Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Loving Leonard

I fired up my DVR today to the Sundance Channel to record a concert film called I'm Your Man. This 2005 concert is tribute to the music of Leonard Cohen and features both the musically familiar (Bono, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Linda and Teddy Thompson, Kate and Anna McGarrigle) and some new vocal talents to my ear (Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Beth Orton).

It's fabulous. I was familiar with the CD of the concert before I'd seen the documentary, and it definitely enhanced the experience.

Songs that stick in my memory include "If It Be Your Will" by the high-pitched singer Antony and Martha Wainwright's version of "Tower of Song." But wait—there's more!

Rufus Wainwright tells a funny story about when as a teenager he met Cohen. He also memorably renders two songs: "Hallelujah," "Chelsea Hotel #2" and "Everybody Knows." (The latter done with an infectious Caribbean beat which thankfully provides some rhythm to a slate of songs that tilt strongly toward the ballad or anthem.)

Nick Cave delivers "Suzanne" and "I'm Your Man" with his trademark deep growl, which I find arresting. Always catch the words when Nick is singing! He also tells about how owning the early Leonard Cohen records was definitely a mark of sophistication.

Leonard Cohen is interviewed through the course of the documentary, and he is as funny as you might expect. At the end of the concert, Bono joins him for "Tower of Song."

If you haven't given time to Cohen's music, this documentary might prove a terrific entry point for you. Most people need to appreciate Leonard through someone else—my entree was provided by Jennifer Warnes in her classic collection of Cohen songs from the late '80s. (Famous Blue Raincoat)

After that, my ear was open, and when I tried listening to the man himself, it all went smoothly. (Had he grown as a musician? Perhaps. The voice was richer, and the musical settings were more interesting.) If you want exposure to Cohen, I'd recommend The Future. That title track is a knockout!

I've never heard Cohen in concert, but I hope to have a chance. After a lengthy absence, he returned this past year for some shows. Unfortunately, Boston wasn't on the itinerary.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Unlike some of the others you've introduced me to (such as Victoria Williams), I didn't need to like the songs first—I love his voice. But maybe I started listening to his later output first. Anyway, I kind of miss his voice when I hear others sing his songs, though I do agree about this concert CD!