On its initial release, Songs of Love and Hate didn't seem to pack the emotional punch or poetic gravitas of Cohen's first two albums. Judy Collins, who primed American audiences for his work by covering "Suzanne," had already made "Dress Rehearsal Rag" and "Joan of Arc" radio hits, which probably helped this quiet, contemplative album find its audience. Over the years it has become obvious that these are not songs about love and/or hate, but songs that dissect the way that love and hate constantly intertwine in every relationship. The album's eight songs unfold slowly, growing richer, more complex, more wrenching with every listen. All these years later, they retain a disturbing force few pop songs ever achieve, much less sustain. Jealousy, emotional treachery, the struggle for power, infidelity, and other impossible situations get put under Cohen's magnifying glass. That he's able to find some solace and grace in these situations is a tribute to his emotional and poetic maturity. Cohen's singing here is richer and more animated than on his first two albums. At the end of "Sing Another Song, Boys," his extended wordless vocal finds the place where the laughter of madness and hopelessness merge to produce one of the most unsettling moments on any Cohen album. The bonus track, an outtake of "Dress Rehearsal Rag," has a full band, but lacks the quiet authority of the original.
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