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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Brian - The Leonard Cohen Covers Project

(You know, when I was putting this together, I had this eerie feeling about Leonard. Given the impetus that Bowie and P dying provided, I wondered if he was gonna go. I'm glad I made this unintended memorial tribute to him. I spent all day Saturday listening to my Cohen CDs, and I'm feeling the loss. So, on to my original intro, and sorry about the cover screw up. It looked like Lenny to me...)

Awhile ago, I was listening to the I'm Your Fan and Tower of Song tributes. I wondered if I could make my own Leonard Cohen covers compilation, since there were some faves of mine that aren't on either of those. In the end, this comp stands on its own. And it's better. Yep, I said it.

And I couldn't have done it without Jonder. He helped me find cool songs, made the album cover, and helped with editing down two of the key tracks on disc 2. Both of these time out perfectly - just under 80 minutes - cuz I like burning these to disc and giving them to people. Now, on to my pal Jonder for some words on the cover, and about the lead off track for this compilation....

"Brian asked me to make a cover image for his compilation of Leonard Cohen songs.  For no particular reason I tried to make it look like London Calling (which was a nod to the image of Elvis Presley's first LP).   I also asked Brian to include my personal favorite Leonard Cohen cover.

If the Dancing Hoods are remembered at all these days, it is most often as Mark Linkous' band before Sparklehorse.  People who haven't listened to the Dancing Hoods have little idea that Mark could play like Johnny Thunders.  The group's version of Cohen's "Diamonds In The Mine" recasts a gloomy ballad as a frantic rocker with horns and piano. Cohen's lyrics carry a hint of malice: the Hoods' singer sneers the words like he'd just as soon spit in your face. I think it's a great arrangement -- as different from Cohen's original as Cohen himself is different from Elvis Presley or the Clash." 

(This song fucking rocks! - Brian)

The song that was singlehandedly responsible for me (Brian) being a Cohen fan as a teen was Concrete Blonde's version of "Everybody Knows". I've loved it since I first heard it in Pump Up the Volume. Never made sense to me that it wasn't on the two big Cohen tributes previously mentioned, especially as one of their versions was by Don Henley? Blecch.

Ane Brun brings a weathered yet graceful country lilt to "Ain't No Cure For Love". Cobra Verde give "So Long, Marianne" a strident Brit Pop feel. Nana Mouskori's "The Guests" is haunting, especially with the vocals on the chorus. A surprise to me, Billy Joel's "Light As The Breeze" has got more soul to it than I think I've heard from him in a long time. Cookies 'N Beans' version of "First We Take Manhattan" is unique; Appalachian swing, maybe? Scottish group Close Lobsters remake "Paper Thin Hotel" as pure jangle pop. 

Carol Laure sings a beautiful "Coming Back To You", gently supported by orchestra. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds' moodily dark version of "Avalanche" is on From Her To Eternity, but you knew that, right? There's any number of versions of "Bird On A Wire" (Johnny Cash's comes to mind), but I like Fairport Convention's. Sandy Denny's voice is just lovely. One of my favorite English groups.

Matthew Barber's "The Partisan" is sparse and beautiful, just like Cohen's original. Madeleine Peyroux recasts "Dance Me To the End of Love" as a jazzy torch song. The Shivers' "Chelsea Hotel #2" is one of the most beautifully stark things I've ever heard. Ian McCullough's "Lover Lover Lover" is pure pop. Sharon Robinson's "Alexandra Leaving" is lovely, even if it has a touch of compression on it. Another surprise to me was stumbling on Beck's cover of "Winter Lady" right at the same time Scott posted those Record Club albums.

The Jesus and Mary Chain's version of "Tower of Song" was unknown to Jonder, Scott, and I. It opens disc 2, and it just drips cool. It's like the moment when their VU worship achieved critical mass! Befitting the title, Patricia O'Callaghan's cover of "A Singer Must Die" is almost operatic at times. I love how she sings the "hinge of her thighs/beauty's disguise" verse. "Ballad Of the Absent Mare" sounds best when sung by a woman, and Perla Batalla's version is lovely.

Stina Nordenstam (remember her "People Are Strange"?) reinvents "I Came So Far For Beauty" as a grungy little rocker. Harvey Milk's cover of "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong" is bleary-eyed and beautifully strained. "Hallelujah" is not only Cohen's most covered song, I think it holds some kind of record of number of versions. I was either gonna go with John Cale's (long a favorite) or Jeff Buckley's. Jonder came across this great version of Buckley's off of Live at Sin-é. He did a little bit of editing so it ended perfectly.

Pearls Before Swine spins a "Suzanne" that's just lovely, even down to the singer's lisp, which I never noticed on their cover of "I Shall Be Released". Lizzie West flips the gender coin on "I'm Your Man", and it works wonderfully. Laura Love gives "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" a nice bluegrass melody. Mirah sings a driving and dramatic "Story of Isaac", with a beautiful acoustic solo.

Human Drama's "If It Be Your Will" is very much a march, being more uplifting than Cohen's mournful original. Area's "Sisters of Mercy" is beautiful and hymn-like. Patrizio Trambetti's "Take This Waltz" matches the warm Italian vocals with a guy who sounds like either Tom Waits or Shel Silverstein! 

Marianne Faithful's cover of "Going Home" is great, with her creakily singing the lines about Leonard being "a lazy bastard living in a suit". Peter Astor's "Take This Longing" was an 11th hour Jonder submission, and I like it. And old school Goth doesn't get much better than Coil's version of "Who By Fire".

I knew I was gonna have the three "J"'s here - Joan BaezJudy Collins, and - of course - Jennifer Warnes. They've covered many of the same Cohen tunes, so the question was: who was gonna do what song? It was a tough choice. I ended up with Joan's version of "Famous Blue Raincoat" hauntingly closing Disc 1, Judy's lovely "Song of Bernadette" holding up the middle of Disc 2, and Jennifer's "Joan of Arc" bringing the house down at the end of it all. All three of them are live versions, and the ladies nail it!

1. Dancing Hoods - Diamonds In the Mine.
2. Concrete Blonde - Everybody Knows 
3. Ane Brun - Ain't No Cure For Love
4. Cobra Verde - So Long, Marianne
5. Nana Mouskouri - The Guests
6. Billy Joel - Light As The Breeze
7. Cookies 'N Beans - First We Take Manhattan 
8. Close Lobsters - Paper Thin Hotel
9. Carol Laure - Coming Back To You
10. Nick Cave/Bad Seeds - Avalanche 
11. Fairport Convention - Bird On A Wire
12. Matthew Barber - The Partisan
13. Madeleine Peyroux - Dance Me to the End of Love
14. The Shivers - Chelsea Hotel #2
15. Ian McCullough - Lover Lover Lover 
16. Sharon Robinson - Alexandra Leaving
17. Beck - Winter Lady
18. Joan Baez - Famous Blue Raincoat 

1. Jesus and Mary Chain - Tower Of Song
2. Patricia O'Callaghan - A Singer Must Die
3. Perla Batalla - Ballad Of the Absent Mare
4. Stina Nordenstam - I Came So Far For Beauty 
5. Harvey Milk - One of Us Cannot Be Wrong 
6. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (live)
7. Pearls Before Swine - Suzanne
8. Lizzie West - I'm Your Man
9. Laura Love - Hey That's  No Way to Say Goodbye
10. Judy Collins - Song Of Bernadette
11. Mirah - Story of Isaac
12. Human Drama - If It Be Your Will
13. Area - Sisters of Mercy
14. Patrizio Trambetti - Take This Waltz
15. Marianne Faithfull - Going Home 
16. Coil - Who By Fire
18. Jennifer Warnes - Joan of Arc (live)

Rest assured, I sweated out this comp until I felt it was perfect. I can't top this one, kids. Big thanks again to Jonder for being my right hand on this. And that cover is awesome! For no particular reason, I've included a comedy bonus link.


  1. Disc 1

    Disc 2

    Comedy Bonus (PeterSellers)

  2. (Brian)

    Oops. It came up in an image search for "Leonard Cohen Smoking". I just didn't look closely...

  3. Hate to tell u, but that's gainsbourg on the cover too !

  4. (scott)-Thanks for bumping this Brian.......Cohen deserves it, AND this was one of your best couple of days I will put up a few more Cohen submissions that you might like (the poetry reading one I found fascinating), and, of course, as always, thanks for all the amazing stuff you do.