Saturday, 25 March 2017

"Songs Of Love And Hate" from 1971 by LEONARD COHEN (Inside October 2011's "The Complete Studio Albums Collection" 11CD Box Set with New Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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1971 LP "Songs Of Love And Hate" on Columbia and CBS Records
Remastered inside "The Complete Studio Albums Collection"

"...Diamonds In The Mines..." 

As others have quite rightly commented - it's a triple-whammy - great music, great price and stunning remastered audio for Montreal's finest.

These eleven Leonard Cohen Columbia Records studio albums stretching from 1967's "Songs Of Leonard Cohen" through to 2004's "Dear Heather" are presently clocking in at less than two quid a pop (March 2017) - which given what's on offer here is utterly remarkable - 'new skin for the old ceremony' indeed. The only missing LP is April 1973's "Live Songs" because it's outside this box studio box set's remit.

His deeply sad passing in November 2016 saw the loss of yet another style-setting songsmith from back in the day – Canada's great mumbling lover man – Leonard Cohen. Always bigger in the UK and Europe than he was in Canada and the States - his deep tonal voice and tales of forlorn love struck a mighty chord in Blighty especially. Not for everyone for sure - but those who loved his articulate wallowing did so with a passion bordering on mania. Sisters Of Mercy named their band after a song on his 1967 debut - while everyone from Tori Amos and Jennifer Warnes to Jeff Buckley, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Neil Diamond, Richie Havens, Tim Hardin, Joe Cocker, Eddie Kendricks, Don Henley, Nick Cave, Roberta Flack, James Taylor, Suzanne Vega, Peter Gabriel and Madeleine Peyroux (amongst many) has covered his lonesome pine tunes. Jeff Buckley practically owns the beautiful and ethereal "Hallelujah" and every Indie Movie its ever been featured in (a UK No 1 while Cohen was still with us). And all of this is yours for less than twenty-two UK pre-Brexit smackers.

Let's get to the various musical positions before someone out there in overpriced digital 'la la land' notices the wrong envelope...and in particular the wonderful third LP from 1971 – overlooked and unfairly forgotten...

UK released 9 October 2011 - "The Complete Studio Albums Collection" by LEONARD COHEN on Sony/Legacy 88697961772 (Barcode 886979617728) is an 11CD Box Set of New Remasters with a 24-page booklet that plays out as follows:

Disc 3 - "Songs Of Love And Hate" (1971) - 45:02 minutes:
1. Avalanche
2. Last Year's Man
3. Dress Rehearsal Rag
4. Diamonds In The Mine
5. Love Calls You By Your Name [Side 2]
6. Famous Blue Raincoat
7. Sing Another Song, Boys
8. Joan Of Arc
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 3rd studio album "Songs Of Love And Hate" - released March 1971 in the USA on Columbia C 30103 and in the UK on CBS Records S 69004 (Stereo only in both cases). Produced by BOB JOHNSTON - it peaked at No. 145 in the USA and No. 4 in the UK.

Produced for Sony/Legacy by Steve Berkowitz and Bruce Dickinson - pages 2 to 5 of the 24-page booklet feature new liner notes from novelist and fan PICO LYER - while the remaining pages offer basic track lists, some musician credits and three or four black and white photos of Cohen during various stages of his career. It's nice but hardly great or in-depth. Excepting the gatefold of 1977's "Diary Of A Ladies' Man" - each album is in a singular card sleeve as per their original vinyl/CD releases - but there's no inserts or the mini booklet that accompanied "Songs Of Love And Hate" - that sort of thing (not reproduced in the booklet either). There's no real analysis of the albums in the booklet - hell they can't even be bothered to put the LP release dates anywhere (you get more info from my lists than you do in here).

But all of that goes out the presentation window when you clap your ears on the wonderful new Remasters. MARK WILDER and BRUCE DICKINSON are the Audio Engineers behind each album (all done at Battery Studios in New York) except "Dear Heather" which doesn't need any work and was originally mastered by STEPHEN MARCUSSEN (he did all the Polydor CD reissues for The Rolling Stones in 2009). Many of these albums have eluded Remaster for years - so it's a welcome Audio haul that's for sure. Let’s focus on 1971...

Producer Bob Johnston had twiddled the knobs for the one and only album by West in 1968 – the self-titled "West" on Epic BN 23860. For the "Songs Of Love And Hate" sessions Johnston brought in the Guitarist from West Ron Cornelius as the principal player (he’d also strummed on Dylan’s "New Morning" LP earlier in 1971). And along with Paul Buckmaster who’d arranged strings for Elton John and David Bowie – you also got Southern Rocker Charlie Daniels later of The Charlie Daniels Band contributing Guitar, Bass and Fiddle. The other element was Bubba Fowler – an Acoustic Folk Guitarist who had managed a lone album called "...And Then Came Bubba" on Columbia CS 9971 in 1970. He plays Bass, Acoustic and Banjo. Cohen in fact decided to dub his troop of players ‘The Army’ and would play live with most of them to Israeli Soldiers later that year on one of his many world-wandering forays. Last but not least - the second song on Side 1 - "Last Year’s Man" - also features the children’s voices of London’s Corona Choir to very moving effect.

It seemed that between the eighteen months since the last LP "Songs From A Room" in April 1969 – Cohen’s vocal range had dipped even lower. I say this because although the first two sparse albums get all the 4 to 5-star accolades - I find his deeper tone on this album to be the best of all that period. Lyrically too – whether it be the acoustic guitar tumble of the opener "Avalanche" or the six-minutes of "Dress Rehearsal Rag" – his words flowed like wise poetry – a very Dylanesque string of consciousness that was both sleepy and ever so slightly drugged-up. There is gorgeous audio on "Diamonds In The Mine" – where there are no grapes on the vine or chocolates in the box – an acidic growling song about Christians getting eaten and doctors sterilising needles (nice).

Things return to that pretty drone of his with "Love Calls You By Your Name" – where lyrics talk about open oceans and even more open veins – women in scrapbooks to be praised and blamed as Paul Buckmaster pours on those trademark strings. In 1986 Jennifer Warners would start the first of three tribute albums to LC by calling hers after the next famous song - "Famous Blue Raincoat" (check out the CDs for “I’m Your Fan” in 1991 and "Tower Of Song" in 1995). Corlynn Hanney and Susan Mussman are the female vocalists who provide those beautiful counterpoint vocals sailing over his story of Jane – while Buckmaster keeps the horns and strings so subtle and therefore so moving. "Famous Blue Raincoat" is worth the price of admission alone. I find the mock live feel to "Sing Another Song, Boys" a bit grating – but the six-minutes of "Joan Of Arc" is classic Leonard Cohen. The blood-spattered Crusader bemoans the war – wants a wedding dress – wants the night to sooth her – wants the mantle of heroine lifted. The remaster is gorgeous throughout this LP finisher that feels like Mike Oldfield on an Acoustic Guitar two years before forming the quieter passages in "Tubular Bells" (the two aforementioned ladies also add a beauty to this song).

It would be over three years until he returned with "New Skin For The Old Ceremony" in August 1974 where Cohen suddenly sounded like Dr. John from New Orleans.

"...I hear that you’re building your little house...deep in the desert..." – Cohen sings on the epic "Famous Blue Raincoat". Start building your love affair with this lovely-sounding album and great value CD Box Set...

PS: If you can’t locate a 1971 original LP - Music On Vinyl – the repressing wing of Columbia – put out a 180-grams remastered vinyl LP version of "Songs Of Love And Hate" in November 2009 (minus the booklet) on Music On Vinyl MOVLP036 (Barcode 5099703221916)...

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