It’s odd but I never considered myself a Leonard Cohen ‘fan’. It never occurred to me to attend a concert, although I gleefully swooped upon a bootleg CD some years ago, and I was quite jealous when my uncle sent me photos of the London 02 Arena concert he attended. In truth, I was a massive fan. My parents’ records became my own and whenever I picked up a guitar to sing with, a Leonard Cohen song would spring to mind. Delighted with his commercial comeback in 1988, I was evangelistic among my school friends and scanned the secondhand record shops making sure I had all the albums available.
As an amateur singer and songwriter, Leonard’s style of delivery and lyrical content was very influential. I created a rather playful pastiche called ‘Oh! Clarence’ back in 2010, and for my various songwriters covers album of 2014 I chose two favourites, Stories of the Street and Night Comes On. A fan of the Moody Blues, I also attempted an arrangement of Nights in White Satin in the style of Songs of Love and Hate, complete with a spoof cover.
But somehow, it was only on hearing news of his death I realised how I had always relied on Leonard Cohen being alive and well and part of this world. I think I started the covers project because I wanted to hear his songs but was too upset to hear his voice. This passed after a fortnight or so and then I started getting stuck into YouTube, finding all the rare tracks and unofficial concert recordings I had never thought to find before. It was a wonderful experience, accompanied by the reading of Sylvie Simmons’ biography, a rewatch of the BBC’s Songs from the Life of Leonard Cohen and a slightly frustrating video entitled The Early Years or something like that.
During this period I was applying myself solidly to the album (when not in work). It started taking the shape of a concert setlist – apart from the omission of Suzanne, which I have not managed to nail yet. And now it’s finished I’m proud to say that this is, without question, the best thing I’ve recorded so far.
Story Of Isaac
Rather than overwhelm readers with the complete album, Patrick and I agreed to spotlight Story Of Isaac. The video below should automatically start with that track.