CARAS The Juno Awards catch a lot of heat for being too predictable and too…
- Posted on Jan 31st 2012 11:30AM by Lonny Knapp
Joel Sage, AFP/Getty Images
With the release of 'Old Ideas,' his 12th studio album and first since 2004's 'Dear Heather,' the 77-year-old icon adds 10 original compositions to his illustrious canon. Critics and bloggers are calling the album his best since 1984's 'Various Positions,' even comparing it to Bob Dylan's comeback, 'Time Out of Mind.'
Has a senior citizen ever created such a hullabaloo amongst the indie rock crowd?
Listen to Leonard Cohen's 'Old Ideas'
Cohen isn't doing much press for the album -- and he doesn't have to because other artists are more than happy to promote his album for him. Spinner chatted with three singer-songwriters (including Rufus Wainwright, the father to Cohen's granddaughter) and one rapper about the man's infamous baritone and how, despite his age, Cohen still delivers the goods.
"Apparently, he's a very good-looking man, and you can't under-estimate that in show business. [Laughs]. He has this individual voice; I wouldn't say he's a great singer per se, but nobody sounds like him. Plus, he's good at what he does: writing songs. He's created this persona, and he maintains a sense of mystery. It's masterful, and I'm not even sure if he does it deliberately. He's just the full package, which is rare indeed."
"He is a poet and his words express the inexpressible. No matter what he is writing about, he is addressing timeless questions about life, suffering, joy, love and death."
"Obviously he's a poet, but it's never highbrow; it's never pretentious. He talks about things in a real way. Anytime Leonard gets around to making a record, I want to hear what's on his mind. It's like getting a phone call from a friend you've haven't heard from in a long time.
At 77 years old, Leonard Cohen is well past the performing prime of most pop stars. In the last few years, however, instead of slowing down, he's returned to touring and recording."
At his age, can he still pull it off, or is time he hung up his hat?
David Ademas, AFP
"I saw him at the Beacon Theater in New York on his last tour. I was unprepared for how unbelievably great the show was. My favourite song are his early ones, and he played all the songs I was really looking forward to hearing. His versions of songs from those first albums were superior to the recordings. He never sounded better and it was the last thing I expected."
Wainwright: "I'm a huge opera fan, and the great composers, Verdi, Pucini, Wagner, composed their greatest works just before they died. There is a depth of wisdom you can only get through the passage of time. I think Leonard is proving this in the pop world, and I think it's the way it should be.
Wainwright: "I'd have to say 'Bird on a Wire.' It's so direct, and simple in its construction but then there are these minute turns of phrase and the descriptions are just cavernous. Also, I love country music, and I feel that pure country influence in the song."
Sexsmith: "He looms pretty large in my life and I could probably play an entire evening of his music, but I always thought, 'Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye' is a one of those perfect songs. In two verses, he says everything you'd want to say in that kind of situation where you are going separate ways. The line 'Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme,' has always stuck with me.
Slean: "'Dress Rehearsal Rag.' This is a song for that moment in life when you arrive at the end of an anguished search inside yourself, and come up empty, and the world looks laughably insane, and you hate yourself for being a part of it. It is a dark-night-of-the-soul anthem, and he handles this subject without sentimentality, pity or nostalgia; it's just raw."
Wainwright: "I grew up in Montreal so Cohen really came to me. But I have to admit, my sister was the bigger fan. When I did that film ['I'm Your Man'] I immersed myself in his material, and was brought into the fray. My daughter is his granddaughter and if I'd been this ravenous Leonard Cohen fanatic, I don't think that would have been allowed to happen [laughs].
Sexsmith: "I discovered one of his records in a delete bin in 1985. That record helped me discover who I wanted to be as a songwriter. He made we want to work harder on the words, not waste anyone's time with juvenile stuff, and write about the world and love in a real way.
Buck 65: "The draw was his lyrics. Back in the '80s, there was very little effort to make rap relatable. Then in the '90s, Tupac and Biggie made rap accessible, and all of a sudden my sister was a fan. I couldn't like the the same music my sister liked, so I went on a bit of a search. I discovered some great writers, but none better than Leonard Cohen -- I don't think I've found a better lyricist to this day."
Slean: "My parents had 'Songs of Leonard Cohen' on vinyl. My mother would get that far away, wistful look in her eye whenever 'Suzanne' or 'Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye' came on. When I moved to Toronto, I took my parents record player and vinyl with me and that same Cohen record opened anew for me; the melodies are undoubtedly beautiful, memorable and genius in their own right, but how the words struck me!
Slean: "I met him at The [Canadian] Songwriter's Hall of Fame celebrations on the year of his induction. At the gala dinner, I went up to his table and knelt down beside him. He was so frail, he looked so thin and delicate. He took my hand in his hands, and was looking at me with these oceanic brown eyes. I said something utterly obsequious, 'You have no idea how huge you are in my world.' He was so gracious and charming, and I really felt like I was in the presence of somebody truly extraordinary."
Wainright: "He's a family man and a fantastic grandfather. He plays keyboard with Viva, my daughter, all the time. He lives upstairs so he visits daily. I'm very fortunate to have him around, 'cause a lot of the time, I'm off working and making records and touring. He's been there for his daughter, Lorca, and me."