13 Songs, 1 Hour 5 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Jennifer Warnes recorded this 1987 collection of songs by Leonard Cohen, Cohen’s career was in undeserved decline and Warnes, who served as one of Cohen’s back-up singers in the early ‘70s, had been experiencing great success with a series of country-pop and romantic movie-themed adult-contemporary hits. “First We Take Manhattan” and “Ain’t No Cure for Love” turned out to be previews for Cohen’s comeback album, 1988’s I’m Your Man, and Warnes’ interpretations forced critics to seriously evaluate her as a talented, often overlooked and underrated singer. The arrangements are less quirky than Cohen’s own attempts at mainstream pop. Unlike Judy Collins whose Cohen covers emphasize his solemnity and stick to the songs’ folk roots, Warnes takes a liberal approach, unafraid to turn “Bird On a Wire” into a dance number, or locate the nite-jazz and cinematic heart lurking within the title track, or use guitarists such as Robben Ford and Stevie Ray Vaughan on “Manhattan” to make a grander musical point. Her duet with Cohen on “Joan of Arc” is riveting and grandiose. A classic, impeccably written, arranged, performed, sung, and produced throughout. This 20th Anniversary Edition adds four tracks, including a live version of “Joan of Arc” and a delicate read of “If It Be Your Will.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Jennifer Warnes recorded this 1987 collection of songs by Leonard Cohen, Cohen’s career was in undeserved decline and Warnes, who served as one of Cohen’s back-up singers in the early ‘70s, had been experiencing great success with a series of country-pop and romantic movie-themed adult-contemporary hits. “First We Take Manhattan” and “Ain’t No Cure for Love” turned out to be previews for Cohen’s comeback album, 1988’s I’m Your Man, and Warnes’ interpretations forced critics to seriously evaluate her as a talented, often overlooked and underrated singer. The arrangements are less quirky than Cohen’s own attempts at mainstream pop. Unlike Judy Collins whose Cohen covers emphasize his solemnity and stick to the songs’ folk roots, Warnes takes a liberal approach, unafraid to turn “Bird On a Wire” into a dance number, or locate the nite-jazz and cinematic heart lurking within the title track, or use guitarists such as Robben Ford and Stevie Ray Vaughan on “Manhattan” to make a grander musical point. Her duet with Cohen on “Joan of Arc” is riveting and grandiose. A classic, impeccably written, arranged, performed, sung, and produced throughout. This 20th Anniversary Edition adds four tracks, including a live version of “Joan of Arc” and a delicate read of “If It Be Your Will.”

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Ratings and Reviews

4.7 out of 5
59 Ratings

59 Ratings

Ian Breakman ,

A Stellar Work

It is with great pleasure that I discover a musical work of such depth and integrity. Here we have a pristine collaboration of melody, lyrics, musicianship and production, all sung so beautifully with finesse and strength by one of our finest singers. You will listen to these songs over and over again.

Sally313 ,

Youth Plug

When Famous Blue Rainocat was first released I was two years old, my dad happily reminded me that First We Take Manhattan was a family favorite on road trips. Any of you who are Leonard Cohen fans, either because you were reading his poetry in the 60's, or because you listen to any of the numerous artists that are influenced by Cohen, (Beth Orton, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, The Pixies, etc) will appreciate the beautiful coat of honey that Jennifer Warnes gives to Cohen's gravely music. And of course all of you who loved Time of My Life, will appreciate Warnes' talent. Warnes' and Cohen's friendship is obvious through their collaboration and Warnes' confidence to give Cohen's lyrics new breath. The acclaimed musicians and audiophiles that worked on this album make it a worthwhile re-release!

Dr. George ,

Please give me a CD player on my desert island

I listened to this album dozen of times on "repeat all" when it first came out, and it has been a favorite ever since. For some additional insights into Ms. Warnes' career and her collaborations with Leonard Cohen, let me recommend a recent interview with Bob Edwards on the "Bob Edwards Weekend" podcast. If you THOUGHT that you understood the lyrics to "Raincoat" or "Bernadette", check it out and prepare to have a few dozen goosebumps.

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