Leonard Cohen 

Songs of Leonard Cohen

When this album appeared forty years ago, it was already an anomaly. In the psychedelic frenzy of 1967, Cohen's quiet, almost whispered vocals and despondent melodies sounded like nothing else on the radio. In retrospect, it's almost a greatest hits compilation with some of his most memorable tunes including "So Long, Marianne," "Sisters of Mercy," and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye." Columbia is celebrating Cohen's forty years with the label by releasing remastered, expanded editions of his first three albums. The CDs reproduce the original album art and add a few "lost" tracks that vary in quality — a now-familiar ploy in the reissue game. Cohen was never a prolific writer, but more a careful craftsman, so it's easy to see why "Store Room" didn't make the cut. Its arrangement is a bit more rock 'n' roll than you'd expect, perhaps a ploy by the record company to get some mainstream airplay. Cohen sounds as if he's straining his vocal cords, and the lyrics deliver nothing he hasn't expressed better in other songs. "Blessed Is the Memory" would have fit fine into the original album, a keening antiwar song that laments the pointless sacrifice of innocent life.

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