Hit or Miss: Leonard Cohen

Many artists over the years have been tagged with the label “poet,” the two obvious ones being Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

Now even though they technically are not poets by any means, their lyrics have always overshadowed what was going on in the background and their legacy will always be synonymous with the language that they used to create their song lyrics.

There are very few artists who could carry the weight of being a musician and a poet at the same time, and one of those exceptions is Leonard Cohen.

The 77-year old Canadian’s 11th studio album titled Old Ideas, is a stupendous effort that entails poems of heartbreak and loneliness that give off an uplifting taste of the human spirit.

Cohen’s voice, once an honest baritone, might have fallen to the way side along with the years but his romantic lyrics and narratives have not. While many of the songs on Old Ideas never go past mid-tempo they are still exciting because of the tales that transpire.

There are many ways to describe the voice of Cohen on this record. He seems to have blended the contemporary howl of Dylan with the growl of Tom Waits that almost hinges on a whisper.

“Show Me the Place” perfectly displays this sentiment. Not only is Cohen’s voice haunting, but naturally the words are as well: “show me the place where the word became a man/ show me the place where the suffering began.”

While the instrumentation is lush and plentiful, it always seems to take a backseat to the lyrics.  As the song “Anyhow” shows, Cohen uses the music as a platform for his profound words so there are a scarce amount of solos. The use of the music and instrumentation in a song was used in similar fashion in latter day Dylan songs such as Slow Train Coming’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

The defining moment of the album has to be the song “Crazy to Love You.”  Very similar to Cohen standards “Suzanne” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “Crazy to Love You” evokes longing and heartache, two themes that Cohen has constantly referred back to in his career.

The title of the record sums it up, these songs are simply Cohen’s old ideas. Old Ideas shows that his formula hasn’t changed very much but it is that formula that has churned great music and poetry for the past 50 years.

Old Ideas is another beautiful album made for the heart broken and the lonely.