Leonard Cohen 

Songs from a Room

"Bird on a Wire," another song of hopeless, unattainable love, introduces Cohen's second album and lets listeners know that they're in for another trip into the depths of alienation, depression, and despair. The United States was enmeshed in Vietnam, there was violence on the streets of many American cities, and the Boomer generation was vexing the powers that be and themselves with a combination of sex, drugs, revolutionary politics, and rock 'n' roll. These themes, expressed with Cohen's usual subtlety and attention to poetic nuance, are at the core of this album, or so it seems with years of hindsight. "Story of Isaac," "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes," "The Old Revolution," "The Butcher," and "The Partisan" all address the futility of war and the suffering it inflicts on soldiers, families, and the human soul at large. The solitary love song, the Johnny Cash-influenced "Tonight Will Be Fine," closes the album and provides the only glimmer of light to an outing full of menace and melancholy. The bonus tracks are interesting only for what light they shed on Cohen's editing process. These earlier or alternate takes on "Bird on a Wire" and "Nothing to One" add piano, bass, and backing vocals in various combinations to the arrangements, but serve only to dilute the understated assurance he achieves with just his guitar and vocals.

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