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Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

5.0 1
Leonard Cohen has always been one of rock's least likely cult heroes -- from the moment he entered the arena in the late '60s, impeccably suited and dauntingly literate in an era when most of his compatriots were marked by scruff and spit (hold the polish). He's also been one of its more enduring, leaving a legacy that's had an impact on countless artists who share


Leonard Cohen has always been one of rock's least likely cult heroes -- from the moment he entered the arena in the late '60s, impeccably suited and dauntingly literate in an era when most of his compatriots were marked by scruff and spit (hold the polish). He's also been one of its more enduring, leaving a legacy that's had an impact on countless artists who share his bent for introspection and romanticism -- many of whom are gathered on this, the second large-scale Cohen tribute of the past decade. Unlike I'm Your Fan, this disc -- culled from the film of the same name -- isn't stacked with big names, but rather with folks with a clear kinship to the singer. It's easy to hear Cohen's influence, as a vocalist, on Nick Cave -- who does a marvelous job wringing the lustiness out of the title track, while ratcheting things down for "Suzanne" (on which he teams with Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen). The drama inherent in Cohen's best work is channeled beautifully by both Rufus Wainwright (who contributes a pair of songs, most notably a suitably shaken sounding "Chelsea Hotel No. 2") and Teddy Thompson (whose severe take on "The Future" might be the album's most gripping moment). It's always intriguing to hear a female perspective on Cohen compositions -- given that he's one of the most unflaggingly masculine writers of his generation -- and the offerings from Beth Orton and Martha Wainwright (the latter of whom opens the collection with a yearning "Tower of Song") both provide fresh insight into their choices. Cohen himself appears only once here -- joining U2 for a set-ending reprise of "Tower of Song" -- but his spirit imbues every groove. And that spirit is one that touches all who come into contact with it.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
As a soundtrack for Lian Lunson's film Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, Hal Willner's choices from the two overseas evenings of Came So Far for Beauty: An Evening of Leonard Cohen Songs recorded in Brighton and Sydney -- the original was in Brooklyn -- are exceptionally well done. The rest of this program, however, is utterly fine, beautiful, raw, and immediate. It helps when you've got great material, an arranger like Steven Bernstein, and bands that include Charles Burnham, Michael Blake, Kenny Wollesen, Briggan Krauss, Chris Spedding, Marc Anthony Thompson, Smokey Hormel, Don Falzone, and Maxim Moston. Hal Wilner picked the tunes after producing the Brooklyn show. And when you have Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla -- longtime Cohen bandmembers -- singing backing vocals on most every tune and taking their own leads as well, the performances move to another level and you have a feast. The multi-generational approach features young guns like Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Teddy Thompson, the Handsome Family, and Martha and Rufus Wainwright along with first-generation Cohen countrywomen the McGarrigle Sisters (one of whom is mother to Rufus and Martha) and middle-years admirers like Nick Cave and Antony, not to mention Battala and Christensen. It begins with Martha's wonderfully overwrought "Tower of Song." She catches the drama and the wryness in it and just pours it all out. Her brother does an acceptable job of "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" in his trademark nasally wheeze and foppish manner, but his version of "Everybody Knows" comes off with more authority. Nick Cave's lounge lizard sneer on "I'm Your Man" contains all the humor, false confidence, and desperate need of the original. The McGarrigles (with Martha) cover "Winter Lady"; it's light, airy, and gorgeously done, as is Martha's other solo, "The Traitor." Beth Orton is simple, from the gut, and completely raw and effective on "Sisters of Mercy." Listeners get Jarvis Cocker and the Handsome Family doing straight reads of "I Can't Forget" and "Famous Blue Raincoat," respectively -- complete with attempts at imitating Cohen's low rumble. Cocker is truly great, while the Handsome Family are more than acceptable. Batalla's "Bird on a Wire" lends the song an entirely new dimension with its slipstream country backdrop and Cajun overtones, courtesy of a fine accordion solo. Cave, Christensen, and Batalla collaborate for a stunningly real midtempo "Suzanne" that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Batalla and Christensen's reading of "Anthem" is tender to the point of heartbreak. Teddy Thompson is, judging by his two recorded outings and his performances of "Tonight Will Be Fine" and "The Future" here, on the way to becoming a truly great singer. But it is Antony's performance of "If It Be Your Will" that is the showstopper here. With Bernstein's arrangement creating a gospel feel, Antony's white-hot vocal expressionism and humility tear the surface off every emotion and word in the song for the purpose of finding what they're really made of. If this one doesn't just blow you away, you have sawdust instead of blood running in your veins. It almost feels like the voice of God coming through the grain of his own. The final cut, by perennial spotlight hogs U2 -- of course, they weren't part of the festival -- was the exception and was done in a burlesque club. Their version of "Tower of Song" is the last thing on the program and it belongs there; it's a collaboration between them, Cohen, and Anjani Thomas. Their overblown, over-arranged, and over-produced take on the tune almost steals the author's tough lyrical meaning and buries it under dross instrumental crap that sounds like an outtake from one of their albums -- they never could cover other people's material well. Cohen and Anjani sound great on it, though. They keep Bono chained up until the very last verse, where he almost wrecks the tune with his undisciplined vamp on the melody, and the seemingly inauthentic (over)emotional ache in his delivery. Other than this blemish, which keeps I'm Your Man from being perfect, this is a fine and fitting tribute to an artist whose gifts are so massive that they cannot even be spoken of adequately.

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Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
...Of Gloom, who deserved a tribute album of this sort. The brilliant, moody, intellectual Canadian that so long ago won our optimistic American hearts and taught us the true meaning of the world, we implore you! This is a back to basics album with such folk luminaries as Nick Cave and The Wainwright Family who kept Leonard's spirit very authentic on this album. It was absolutely fascinating to hear female voices do such classics as "Sisters of Mercy" by Beth Orton and "The Traitor" by Martha Wainwright, both done superbly, almost on par with the master himself. Greatest next to the G-MAN himself.