Monday, July 28, 2014

Album Review: Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

Ok this is an interesting one.  Leonard Cohen's eighth album, released in 1988, features some of the worst late 80s synth pop production.  Yet it's one I return to over and over.  Well, six of the 8 songs anyway.  What of the other 2?  Ain't No Cure For Love is merely an easy-listening ballad introduced by a fairly cheesy saxophone.  But Jazz Police is something else.  Clattering synths duel with drum machines, supported by syrupy backing vocals to produce a song you'll only want to hear once.

Thankfully the other six tracks are the real deal.  First We Take Manhattan overcomes the production with a marvellous melody and vocal from Cohen.  The lyrics are full of longing and loss: "I don't like these drugs that keep you thin, I don't like what happened to my sister" and later "remember me I used to live for music" with a delivery that is weary and wise.  Everybody Knows has an Eastern European sounding melody and works well, while the title track staggers in on a playful lolloping beat as Cohen plays lounge lizard to perfection.

Take This Waltz is a downright pretty waltz but it's the final two tracks that see Leonard Cohen at his most wryly reflective.  I Can't Forget  overcomes an eighties Stevie Wonder beat helped by a Sneaky Peter Kleinow playing a gentle steel guitar and some great lyrics: "I stumbled out of bed, I got ready for the struggle... I said this can't be me, must be my double, and I can't forget... but I don't remember what"(!). A soothing bed of percussion and cooing backing vocals introduce Tower of Song.  This time Cohen's "friends are gone and his hair is grey" and he "aches in the places where I used to play" before he nails it by growling "I was born with the gift of a golden voice".  It's a really fine end to an album that really ushered in Act II of Leonard Cohen's career.