So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1988 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week Steve listens as Leonard Cohen says I'm Your Man...
My love of Leonard Cohen is no secret, his often haunting vocals are the soundtrack to my life and where they may depress some, and there is joy in my heart when I listen. I have various albums, compilations, tracks from film inclusions floating about the office but I didn’t have a copy of this particular release so off to the online music store I did travel and yet again I was not disappointed.
I knew most of the tracks and they are all classic Cohen containing barbs, self-deprecating humour, and a glorious look at love and romance delivered in his unique gravel (I was born like this/ I had no choice/ I was born with the gift of a golden voice) and authoritative tone. First We Take Manhattan is a six minute tune of unexpected synth like eighties goodness, a pop soundtrack with real dark undertones in the vocal which is followed by a corny sax intro to Ain’t No Cure for Love that just seems to work with Cohen’s poetic delivery, it shouldn’t but it does. Everybody Knows is my all-time favourite Leonard Cohen song. From my first experience of it in the wonderful Christian Slater film Pump up the Volume I have been hooked by it. I loved the almost depressing viewpoint of life that it seemed to give me when I was a younger man but as I have matured the lyric has grown with me and I no longer feel like I am being kept out of a secret that ‘everybody knows’. The beautiful plucked acoustic guitar underneath the driving pulse of synthesiser is musically brilliant, at first listen I missed the very discreet backing vocal that adds an angelic feel to the song, and it just builds and builds and grips you tightly by the soul and never lets you go. The title track has a bit more of a smoky jazz club feel to it, with the swing cymbal in the background elevating the lyric, Take This Waltz (Paris Version) shows that no one should be scared to drive a song with an oompha backdrop. Jazz Police is the fastest I think I have ever heard Cohen sing and the song on first listen makes you call Batshit crazy, but after thirty odd listens – nope, it’s still Batshit crazy, I love it. I Can’t Forget is good but feels out of place amongst so many epic tunes, it is more bog standard than I remember. Tower of Song is one I didn’t quite ‘get’ when I was younger but now, as I age as ungracefully as is possible, the song has new meaning for me, starting with a lyric that pretty much sums up my last years “Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey/I ache in the places where I used to play” and just makes more sense as I get through it.
Leonard Cohen means a lot to me, it’s like we have gone through all our trials and tribulations together and whilst, if I was compiling a collection together, some of the tracks on I’m Your Man wouldn’t make the cut there is still much to enjoy and many emotions to play out whilst you listen. If you don’t own a copy it’s worth a purchase.