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Dear Heather
     

Dear Heather

by Leonard Cohen
 

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Leonard Cohen's Dear Heather is full of poetry, weighty themes, and lighthearted humor. Unlike some of his more slickly produced later work, Dear Heather has a light and spacious touch. Cohen still contrasts his gruff vocals with sweet-voiced women -- sometimes massed in choruses, often just either of his longtime collaborators Anjani Thomas and Sharon

Overview

Leonard Cohen's Dear Heather is full of poetry, weighty themes, and lighthearted humor. Unlike some of his more slickly produced later work, Dear Heather has a light and spacious touch. Cohen still contrasts his gruff vocals with sweet-voiced women -- sometimes massed in choruses, often just either of his longtime collaborators Anjani Thomas and Sharon Robinson -- and the songs are more likely to rely on keyboards than the acoustic guitars of his classic recordings from the '60s. First, the poetry: Cohen turns Lord Byron's poem "So We'll Go No More A-Roving" into a sexy slow jam and recites Frank Scott's "Villanelle for Our Time," gradually adding an improvisatory piano backing; then, by changing his inflections and adding Thomas's heavenly backing vocals, he turns it into a song. Cohen still takes his role as elder sage seriously: "On That Day" is his 9/11 opus, but it's a brief one at just over two minutes (most of these songs are brief), and "To a Teacher" and "The Faith" rely on biblical allusions and provocative rhetorical questions. But Cohen's sense of humor is more prominent than ever on Dear Heather. In "Because Of," he notes, "Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mysteries / women have been exceptionally kind to my old age," and delightful comic touches are imparted by his Jew's harp in "Nightingale" and his carefully enunciated diction in the title track. Dear Heather shows that this elder statesman still has some new tricks up his elegantly disheveled sleeves.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
There is an air of finality on Leonard Cohen's Dear Heather. Cohen, who turned 70 in September of 2004, offers no air of personal mortality -- thank God; may this elegant Canadian bard of the holy and profane live forever. It nonetheless looks back -- to teachers, lovers, and friends -- and celebrates life spent in the process of actually living it. The album's bookend tracks provide some evidence: Lord Byron's bittersweet "Go No More A-ng," set to music and sung by Cohen and Sharon Robinson (and dedicated to Cohen's ailing mentor, Irving Layton), and a beautifully crafted reading of country music's greatest lost love song, "Tennessee Waltz." Cohen's voice is even quieter, almost whispering, nearly sepulchral. The tone of the album is mellow, hushed, nocturnal. Its instrumentation is drenched in the beat nightclub atmospherics of Ten New Songs: trippy, skeletal R&B and pop and Casio keyboard- and beatbox-propelled rhythm tracks are graced by brushed drums, spectral saxophones, and vibes, along with an all but imperceptible acoustic guitar lilting sleepily through it all. But this doesn't get it, because there's so much more than this, too. That said, Dear Heather is Cohen's most upbeat offering. Rather than focus on loss as an end, it looks upon experience as something to be accepted as a portal to wisdom and gratitude. Women permeate these songs both literally and metaphorically. Robinson, who collaborated with Cohen last time, is here, but so is Anjani Thomas. Leanne Ungar also lends production help. Cohen blatantly sums up his amorous life in "Because Of": "Because of a few songs/Wherein I spoke of their mystery/Women have been exceptionally kind to my old age/They make a secret place/In their busy lives/And they say, 'Look at me, Leonard/Look at me one last time.'" "The Letters," written with Robinson, who sings in duet, is a case in point, reflecting on a past love who has been "Reading them again/The ones you didn't burn/You press them to your lips/My pages of concern...The wounded forms appear/The loss, the full extent/And simple kindness here/The solitude of strength." "On That Day" is a deeply compassionate meditation on the violence of September 11 where he asks the question: "Did you go crazy/Or did you report/On that day...." It is followed by the spoken poem "A Villanelle for Our Time," with words by Cohen's late professor Frank Scott that transform these experiences into hope. "We rise to play a greater part/The lesser loyalties depart/And neither race nor creed remain/From bitter searching of the heart...." On "There for You," with Robinson, Cohen digs even deeper into the well, telling an old lover that no matter the end result of their love, he was indeed there, had shown up, he was accountable and is grateful. Cohen quotes his own first book, The Spice Box of Earth, to pay tribute to the late poet A.M. Klein. "Tennessee Waltz" is indeed a sad, sad song, but it is given balance in Cohen's elegant, cheerful delivery. If this is indeed his final offering as a songwriter, it is a fine, decent, and moving way to close this chapter of the book of his life.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/26/2004
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0827969289129
catalogNumber:
92891
Rank:
28650

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Go No More A-Roving
  2. Because Of
  3. The Letters
  4. Undertow
  5. Morning Glory
  6. On That Day
  7. Villanelle For Our Time
  8. There For You
  9. Dear Heather
  10. Nightingale
  11. To A Teacher
  12. The Faith
  13. Tennessee Waltz

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Leonard Cohen   Primary Artist,Guitar,Piano,Jew's Harp,Vocals
Bob Sheppard   Tenor Saxophone
Mitch Watkins   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
John Bilezikjian   Oud
Roscoe Beck   Bass
Richard Crooks   Drums
John Crowder   Bass,Bass Guitar,Vocals
Johnny Friday   Drums
Ron Getman   Steel Guitar,Vocals
Bill Ginn   Piano
Garth Hudson   Accordion
Paul Ostermayer   Flute
Anjani   Piano,Vocals,Background Vocals
Raffi Hakopian   Violin
Sarah Kramer   Trumpet
Stan Sargeant   Bass,Bass Guitar
Sharon Robinson   Vocals,Various

Technical Credits

Leonard Cohen   Arranger,Composer,Drawing
Jeremy Lubbock   String Arrangements
Ed Sanders   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Pee Wee King   Composer
Redd Stewart   Composer
Henry Lewy   Producer,Audio Production
Frank Scott   Composer
Anjani   Composer,Producer,Engineer,Vocal Arrangements,Audio Production
Leanne Ungar   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Byron   Composer
Sharon Robinson   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production

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