The more the Christmas season is getting closer, the more you run into compilations of all kind. One of the most interesting projects this year, I feel, is Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. Not only that some very interesting artists covered songs of the great Canadian singer-songwriter, but also that all the songs are transformed into jazz recordings. Here is my review of the album released on 14th October 2022.
Leonard Cohen – About the Artist
Leonard Norman Cohen was born on 21st September 1934 in Westmount, Quebec. He died in Los Angeles on 7th November 2016. He is not only an inductee of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. Cohen started to release music in the 1960’s and released his final album You Want It Darker just some two weeks before his death. The album deals with his attitude and thoughts towards his end of life. Cohen also write poems, novels and other kinds of literature. His most famous song is likely Hallelujah, which he released in 1984. Topping the charts in France, it is Cohen’s only ever #1 single. One of his other classics, First We Take Manhattan, never made it to a chart placement in a major market.
Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen – Track by Track
The 12 song album lasts 60 minutes.
1. Steer Your Way (Norah Jones)
Norah Jones opens the album with her version of Steer Your Way. The warmth in her voice is a beautiful way to get into the Leonard Cohen feeling. The version comes with a nice focus on her voice, which leads to a very lovely listening experience.
2. Here It Is (Peter Gabriel)
The second version is the first one where goosebumps are almost guaranteed. Doesn’t Peter Gabriel somehow sound quite like Leonard Cohen himself. The very gentle backing of Peter Gabriels voice by different instruments increases the magic of this listen. I love it. Lovely work by Larry Golding on the organ as well.
3. Suzanne (Gregory Porter)
Leonard Cohen released Suzanne several times – but it has especially been his debut single in 1967. The track peaked third in France. Again, the team around the Here It Is found a perfect vocal match for this song. Two time Grammy Award Winner Gregory Porter does a beautiful, soulful performance on the microphone here. Beautiful groove by Scott Colley on the bass as well.
4. Hallelujah (Sarah McLachlan)
To me, Cohen’s countrywoman Sarah McLachlan took the hardest burden of the album. Hallelujah is such a classic and has touched so many people in different – typically sad – occasions. But McLachlan is standing it and thus creates one of the biggest emotional highlights of the album, together with a great band performance. I love it!
5. Avalanche (Immanuel Wilkins)
The 2022 version of the 1971 B-side is a treat for instrumental jazz and jazz saxophone lovers. Immanuel Wilkins masters this instrument and tells the story of the underlying poem in his very own way. Some parts are confusing me a bit, but overall, this works very well.
6. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Luciana Souza)
Luciana Souza is a Brazilian jazz musician from Sao Paolo. Her version of Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye nicely combines her very present voice with very nice instrumental work. This is leading to a more pop-alike touch of the song in some parts.
7. Coming Back To You (James Taylor)
You rather know James Taylor for his folk and country style songs. But at least for the jazz interpretation of Coming Back To You, his dark and warm voice is a nice match. And when Greg Leisz is making the steel guitar howl in the background, there is a bit of James Taylor traditional style in the song as well.
8. You Want It Darker (Iggy Pop)
Who could be a better match for this song than James Newell Osterberg Jr. – or Iggy Pop, how you typically know him. You Want It Darker? Go for this song. Fantastic atmosphere.
9. If It Be Your Will (Mavis Staples)
Mavis Staples is the last surviving member of the legendary family band The Staple Singers. Her interpretation of the 1984 release If It Be your Will is beautifully blended by the warmth and soul in the artist’s voice.
10. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (David Gray)
This song is one of Cohen’s earliest releases. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy has been part of the 1969 album Songs from a Room. David Gray’s voice is nicely telling the touching story of the song. Lovely listen.
11. Famous Blue Raincoat (Nathaniel Rateliff)
The soul and gospel touch of Nathaniel Rateliff’s voice leads to a beautiful warmth and touch while he is performing Famous Blue Raincoat. Nice listen.
12. Bird On The Wire (Bill Frisell)
Another Songs from a Room track is closing the album. Bill Frisell is showing his jazz guitar skills in here – you just don’t miss the lyrics in this song. Lovely pick as a closing song.
Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen – Spotify
Here is the album on Spotify:
Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen – My View
Leonard Cohen received a lovely tribute album here. There are some slightly weaker spots – but one rationale behind it is that some tracks are outstanding. I especially recommend to listen to the versions by Sarah McLachlan and Peter Gabriel – but the best way is to give this jazz album a full listen.
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