Archive for Leonard Cohen

Review: Live Albums

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2009 by 30daysout

leonard-cohen-crop                 stevie-front

Live albums are always pretty interesting, beyond the music.  It’s like the artist wants to make some sort of statement – like, “Here’s a souvenir from my last tour.” (Rolling Stones).  Or, “You know, these songs may be 40 years old but I can still make ’em sound pretty damn good.” (Paul McCartney).  Or, “Hey, we’re still relevant … aren’t we?” (The Eagles).  Here’s a handful of live recordings that manage to make pretty much all of those statements:

Live In London by Leonard Cohen – This 72-year-old songwriter and (sometimes) singer has never sounded better in this two-disc souvenir of a show in London’s O2 arena from last summer.  His songs – especially the lyrics – are rivalled only by Dylan and like ol’ Bob, Leonard deftly turns his not-pretty voice into a powerfully expressive instrument.  Cohen’s songs are cast in a musical framework that recalls German cabaret and Hollywood movies, similar to what Tom Waits has been doing the past few years.  Cohen’s backing band is highly skilled and tasteful, they always hit their mark without taking the spotlight off the star.  I must admit I enjoyed this album way more than I intended to; after all, this is moody non-rock that nonetheless hits hard and cuts deep.  If you are a fan of mature, adult-oriented rock music, this is certainly a keeper.

MP3: “Sisters Of Mercy” by Leonard Cohen

The Soundstage Sessions by Stevie Nicks – The soundtrack for a DVD cut live in Chicago two years ago, this disc updates some of Nicks’ classics from both the Fleetwood Mac days and her solo days, and tosses in a new tune to boot. Nicks, currently on tour with the Mac, offers little reinterpretation (and quite a bit of post-production) on these curious remakes, wiped clean of any sign of the live audience.  That kind of makes the music a little more sterile, and considering that Stevie’s voice isn’t the supple instrument it was in the past, makes it also a little more irritating.  Still, the orchestral version of “Landslide” and a stripped-down “Sara” manage to shine, even if the rest of this is for hardcore fans only.

MP3: “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks

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The First Step

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2008 by 30daysout


Congratulations, America.  Thanks to everyone who voted.  Regardless of who you voted for, you made a difference.  Change has already begun, and many people agree that’s a good thing.  There is still a lot of work to do, still many challenges in the world, and there will certainly be some rough times ahead.  Most of the problems we face are too big to be fixed by only one man or one political party.  So we have to do this together. 

Today, let’s have a little party.  Some songs (OK, one: Blowfly) not safe for work.

MP3: “The Star Spangled Banner” (live) by Marvin Gaye

MP3: “Democracy In The USA” (live) by Leonard Cohen

MP3: “People Get Ready” by the Impressions

MP3: “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” by James Brown

MP3: “The First Black President” by Blowfly 

MP3: “We’re A Winner” (live) by Curtis Mayfield

MP3: “One Nation Under A Groove” by Funkadelic

MP3: “Living In America” by James Brown

MP3: “Let’s Work Together” by Canned Heat

YouTube: Bruce Springsteen’s new “Working On A Dream”

Review: “Soul Speak,” Michael McDonald

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by 30daysout

Michael McDonald has one of the most distinctive and best voices in rock and R&B. His last two discs of Motown classics were instant smashes and both sold millions. His latest, Soul Speak, follows the same the formula (although not strictly Motown), but sounds very tired.

McDonald seems to labor through classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Knew You Were Waiting,” Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” and the Teddy Pendergrass hit “Love TKO.” The few bright spots include his take on Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which seems to be recorded a lot these days. He does offer a couple of new original songs, “Only God Can Help Me Now,” and “Can’t Get Over You (Getting Over Me),” but both are forgettable.

I’ve always thought that if you are going to record someone else’s material you have to either do it better or at least different. Unfortunately, McDonald doesn’t do either on the majority of the tracks on Soul Speak.

MP3: Into the Mystic

MP3: Only God Can Help Me Now

Michael McDonald Official Website