"Singer Songwriters"by Professor Red
September 2, 2007
A songwriter who is a singer is a gift. When a singer-songwriter meets a talented singer who can sing his songs, it's magic.
ANJANI THOMAS with LEONARD COHEN
Live In Poland 2007 [no label 1CD]
Live at Studio im. Agnieszki Osieckiej, Polskie Radio Program 3 (a.k.a. "Trójka"), Warszawa, Poland, March 31, 2007.
Anjani Thomas' Blue Alert came out early in 2006. Then nothing. Other "divas" got the push instead. Corrine Bailey Ray comes to mind as the most recent. Thankfully she did a short tour of Europe with companion and friend Leonard Cohen who produced Blue Alert and wrote all the lyrics to the songs. One show was properly recorded and broadcast on Polish radio. This is it.
Thomas has an angelic voice diametrically opposite to Cohen's smoker's cackle. It's so smooth you can't believe she can sing Cohen. But this is no Famous Blue Raincoat a la Jennifer Warnes. Thomas has had a long working relationship with Cohen since 1985 when she signed on as backing singer on his tour. She's also on his albums from I'm Your Man, The Future and the most recent, Dear Heather.
An attempt at a solo career started in 2000 with two albums that did not chart. For her third, Anjani rifled through Cohen's old notebooks, found lyrics and poems and put them to music. This is late-night listening nirvana, combination of Anjani's sexy, cool vocals with Cohen's always subversive lyrics.
Favourite songs here include Wither Thou Goest, a duet with Anjani and Cohen not found on the Blue Alert album, and Anjani's interpretation of Nightingale also recorded by Cohen on Dear Heather. Perhaps it is best to let Leonard Cohen describe what's found here:
"It's a great privilege and a great honour for us to be here. We were here 22 years ago. There were brave men in prison. There were people under house arrest. There was the Heavy Hand over the society and over the culture. And here today, 22 years later, they're calling this the 'New Paris'. Warsaw is the new Paris. Well, maybe Warsaw doesn't want to be the new Paris? In any case, we don't live in Warsaw, we don't live in Paris although those geographies may define our actual location. We live in other places that are more intimate and more real and more authentic than whatever the official culture defines us as. I was reading in Milosz's book today... just one beautiful paragraph... He says:
"Man has been given to understand
that he lives only by the grace of those in power.
Let him therefore busy himself sipping coffee, catching butterflies.
And whoever cares for the republic will have his right hand cut off.
There is so much death and that is why affection for pigtails,
bright-coloured skirts in the wind, for paper boats no more durable
than we are."(*)
(*) an excerpt from Polish poet and 1980 Literary Nobel Prize Award laureate, Czeslaw Milosz's "Alfabet Milosza" (1997).
"And then the poem just drifts off. And it's in that drifting off that these songs that we have tonight are written... The songs not of great love,... songs that address the great bewildering challenges of today whether they're global warming of the clash of civilizations or the resolution of all the horrendous conflicts that beset us. These are songs that Anjani and I wrote [are] about the little places, about the little loves, about the little corners."
Leonard Cohen understands that only with love can true art be formed. State-sponsored, government-funded artists can bring forth no art at all. Just the sound of heavy propaganda, hammering away at all opposition.
So give yourself a chance and catch Anjani Thomas live. Then buy her album.