Leonard Cohen

Songs of Leonard Cohen (Columbia/Legacy)

Leonard Cohen

Songs From a Room (Columbia/Legacy)

Leonard Cohen

Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia/Legacy)

1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen may not have mirrored the gauzy Summer of Love, but these reissues of his first three albums, repackaged in appropriately muted tones, reveal his own trinity: the holy, lustful, and longing. Cohen's music has never really been about the music, which, on these albums, can be fluffy. It's his poetry that makes Cohen a resplendent storyteller. At first, he's a romantic ("I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm, your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm") still on the outskirts of the folkie scene. "Suzanne" and "So Long, Marianne" sound as hypnotic now as his gaze from the cover then. 1969's Songs From a Room, recorded in Nashville, is far from country. Ten songs and two bonus tracks feel a little more dour, from opener "Bird on the Wire" ("I have tried in my way to be free") to the deceptively upbeat "Tonight Will Be Fine" ("You kept right on loving; I went on a fast"). Saving grace "The Butcher" seems moody at first, but Cohen's deadpan rips the flesh. By 1971's Songs of Love and Hate, there's a crack. In everything. In liner notes penned by Anthony DeCurtis, Cohen refers to the album as "European blues," and right from "Avalanche" we feel them: "It is your turn, beloved. It is your flesh that I wear." He unhinges on the dramatic "Dress Rehearsal Rag," as well as its bonus alternate take, and pastes on a shit-eating grin for "Diamonds in the Mine." Despite the playboy tag, he's often best when he's dangerous, anxious, and self-aware. These LPs may not have been an intentional trilogy/trinity, but Cohen could certainly appreciate the symbolism.

(Songs of Leonard Cohen) ***

(Songs From a Room) **

(Songs of Love and Hate) ***.5

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