Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, US
October 14, 2001

Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs, Columbia

Written and Contributed by Ellis Widner

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It has been nearly a decade since Leonard Cohen's last studio album, 1992's The Future. Since that time, Lenny's spent more than five years in a Zen monastery, where he crafted the lyrics that surface on this album. It's a musical collaboration with Sharon Robinson, who co-wrote the tunes, plays synthesizers, sings backup and produced the album.

As you might expect, the CD has its meditative qualities, particularly in the sparse music and Cohen's hushed delivery. The familiar hoarse craggyness is still in his voice, but on Songs it also reveals a warm sensuality, a whispered confiding intimacy that is as disarming as it is involving, offering more emotional textures which open the lyrics to more interpretive possibilities. "Love Itself" and "By the Rivers Dark" particularly benefits from this openness.

Few writers handle romantic yearning better, as the superlative "In My Secret Life" shows. England's Q magazine calls Ten New Songs Cohen's best in 20 years. Of course, in the past 20 years he has only done three other studio albums. I'm not sure yet that Ten New Songs is better than 1988's I'm Your Man, but the songs of Songs have made a strong case. Ten new songs or Ten Zen Cohens?


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