Here's my *** 1/2 star review of Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas, which goes on sale today. Click here for a link to reviews of the Lana Del Rey's Born To Die and The Philly Soul collection Golden Gate Groove, which are also in today's Inquirer. Below, a stream of Old Ideas' "Show Me The Place."
Nobody seems to be beating up Leonard Cohen about having an artistic persona that's different from his true self. But the 77-year-old song-poet introduces the concept right at the start of Old Ideas, in which he slyly sing-speaks, "I'd love to speak to Leonard, he's a sportsman and a shepherd / He's a lazy bastard, living in a suit."
Actually, Cohen doesn't come off as the slightest bit lazy on Old Ideas, his first studio album in more than seven years and his best in 20. Cohen's creative juices were clearly renewed by the magnificent career-spanning tour that played the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in 2010. Produced with various helpers, including his paramour, singer Anjani Thomas, and Ed Sanders of the Fugs, Old Ideas was recorded with his Unified Heart touring band and is filled with bruised romantic songs - Cohen coyly sings that his ambition is to create "a manual for living with defeat" in the opening "Going Home."
As its title implies, Old Ideas makes no effort to reinvent the Cohen sound, essentially reprising the approach he developed on such formidable efforts as I'm Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992) - a gravelly, baritone Euro-cabaret sound backed by a femme chorus. The album has more of an elegantly elegiac feel to it, however, as the work of a distinguished-though-still-frisky elder statesman with less time ahead of him than in his illustrious past. Has any pop-music artist ever made a stronger - or, dare I say, sexier - album of original material at such an advanced age? No one comes to mind.