When the new tour album was announced in late 2000, Leonard told Jarkko Arjatsalo of The Leonard Cohen Files, "I believe when you hear this music you will understand why I wanted this
record to see the light of day." As fans eagerly await the release of this live album, here is a glimpse of how it all came together.
In 1978 Leonard Cohen contacted music producer Henry Lewy to work with him on the recording of Recent Songs. Lewy had previously used the musicians from Passenger, a Texas-based fusion-rock group, on an album he had produced for Joni Mitchell and so he called upon them for Leonard's album. Thus, Mitch Watkins (electric guitar), Paul Ostermayer (sax), Steve Meador (drums), Roscoe Beck (bass), and Bill Ginn (keyboards) joined violinist Raffi Hakopian, oudist John Bilezikjian and vocalists Jennifer Warnes and Sharon Robinson at A&M Studios in Los Angeles for the recording of the album. The group seemed to mesh and a "strong sense of musicianship" pervaded the recording sessions.1
About the album, Leonard has said, "I really had to rediscover some sort of basis; something I knew about. It was a coming home...a very rich period."2 And the album was well received. The New York Times listed it among it's top ten albums of 1979.3
The September 1979 release of Recent Songs occasioned a tour which began October 7. The touring band was primarily comprised of those musicians who had formed so comfortable a union with Leonard in the recording studio, the members of Passenger -- Roscoe Beck, Bill Ginn, Steve Meador, Paul Ostermayer, Mitch Watkins -- along with John Bilezikjian, Raffi Hakopian, Sharon Robinson and Jennifer Warnes.
Rehearsals for the tour took place in London at Shepperton Studios. The tour began in Scandinavia, and went on to France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and England. Leonard and his band performed 53 concerts in 44 cities in less than 70 days with a impressive set-list of 45 songs.
Leonard's performances during the tour showed a "polished entertainer, with more rhythm and energy in his songs."4 "The dextrous band...made for agreeably sophisticated concerts, with Warnes and harmony partner Sharon Robinson proving gossamer foils for Cohen's ever more dolorous vocalising."5
About the concerts Elizabeth Thomson wrote in Melody Maker, "People of every age and from every walk of life stood to show their appreciation."6 And for The Lancashire Evening Post Fiona Linning summarized the Preston concert:
1. Nadel, Ira B., Various Positions, published simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, and in the U.S. by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1996, p. 225.
2. Dorman, L.S. and Rawlins, C.L, Leonard Cohen: Prophet of the Heart, Omnibus Press, 1990, p. 300.
3. Nadel, Ira B., Leonard Cohen: A Life in Art, Robson Press, 1988, ECW Press, 1994, p. 118.
4. Nadel, Ira B., Various Positions, published simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, and in the U.S. by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1996, p. 229.
5. Sheppard, David, Leonard Cohen, Unanimous Ltd., 2000, p. 49.
6. Dorman, L.S. and Rawlins, C.L, Leonard Cohen: Prophet of the Heart, Omnibus Press, 1990, p. 311.
7. Devlin, Jim, Is This What You Wanted, privately published limited edition, September 1997, p. 28.
8. Transcript of a radio interview, ABC Radio, Sydney, Australia, March, 1980.