The Hartford Courant, US
October 11, 2001

Ten New Songs by Leonard Cohen

by Roger Catlin

Contributed by Mean Larry

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Nine years since his last recording, after spending five years at a Zen monastery in Mount Baldy, Calif., Leonard Cohen has come down the mountain with new work.

They're Ten New Songs, not commandments, issued on CDs, not tablets. But at such an unsteady point in history, it's good to hear the deep, assuring voice of the Canadian poet. The times call for sober reflection and songs of substance and Cohen delivers.

At 67, the ever-urbane Cohen again largely examines affairs of the heart on songs with lyrics that are carefully chosen. The hushed, subdued music is not unlike the approach on his last two albums, 1988's I'm Your Man and 1992's The Future.

The politics are less direct here, although his words speak to events through songs fashioned as prayers. "May everybody live and may everyone die," he says bluntly on "Here It Is," a sort of benediction based in reality. More striking is his "The Land of the Plenty," where "Christ...has not risen from the caverns of the heart" and where he hopes "the lights in the Land of Plenty shine on the truth some day."

More often, down from the monastery, he tries to square himself with everyday life (which he terms "Boogie Street") and plays the chess of relationships on songs like "Alexandra Leaving," which deserves to stand with his other classics featuring women in their titles: "Suzanne" and "So Long, Marianne."

With the range of his deep rasp even more limited, he speaks a lot of these songs, or is guided through the melody by Sharon Robinson, a longtime backup singer who takes up production and co-writing credits with a soothing, simpatico bed of synthesizers that offer his authority and a simulacrum of soul.

At a time when his Best of Leonard Cohen has gone gold, 25 years after its release, and songs like "Hallelujah" take on new life as post-terror comfort or in children's films like Shrek, Cohen may even be surprised by finally attracting a wider audience with his fine Ten New Songs.

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