various artists,
Tower of Song:
The Songs of Leonard Cohen

(A&M Records, 1995)

The poet of the bedsit gets a marvelous outing on Tower of Song.

We all have memories of the songs of Leonard Cohen. Here we get a selection of his best work, as interpreted by a galaxy of stars. The magic of the album is the varied interpretations of songs we associate with the slow, almost depressing delivery of the writer.

Don Henley opens proceedings with a great driving version of "Everybody Knows" that will get your toes tapping despite yourself -- yes, toe-tapping Cohen. Country star Trisha Yearwood does a marvelous job on the classic "Coming Back to You" that must be experienced. Her voice is ideally suited to this wonderful anthem that will have even the tone-deaf singing along. For "Sisters of Mercy," we get a pairing of Sting and the Chieftains. The Irish influence continues as Bono gets into "Hallelujah."

One of the best examples of Cohen covers in the past was Suzanne Vega on Famous Blue Raincoat. Vega is on this album, but it is Tori Amos who dons the raincoat with style. We seldom associate Aaron Neville with country music, but that is the style he adopts to perfection on "Ain't No Cure for Love." The country "whine" disconcerts at the start, but Neville wins you over.

But it is not all country. Elton John drops in and tells us "I'm Your Man." The fantastic "Suzanne" is brought to vivid life by Peter Gabriel, and Billy Joel provides "Light As the Breeze." The great interpreter of Cohen, Suzanne Vega, brings us "Story of Isaac."

For me, the track of tracks is "Bird on a Wire." The unmistakable voice and playing of Willie Nelson make this a classic track that should be forever on the turntable.

This is an album of poetry set to music and interpreted by the best in the business.

by Nicky Rossiter
5 August 2006

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