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Saturday, July 08, 2006 

Remember me, I used to live for music

I think what makes Death of a Ladies' Man my favourite Leonard Cohen album I've heard so far is the way it firmly disproves the notion that Cohen is a bad singer, or not a singer at all, in a way I'm Your Man*, The Future and the career-spanning (but Ladies' Man-omitting) The Essential Leonard Cohen all fail to do.

I love, adore, lionize Cohen's "mature" voice, that dry croak that gives his later albums a disproportionate amount of their weight. And the first fifteen tracks of the Essential collection - "Suzanne" to "Night Comes On" - exposed me a voice I was only intermittantly familiar with but quite like, but it's often too thin, too separated out from the songs. This is part of Cohen's appeal, part of what sets him apart, and it's not as if he's unable to be visceral, it's just a different kind of viscerality. But on Death of a Ladies' Man, possibly due to writing all of the songs with Phil Spector, he's actually singing there with the songs (I have no idea how to actually describe this) - his performance on "Memories" alone should absolve him of the need for any defence of his ability to sing (to say nothing of the glassily exuberent "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On" or the shattering, final title track). I mean, he may have lost it since, but he did have it at one point, and he was great at it. It's just an aspect to his talent that has been overlooked.

And that's not even the best thing(s) about Ladies' Man, but I did know I was going to buy it when I found myself humming along to the rowdy hoedown of "Fingerprints" while walking to get the bus after work one day.

*(Which used to be my favourite Cohen album, but honestly that essential collection is quite good, and has a whopping 6 of 8 tracks from I'm Your Man - I like "I Can't Forget" and "Jazz Police", but I'm not sure I like them enough to keep duplicates. At this point the only Cohen I really want to investigate further is Dear Heather, which came after the comp, Songs of Love and Hate, which has one song on it, and maybe Recent Songs)

I can help you there, Ian. Songs of Love and Hate is the man's second-best early period album (New Skin for the Old Ceremony is his best, period, and if you don't have it, you really should). I'm a huge fan of mature voice Cohen as well, and Recent Songs is great - but after The Future it goes steeply, sharply downhill. Send me an email and let me know what you ain't got and we can work it out.

PS - Your writing on Cohen in this post is very strong, you should consider doing something for the site on 'im - maybe you, me and Powelly can come up with a group grope.

Thanks, and you are mailed, sir.

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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