I was not alive when Leonard Cohen was a minor Canadian poet and not a singer-songwriter so I don’t know what kind of shock it would have been for us Canadians to hear this record. But I can speculate; I suspect it was greeted in some quarters with sneers though it might be hard to imagine. I can just picture people thinking “The presumption of a poet to write songs!” Maybe I am just imagining all this because I am looking for an entry point to the debut of a man I never much listened to while he was alive, but who was among our most famous songwriters.
Cohen’s songs introduced a new unique voice – one of the few post-Dylan songwriters to seem to live up to Dylan’s standard (lyrically anyway), but who barely felt the need to sing his songs.
The arrangements themselves are bizarre and seemingly disconnected from what was going on in contemporary popular music. Cohen’s voice and guitar are spare but he is often accompanied by choirs and orchestras seemingly piped in from another record. (Also, Kaleidoscope shows up on some tracks, which is cool, though they really do not sound like Kaleidoscope.)
From my limited knowledge of Cohen, I can say that he did improve as a songwriter. But though the arrangements are idiosyncratic, I do prefer them to the time in his career where he embraced contemporary sounds instead of sort of ignoring them.
All songs written by Leonard Cohen.
- “Suzanne” – 3:48
- “Master Song” – 5:55
- “Winter Lady” – 2:15
- “The Stranger Song” – 5:00
- “Sisters of Mercy” – 3:32
- “So Long, Marianne” – 5:38
- “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” – 2:55
- “Stories of the Street” – 4:35
- “Teachers” – 3:01
- “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong” – 4:23
- Leonard Cohen: vocals, acoustic guitar
- Jimmy Lovelace – drums (“So Long, Marianne”)
- Nancy Priddy – vocals (“Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne”, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”)
- Willy Ruff – bass (“So Long, Marianne”, “Stories of the Street”)
- Kaleidoscope (Chester Crill, Chris Darrow, Solomon Feldthouse, David Lindley) – flute, mandolin, Jew’s harp, violin, various Middle Eastern instruments (“Master Song”, “Winter Lady”, “Sisters of Mercy”, “So Long, Marianne”, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”, “Stories of the Street”, “Teachers”)