Leonard Cohen

The Essential Leonard Cohen

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The tracks on this two-CD, 31-song anthology, spanning Cohen's career from his 1967 debut album through 2002's Ten New Songs, were chosen by Cohen himself. It could thus be regarded as an accurate mirror of how Cohen sees his own career path and catalog highlights. And there are many of the songs you would expect from any decent Cohen retrospective: "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy," "So Long Marianne," "Bird on a Wire," "Famous Blue Raincoat," and "I'm You're Man," for instance. Still, the balance and selection isn't ideal. There's just one song ("Famous Blue Raincoat") from Songs of Love and Hate, and no songs at all from Death of a Ladies Man. Cohen's 1988-2002 period is arguably overrepresented, with about half of the package's tunes dating from that era. And because his later period is so prominently featured, most listeners won't be able to get around the fact that his voice declined in expressive range in the later years, and his material was less striking than his best early songs. Still, for those who've enjoyed Cohen all along, it's a good dose of much of his better work, and certainly doesn't skimp on the running time, with each of the discs lasting 78 minutes.

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