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Pleasures yet to be had: Leonard Cohen’s ‘Old Ideas’


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Both of us say there are laws to obey

But frankly I don’t like your tone

At a glance

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You want to change the way I make love

I want to leave it alone"

The violin, charged once more with playing a crucial role, pierces the air with melodies that bring to mind Cohen’s perennial companions: gypsies, furiously alive.

The meandering trumpet solo on "Amen" ranks, by sheer heartrending loveliness, among the finest musical moments in Cohen’s career.

A Spanish guitar, which echoes some of his earliest work, helps make "Crazy to Love You" a serenade that’s truly "deeper than any goodbye."

A country-blues bent gives "Banjo" just the right rhythm to let one suspect the very nature of what’s coming from that "dark infested sea." Its effect not unlike that of an Ars Poetica, as a musician, aware of his lot, has it.

A measure of the quality of Cohen’s lyrics has always been that one continues to find in them new meaning. They are worth considering, in Pound’s sense, as the sailor considers the seaboard. That is, through an evolving perspective, which changes as the ship moves.

There is one noticeable shift. Cohen is now inclined to rely on fewer lines, to return to notions that have anchored many of his past songs, to repeat whole stanzas as if to emphasize that what he means to say is all there and needs no further elaboration.


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Hearing "Old Ideas" is witnessing the inner-workings of one man’s lyrical mind. In words that he has made his own. Through songs in which it’s apparent no other words would as perfectly belong.

If that’s not enough, it behooves one to look inward and ask oneself: "You don’t really care for music, do you?"

rmesicek@sltrib.com



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