Leonard Cohen

Songs from the Road

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Given that Leonard Cohen's international concert tours of the late 2000s were prompted by the fact his former manager made off with his life's savings, only a curmudgeon would blame the man for trying to make the enterprise as profitable as possible. Roughly 14 months after releasing Live in London, which preserved Cohen's July 2008 performance at London's 02 Arena, the venerable singer and songwriter presented Songs from the Road, featuring 12 tunes from his 2008 and 2009 concert dates. While Live in London captured the feel and flow of a single concert and featured most of Cohen's best-known songs, this set includes bits and pieces from 11 different shows, and while this album isn't exactly a collection of rarities, it does feature a number of lesser-known tunes (such as "Heart with No Companion" and "That Don't Make It Junk") and variant versions of some of his more famous numbers (Cohen juggles the order of the verses on "Suzanne" and adds a new verse to "Bird on a Wire"). While Live in London was a richly satisfying souvenir of Cohen's inspired comeback shows, Songs from the Road is less impressive in its more modest scale and less cohesive atmosphere. But the album still demonstrates that Cohen is a compelling and absorbing performer who brings his soul into every verse he sings, and his band is nothing less that superb; even when Dino Soldo's sax and Bob Metzger's guitar dip into jazz fusion sleepyland, they give Cohen just the musical support he needs, and the interplay between them and the vocalist is a marvel. Songs from the Road seems a bit pale compared to the excellence of Live in London, but both albums are enough to convince anyone that even at the age of 74, Leonard Cohen remains one of the most vital figures in contemporary music, and his gifts as a performer nearly match his abilities as a writer, no small accomplishment.

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