In 1967, there were many singers claiming to be poets, but Leonard Cohen was a real poet who was trying to be a singer. And although there are still critics who decry Cohen's singing ability, very few disparage the man's strengths as a wordsmith. These reissues of Cohen's first three albums offer pristine sound, some interesting bonus material and a fresh chance to admire the deceptively simple songs of one of the singular and influential figures to come out of the late '60s counter culture.
Unlike Dylan's, Cohen's lyrics were neither masked by imagery nor beholden to any notion of folk traditionalism. In (often-covered) songs such as "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy," "So Long, Marianne" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" (all from Songs of Leonard Cohen), the former Canadian poet laureate detailed personal experience with insights that were profound, explicit and, well, poetic.
The initial flare of his debut was somewhat muted on Songs From a Room and Songs of Love and Hate, but the idealistic truths found in "Bird on a Wire," "Last Year's Man" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" are even now profound and substantial. Although his voice never soared, Cohen's words continue to resonate. His vision was articulate and this 40th anniversary of his original recordings is as good a time as any to appreciate his bohemian charm.
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