The Essential Leonard Cohen
Though he began his career as a poet and novelist, Leonard Cohen’s transition to song was easier than his limited singing skills might suggest. Never one blessed with great range or exceptional timbre, Cohen played to these weaknesses and made them his strengths, evoking humility and an aching sadness in his meticulously detailed stories of hope and doom. This hand-picked 31-track collection from the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee traces his career from ‘60s troubadour to modern day prophet of love and apocalypse. “Suzanne,” “Bird on a Wire,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” are virtually standards. But Cohen’s catalog is extensive and satisfying, and his later work in the 1980s and beyond — when his voice deepens to a Biblical croak and his arrangements settle into an unusual, synthetic dance with death — are filled with stunning imagery and unsettling conclusions. “First We Take Manhattan” sounds like a spy film gone awry. “Democracy” and “The Future” deliver hope while flirting with the notion that all time is uncertain. Later tracks such as “Alexandra Leaving” and “A Thousand Kisses Deep” prove you’re never too old to find the romance in longing and love.