Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Various Artists

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Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen Review

by Roch Parisien

Anyone attempting a new tribute album to Canadian poet/author/songwriter icon Leonard Cohen faces several daunting difficulties, not the least of which is that it's already been done well twice. The "adult" music scene was covered off definitively as far back as 1986 with Jennifer Warnes's Famous Blue Raincoat, on which she channeled the spirit of Cohen in uncannily appealing fashion (a bout of divine inspiration she has not equaled for her own work). Cohen personally endorsed these sessions, duetting with Warnes on the epic "Joan of Arc." The "alternative" music scene got its licks in with 1991's I'm Your Fan, where poet/musician peers like John Cale teamed with such younger acolytes as Nick Cave, the Pixies, and R.E.M. to suffer Cohen's pain as if embodying a collective son for a surrogate holy father. Tower of Song strikes one as a venture likely devised by the Marketing Department, rather than those elitist projects with artists who actually share an affinity for Cohen's work. To be blunt, this 13-strong "tribute" is best described as a total train wreck. Most of the renditions are notable only for their astounding lack of subtlety. Big-name engines barrel down the track, horns blaring, with no regard for such warning signals as color, shade, contrast, tone, definition. A complete derailment, because what they've all fatally missed is the poetry of Cohen's lyrics.

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