Leonard Cohen

At the Beeb

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In the late summer of 1968, Leonard Cohen did a couple of shows for BBC television. This bootleg has almost everything from those broadcasts; just one song, "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong," is missing. (Note also that one of the 12 "tracks," "There's No Reason Why You Should Remember Me," is not so much a "song" but a brief rap with the audience, including a one-line tune with which the crowd sings along.) Although the sound quality is enough below the usual standard of official release to make it doubtful that it will ever be issued legitimately, it's pretty good and clear. More importantly, this is the best unofficial document of Cohen from his early years, presenting live versions of the cream of the songs from his first two albums, including "Suzanne," "Bird on a Wire," "So Long Marianne," "Sisters of Mercy," and "The Story of Isaac." There's also an airing of "Dress Rehearsal Rag," which had been recorded by Judy Collins in 1966 but which Cohen virtually never performed live; he himself would not release his version until 1971's Songs of Love and Hate. The arrangements differ from the studio renditions noticeably, with effectively spare additions of shaky organ and female backup voices at times. Though it's not too easy to find, it's a fine, eerie performance, worth hearing by any of Cohen's devoted fans.