Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate - Review
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critics' view

“Well I stepped into an avalanche, it covered up my soul” said the grotesque hunchback in a resigned, world-weary monotone. Yay, Leonard’s back! The opening gambit on his third LP is served upon a hypnotising fast-pick classical guitar pattern and a gorgeous string section – immediately the senses are filled. Soon after, the devastating poetic brilliance of “Dress Rehearsal Rag” absolutely leads the listener by the hand on a trip to desolation row, where suicide is just a razorblade stroke away. On this sort of form, he’s in the highest echelons where the greats truly exist:

“There's no hot water and the cold is running thin. Well, what do you expect from the kind of places you've been living in? Don't drink from that cup, it's all caked and cracked along the rim. That's not the electric light, my friend, that is your vision growing dim. Cover up your face with soap, there, now you're Santa Claus. And you've got a gift for anyone who will give you his applause. I thought you were a racing man, ah, but you couldn't take the pace. That's a funeral in the mirror and it's stopping at your face.”

I can’t help but chuckle – might “Songs of self-hate and loathing” have been a better title? The tone lightens musically for “Diamonds In The Mine”, which brings the Nashville sound into disrepute. Here, Leonard sounds every bit as busted and disgusted as he did on “Dress Rehearsal”:

“And the trees are burning in your promised land. And there are no letters in the mailbox, and there are no grapes upon the vine, and there are no chocolates in the boxes anymore, and there are no diamonds in the mine.”

Emptiness abounds. Is it wrong to find this hilarious? It sure is entertaining – what a performer, what a vocal.

Side 2 is not quite as breath-taking, but “Joan of Arc” serves excellently as a closer. Here, we are taken on a trip back to 1431 as our heroine is given a voice whilst facing the fire which is consuming her as she burns at the stake, after having been found guilty of heresy. I must say, she seems to taking it all rather calmly. What a gal. Quite right Joan, don't let those crazed zealots beat you. She deserves to be immortalized.

An awesome LP every 2 years – that’s the Leonard Cohen story so far; seasoned to perfection every time.

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