By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Three years prior, on the heels of the Summer of Love, Cohen released his debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen. He was 33, a late age to come to the game, though it wasnot so ironically, for a religious zealot who in '96 was ordained a Zen Buddhist monkChrist's age at passing. But Cohen's nouveau folk, which bucked the genre's trend of earnest protest, benefited from his maturity. The album also introduced Cohen's long line of lady friends living out the repercussions of "free love."
It was followed, in '68, by Songs From a Room. Cohen's tune had changed from casual to political. Songs like "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" and "The Old Revolution" were obvious admonishments of the Vietnam War. But it took a deep thinker like Anthony DeCurtis, who wrote the liner notes to these three reissues, to draw parallels between Cohen's "Story of Isaac" and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited."
A celebrated poet and novelist in his native Canada even before he released his first album, Cohen's subsequent musing on avalanches was probably a reaction to the commercial receptionor lack thereofof his first two albums. Come to think of it, "reactionary" is the perfect theme for these reissues, since the majority of these songs are thinly veiled indictments of the '60s. Other than the liners, what's new here are five previously unreleased songs, including less morbid versions of "Bird on the Wire" (originally called "Like a Bird") and "Dress Rehearsal Rag." But only "Store Room," a perky (for Cohen) number about the Man take, take, taking without consequence, proves a real breakthrough. Beyond that, it's all packaginga curious homage to the antithesis of superficiality.