string of classic albums that nowadays, are regarded by critics as influential, innovative and hugely important.

Over the years, Leonard Cohen’s best known and most celebrated songs have been covered by many artists. This includes the seventeen artists that feature on Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen. This is a new compilation that will be released by Ace Records on ‘25th’ November 2022. It’s the followup to Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, and is the latest instalment in the long-running and critically acclaimed Songwriter Series.

Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen features covers from many familiar faces. This includes KD Lang, Emmylou Harris, Jonathan Richman, Mama Cass, Madeleine Peyroux, The Webb Sisters, Judy Collins, Richie Havens, Noel Harrison and Fairport Convention. There’s also contributions from The Last Shadow Puppets and Anna Calvi on the compilation.

It opens with KD Lang’s cover of Hallelujah. It featured on her 2004 album Hymn Of The 49th Parallel. It’s a song that Leonard Cohen laboured long and hard to write. He spent five years writing and rewriting this anthemic track. During that time, he wrote between eighty and 180 draft verses of this oft-covered, powerful, joyous and emotive song that’s the perfect way to open the compilation.

The Stranger Song featured on Songs of Leonard Cohen which was released in 1967. This was the debut album by the Canadian singer-songwriter. Forty-nine years later, in 2016, the song featured on country music legend Emmylou Harris’ album Deeper Well: The Wrecking Ball Outtakes. It’s a beautiful rendition of the song where she reinvents it and breathes new life and meaning into it.

Mama Cass covered You Know Who I Am on here 1968 album Dream A Little Dream. She delivers an impassioned and heartfelt vocal against a big, bold jazz-tinged arrangement. It’s a reminder if any was needed of a truly talented vocalist.

When The Last Shadow Puppets released The Dream Synopsis EP in 2016 it featured a cover of Is This What You Wanted. The song featured on Leonard Cohen’s 1974 album New Skin For The Old Ceremony. Previously, the group had covered Memories from Death Of A Ladies Man, and often included Leonard Cohen songs in their setlist. The cover is sung as a duet and sounds as if it was heavily inspired by Leonard Cohen. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation where the group pay homage to one of their musical heroes.

Anjani penned Nightingale with Leonard Cohen which featured on his Dear Heather album in 2004. Two years later, in 2006, she covered the song on her album Blue Alert. The song which was produced by Leonard Cohen benefits from a spartan, piano-led arrangement. This is the perfect backdrop for a beautiful tender vocal that’s full of emotion.

Madeleine Peyroux covered Blue Alert on her 2006 album Half The Perfect World. This is another song that was written by Anjani Thomas and Leonard Cohen. Drums are played with brushes as the song is transformed into a slinky yet atmospheric and moody slice of jazz.

Judy Collins recorded a cover of Story Of Isaac for her 1968 album Who Knows Where Time Goes. She stays true to the original and delivers an impassioned vocal that bristles with emotion on this thought-provoking song full of symbolism.

Another of Leonard Cohen’s best known songs is Joan Of Arc. It’s been covered by many artists over the years. Very different is Anna Calvi’s instrumental version from 2011. Her Fender guitar takes centre-stage on the single where she reinvents the song. It sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a Wim Wenders or David Lynch movie.

When Richie Havens entered the studio in 1968 he decided to record a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Priests. The following year, 1969, it featured on the album Richard P. Havens, 1983. It was a mixture of folk rock, psychedelia and early art rock. However, the cover of Priests was understated, spartan and even dark and moody even with a vocal that’s thoughtful and reflective.  This cover shows another side to a familiar and much-loved song.

The final track on Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen is Closing Time by Fairport Convention. It’s taken from their 1995 album Jewel In The Crown. The veteran folk-rockers unleash an uptempo fiddle led cover of the track that closes the album on a high.

Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen Proof is a carefully curated compilation and is the latest instalment in Ace Records’ long-running and critically acclaimed Songwriter Series. It’s also another reminder of one of the greatest lyricists of his generation, who sadly, passed away on the ‘7th’ of November 2016, aged eighty-two. That day, music lost a true great, whose recording career had spanned nearly fifty years and six decades. 

During that period, countless artists and bands covered Leonard Cohen’s songs. This included the array of talented artists that feature Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen. Some reinvent familiar songs and take them in a new direction, while others stay true to the original. However, all the artists that feature on Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen pay tribute to one of the greatest lyricists of his generation who is still regarded as Canada’s poet laureate.

Leonard Cohen’s music is cerebral and thought-provoking. It’s still relevant and continues to speak to several generations of music lovers. This includes the seventeen artists and bands who pay homage to the great man on Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen who three years after his death is sadly missed.

Songs Of Light and Darkness Written By Leonard Cohen.

 

1 Comment

  1. Great review thanks! There are a select few songwriters whose work seems to call out to singers. The Beatles, Bowie, Mitchell, Dylan and Cohen etc. I had the good fortune to see him on his last tour it is one of the most impactful live performances I have ever seen. Like Springsteen he pulls you in and keeps you in place you can’t go any other time. The man was as much a great showman as he was a writer. Didn’t hurt that he surrounded himself with some remarkable talent.

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