http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/s ... 15,00.html
Songs for small-hours lovers
Sunday April 29, 2007
Blue Alert (SonyBMG), £12.99
Women have played a pivotal part in Leonard Cohen's life and career, whether as lover, muse or creative partner. In Anjani Thomas, Cohen has finally found a woman who combines all three roles and brings her own musical gifts for good measure. Anjani first met Cohen as a back-up singer on his 1984 tour. Fifteen years later, the pair met again and became a feature. Since then, Anjani has released an album of devotional songs, Sacred Names, and added her smoky vocals to Cohen's Dear Heather.
Blue Alert takes the creative union a stage further. The lyrics are all Cohen's, gathered from his journals by Anjani, and set to slinky jazz piano by her. The process ranged from uncovering a complete lyric, 'The Mist', that she was unaware Cohen had already recorded (for the Phil Spector-produced Death of a Ladies' Man), to finding a single line, 'Thanks for the Dance', that she pressed Cohen to bring to completion. Although Anjani thought she was demo-ing songs for a Cohen album, he had other ideas, and produced Blue Alert with a lover's delicate touch.
The result is a minimalist jewel of a record, the purity of Anjani's vocals needing only the backing of her electric piano, here and there helped along by a brushed drum, a purring guitar or a poignant clarinet. It's a classic small-hours album, by turns rueful, sad and bitter, while hearing the songs from a female voice adds another twist to their ambiguity.
Of all pop's poets, Cohen understands the contradictions of romance: 'I had to go crazy to love you/ You who were never the one/ Whom I chased through the souvenir heartache ...' is not a line you'll find on a Robbie Williams record. Sin and salvation are, for once, not on the agenda. Instead, the songs focus on goodbyes ('You won't hear my voice till it's far, far away') and fidelity ('I taught the Kama Sutra but I never loved before'). It's often sad, but by shaking off the melodic restrictions of those lugubrious vocals, Anjani has arguably done more for her man than any previous muse or collaborator.
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