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Old Ideas
Our Rating
5 Stars - Masterpiece
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Release Date
January 31, 2012
Label
Sony Legacy

Style: Literate pop and folk; compare to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon

Top tracks: "Amen," "Show Me the Place," "Banjo"

Leonard Cohen is 77 years old. A critically acclaimed and award-winning novelist and poet long before he considered a musical career, Cohen merely transferred his poetic gifts to the guitar. His songs have now been covered more than 2,000 times on record. Not surprisingly, he's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the few singer/songwriters of the '60s still regarded as being at the top of his game. Long recognized for his spiritually searching lyrics, his albums have always attracted attentive Christian listeners, especially in the past ten years. His song "Hallelujah," resurrected most famously by Jeff Buckley, has been covered by almost every earnest worship band at a seeker-friendly church.

But none of that should obscure the central fact of his current existence. Leonard Cohen is 77 years old, and nothing else really matters to him.

Old Ideas, his first album of new material in almost eight years, is suffused with the knowledge of mortality, with the dread of impending death. Those who have followed Cohen's career know that these are hardly new concerns. But never before have they been so explicitly and so insistently examined and prodded. Raised as a Jew, now a Buddhist monk, Cohen asks the big questions that will resonate with Christians. They transcend creeds and dogmas because they are universal and human.

Aided and abetted by a quintet of backup singers who sometimes prop him up melodically, and sometimes serve as an ironic Greek chorus, commenting on the dour proceedings, Cohen delivers ten songs of poetic loss and cautious promise. "Amen," a pleading prayer for mercy disguised as ...

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