Leonard Cohen's first album was an unqualified triumph which announced the arrival of a bold and singular talent, and many who heard it must have wondered what Cohen could do for an encore. By comparison, Cohen's second album, 1969's Songs from a Room, was something of a letdown. While it's a fine LP, it ultimately feels neither as striking nor as assured as Songs of Leonard Cohen. Bob Johnston stepped in as producer for Songs from a Room, and his arrangements are simpler than those John Simon crafted for the debut, but they're also full of puzzling accents, such as the jew's harp that punctuates several tracks, the churchy organ line in "The Old Revolution," and the harsh synthesizer flourishes on "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes." Johnston also had trouble coaxing strong vocal performances from Cohen; his singing here sounds tentative and his meter is uncertain, which regardless of how one feels about Cohen's much-debated vocal prowess is not the case with his other work. And finally, the quality of the songs on Songs from a Room is less consistent than on Songs of Leonard Cohen; as fine as "Bird on a Wire," "You Know Who I Am," "The Story of Isaac" and "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" may be, "The Butcher" and "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" simply aren't up to his usual standards. Despite the album's flaws, Songs from a Room's strongest moments convey a naked intimacy and fearless emotional honesty that's every bit as powerful as the debut, and it left no doubt that Cohen was a major creative force in contemporary songwriting.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming