Adam Cohen

Like a Man

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On his fourth solo recording, songwriter Adam Cohen, progeny of one of pop music's greatest poets, Leonard Cohen, finally quits struggling against his birthright and surrenders. And in doing so, he's come all the way over to the side he seemed so determined to escape. Thank goodness. Like a Man assembles ten songs about what else? Love. There's no mistaking the singer's lineage: it's in his expressive baritone (his voice, though still somewhat flat, is not gruff or harsh). The arrangements and production bear his dad's influence: nylon-string guitars, upright bass, piano, subtle strings, and harmony vocals by no less than Jennifer Warnes. For those suspecting that Cohen is merely channeling and cashing in on his dad's rep, that's their problem. He makes no secret of his father's influence, but his way of writing songs is certainly his own. He uses fewer metaphorical or metonymic devices; his approach is more halting, less authoritative, but he possesses a keen eye for observation. Cohen is a mature songwriter whose work has been featured on other artists' records, but this is the first time his own voice so completely possesses his material. The title track, with its damning observations and admissions about the male gender, offers no excuses, its vulnerability evident. Producer Patrick Leonard's lilting string arrangements and Warnes' hushed backing vocals lend the song a quiet power. "Sweet Dominique" is as poignant a love song seen through the rearview mirror of life as you're likely to find. "What Other Guy" is from the same perspective, but without the distance of time to lessen the ache. It's all the more devastating because the protagonist knows virtually everything about his former, still-longed-for love, including "what you smell like when the night ends." Warnes' multi-tracked backing vocals on the chorus underscore the song's poignancy and tenderness. Like a Man was a recording Cohen had to make; it feels like he's coming to terms with exactly who he is. No, he's not as profound as his dad, but who the hell is? Measure him up to other great songwriters of his own generation -- born between the late '60s and the mid-'70s -- and he shines.

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