I’m a little delayed on writing this one. I’ve listened to it many times since it began streaming on NPR, and then when it was released on January 31st. One of my most anticipated albums for months, I feel like the music world has been blessed with both excellent new releases by both Tom Waits (Bad As Me late last year) and now Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen.
The lyrics of Going Home, “Going home without my sorrow, going home sometime tomorrow, going home to where it's better than before” are just so simply beautiful. Take off everything that weighs you down and disguises you and walk free towards home, wherever home may be. Death? Maybe. Another world or life? Maybe.
I grew up on Leonard Cohen, quite literally. I inherited all of the old vinyls from my father, stepfather and mother (now in my lovely brother’s care), and have turned to his music and lyrical poetry so many times in my life that I don’t think I could even remember why. Famous Blue Raincoat and Chelsea Hotel #2 conjure up images of sad, rainy and grey days in New York City, walking up Park Ave from the subway, trying to rid myself of the constant heartache I was feeling at the time. Everybody Knows remind me of a trip back from Bodega Bay with my brother, the song starting minutes after we had both told each other stories that neither had managed to tell each other before. Dark roads, unknown secrets and Leonard’s soothing voice keeping us going towards the next destination. First We Take Manhattan takes me back to England in the 80’s, in our old flat by the churchyard, not knowing why certain events had happened and how I was ever going to forget or forgive them from happening. I could go on for hours…
I have seen Leonard Cohen perform just once in my life, and it will still remain the best show I have ever been to. Radio City Music Hall in May 2009. Over 3 hours of an absolutely amazing performance. This is all I could say on my blog back then, and I think I will keep it at that right now:
“Leonard Cohen was amazing - I am still in awe of him and his performance on Saturday night. I really can't describe the feeling of seeing someone you have pretty much admired and adored all of you life, performing in front of you. So I am not even going to try. I will keep the jumble of superlatives stuck in my head and leave it up to you to imagine.
Leonard Cohen. On stage. Yes.”
So, Old Ideas. Another wonderful collection of Leonard’s poems and music, not that I expected anything less. His voice alone has the tendency to reduce me to automatic tears when I hear it, and surround me with memories, despair and much hope, and this album does exactly that. Although low-key in sound, it is never simple, on the contrary it is full of metaphors for death, God, spirituality, love, despair and hope. Somehow it feels like an end to something, not as much the end of life, but maybe a final chapter in a life, the emphasis being on the article “a”. The background singers sound like angels, and the occasional use of an organ and the simple guitar sounds bring calm and serenity to the words that go from bleak to self-deprecating to even happy at times. Ten beautiful songs that each tell a story in the usual Cohen style. Just listen to it and dream – I know you won’t be disappointed.
“You know it really is a pity, the way you treat me now; I know you can't forgive me but forgive me, anyhow. The ending got so ugly, I even heard you say, "You never ever loved me but could you love me anyway?" I dreamed about you, baby, you were wearin' half your dress I know you have to hate me but could you hate me less? I've used up all my chances and you'll never take me back But there ain't no harm in askin', "Could you cut me one more slice?” from Anyhow