Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The many lives of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen has two more live CDs/DVDs being released this month, bringing his total live output up to seven (four in the last two years alone), almost catching up with his studio albums (11):

Songs From The Road (CD/DVD, 2010)
Bird On A Wire (DVD only, 2010)
Live In London (CD/DVD, 2009)
Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (CD/DVD, 2009)
Field Commander Cohen – 1979 Tour (2002)
Cohen Live (1999)
Live Songs (1973)

Not that I'm complaining (though it does feel somewhat like milking the barrel), but I am wondering if he's ever going to release another studio album. Cohen's in his 70s now, though near contemporaries such as Dylan and Kristofferson have both released decent studio albums in the last couple of years.

When Dylan and Cohen finally famously met, in a Parisian cafe in the 1980s, an interviewer asked Cohen what they talked about. Bob had asked Leonard how long it had taken him to write Hallelujah: 'four or five years', replied Cohen. Cohen had then asked Dylan how long it had taken him to write I and I: 'about fifteen minutes' replied Bob.

It's a telling insight into their work methods. Dylan has a tendency to churn out songs on the hoof, whether they're perfect or not. Cohen tends to rework songs for years until they're just right.

Hence, Dylan's Bootleg Series number nine is about to released (and one could be released every year for the next fifty years and the well not dry up) whereas Cohen, when his first three albums were remastered a few years back, only managed a few needless outtakes on the end of each one. Dylan has also released at least a dozen live albums and thirty-three studio albums.

But live, they're worlds apart. Dylan mumbles through his songs, apparently reinventing them but sounding more like demolishing them, and has virtually no interaction with his audience. Cohen, who only seems to tour once a decade now (and last year for purely financial reasons – which couldn't really be said for Dylan's Never Ending Tour) is a dapper old-fashioned gentleman and puts on quite a performance, interacting and joking with his audience (though his 1970s concerts were somewhat raggedy).

In a 1975 Rolling Thunder concert in Montreal, Canada, just before he kicks off Isis (back when he did talk to the audience – and by 1979 you couldn't shut preacher Bob up), Bob Dylan shouts out 'This is for Leonard... if he's still here!' He still is. Just.

Previously: Leonard Cohen albums with the word 'Songs' in them.


Anonymous said...

It has been all over the news today that Leonard Cohen's World Tour will end in December with 4 shows in the USA - the last two being in Las Vegas. Two years on the road - 240 concerts. Remarkable. But in response to wondering if he will ever do another studio album, he has said that he has already started working on a new album that he is producing himself, and it hopefully will be released by next fall. Some of the songs from the album have already been performed this summer on his ongoing tour. Most notable is a song called "Born In Chains." A masterpiece.

Pearce said...

Kristofferson's released a good album recently? Is that Closer to the Bone? I'll have to check it out.

I'm going see see Leonard Cohen on November 1. The last time I saw him, I thought it was one of the 2 or 3 best concerts I've ever been to. I always miss Dylan when he comes through though...

Barnaby said...

Thanks for the update, Anon. I'll look forward to the new album.

Closer to the Bone is good, and the one before that, This Old Road.

Enjoy the concert... but will there be anywhere left for him to play when he goes to Christchurch?

I saw Cohen play in 1989 (I think). No great loss to miss Dylan. Even people who have been to his concerts think they've missed him.