The Darker Album and the Songs

Leonard Ciohen's last studio album (2016)
DBCohen
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Fri Nov 04, 2016 9:52 am

Thanks, Joe, for your consideration and for your thoughts on the third song, “On The Level”; you presented it so aptly that I don’t have that much to add. As you said, this is a lighter song, relating to an old love, following two “heavier” ones on the struggles of faith (mainly). There are only a few lines that you did not relate to, and I think those lines may contain a double meaning:

“When I turned my back on the devil / Turned my back on the angle too” – As I said earlier, this album is full of allusions to Jesus, and the phrase in the first line of these two would necessarily make one think of him. Indeed, there must have been many who have faced the devil and rejected him, but the fountainhead of this image seems to be Jesus’ experience (Matthew 4; Mark 1; Luke 4). The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), by the way, does not have any similar encounter with the devil, although there is a certain resemblance between Jesus’ experience in the desert and that of Elijah (1 Kings 19). So, as common with LC, the religious image is always there, whenever he talks about love. And of course, the angel in the second line brings to mind the angels in so many earlier songs, in particular: “I forget to pray for the angels / and then the angels forget to pray for us” (could this song actually be about Marianne, then, rather than about a later lover?).

“Now I’m living in this temple / Where they tell you what to do” – These lines too allude to the religious theme, naturally. LC must be thinking of the temple where he spent several years and had to obey the rules, although he no longer lives there (but perhaps wishes to be in such a place again? Being confined to a place also brings to mind “The Tower Of Song”).

So on the whole it’s a lighter but also a typical song of LC, in which we hear his familiar “voice” (language, images, rhymes, irony), resonating with echos of many memories of the past.
teresaq
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby teresaq » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:17 pm

I wrote a review of 'You want it darker' and posted it at http://studentat60.blogspot.co.uk/ I hope you enjoy reading it.
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HugoD
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby HugoD » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:08 pm

teresaq wrote:I wrote a review of 'You want it darker' and posted it at http://studentat60.blogspot.co.uk/ I hope you enjoy reading it.

Thank you for this beautifull review, enjoyed reading it.
Lille 2010, Dublin 2012, Mannheim 2013, Rotterdam 2013, Montréal 2017
Athnuachan
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Athnuachan » Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:08 pm

A bit late to suggest this, but there is something to be said for a Twitter like word limit!
Those who would like to register a BRIEF response to LC 's latest album could then do so and get some feed back and conversation going on a thread called something like " Brief response " .
Those who enjoy line by line analysis (which seems to find God or some variant thereof in every line) could do so on a thread called something like "Analysis".
It takes all kinds!
Ring the bells that still can ring...
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Vicomte » Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:13 pm

Athnuachan,

I couldn't agree more, I see these way too long posts and I just give up the will to read them after a line. I said it sometime ago, Peter Townshend once said the words come out and often he hadn't got a clue what some lines meant. I am not saying Leonard doesn't know why but I keep recalling Townshend's words and if a great song writer like him can admit he finds it hard, often impossible as to why he wrote certain lines, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility to suppose LC my not remember the reasons behind some of his songs. Still I'm sure he once said something along the lines of let the person read the words and take them in the way they see them.
I guess it all started for me sometime around Christmas 1967 and now, goodness me, it's.........2017 and fifty years later.
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Joe Way
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Joe Way » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:12 am

teresaq wrote:I wrote a review of 'You want it darker' and posted it at http://studentat60.blogspot.co.uk/ I hope you enjoy reading it.
teresaq,
Thank you for a nice read. I think that age & pain has changed Leonard recently. I saw it with my mother who was 17 years older than Leonard and lived to 96. My sister and I discuss how similar many of Leonard's reactions and attitudes match our mother.

Please join in the discussions of each song that we are doing.

Doron, thank you as always-you are spot on about the lines that you commented on that I neglected.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
JudasPriest
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby JudasPriest » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:13 am

Here's a question- which is better, the 1st or 2nd half of the album? For the sake of argument - and to make it an even number of tracks- let's leave out the reprise (which may be unfair but does make it easier to split the baby in two). I would have said the 1st half is the one on paper with some really big hitters but that sequence of Travelling Light/Seemed the Better Way/Steer Your Way works so seamlessly, I can't stop playing it. Steer Your Way in particular is such a beautiful finale proper before the coda of the reprise.

Damn, the whole thing is just gorgeous.
DBCohen
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Sat Nov 05, 2016 3:40 am

Joe,
thanks, and I hope we can carry on (no need to rush).

teresaq,
I read your review with great interest although I can’t say I agree with everything you say; I’m not at all sure that you are right about the division of his past songs (80% relationship, 12% spirituality); in many cases these themes are mixed, and as we said many times before, a lot of his songs can be interpreted in two ways or more. I also think that your bottom line conclusion might be a little too harsh; I don’t think this album shows that he have lost his humor; as for faith in humanity, redemption and faith in God, these are complicated issues, not the least so because his ambivalence towards them could be demonstrated throughout his work. It certainly feels like age has changed him, but the question is to what degree and I for one would like to keep thinking about it as we go through the album.

JudasPriest,
I share your feeling that the sequence of the final four tracks on the album is particularly beautiful; I think the musical arrangements have a lot to do with that (kudos to Adam Cohen; I’ll have more to say about this later). However, as you say, the whole thing is great.

Finally, for the people who don’t like reading textual analysis, I don’t really see your problem: if you don’t like to, don’t read it; if you prefer twitting, use Twitter. The Forum has always been (among several other things) a place for serious analysis of LC’s work, as hundreds upon hundreds of pages brimming with valuable contributions by many dozens, perhaps hundreds of people, can testify. Some people still enjoy keeping up that tradition.

Doron
teresaq
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby teresaq » Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:04 am

DBCohen

I know that what LC's lyrics are about is very subjective. But as part of the analysis for my forthcoming book, I counted everything and that's what I came up with. You are right that many of the lyrics deal with more than one subject area but only 20% are primarily spiritual. Many many more (just over 50%) have spirituality mentioned in a lyric which is primarily about something else.
Bennyboy
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Bennyboy » Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:30 am

With regards to 'On The Level', it's most likely not intentional but in light of his health problems making the album, the phrase 'turned my back' could be a rather literal, causal one. Every time I play it, I see Leonard in his medical chair, immobile.

It's the same but on a much more visceral level with the lines in 'steer your way' about pain smashing the cosmic model.

On the question of better halves of the album - well, the vinyl version of the album splits the songs so that 'Travelling Light' begins side 2. As I pointed out earlier, with 'You Want It Darker' this gives a lovely symmetry between darkness and light.

It would be interesting to see if listening to the album on record therefore feels different to the CD, with a natural break after the first 5 songs. On CD, I do think that 'Leaving the Table' and 'if I Didn't Have Your Love' drag a bit tempo-wise. It a minor quibble but I think the album would benefit from a more upbeat song in slot 5.
JudasPriest
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby JudasPriest » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:12 pm

Perhaps so - maybe On the Level to round off side one as track 5?
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby JudasPriest » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:14 pm

Or being really greedy, an extra track in the form of an uptempo Happens to the Heart... we can dream!!
Bennyboy
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Bennyboy » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:47 pm

JudasPriest wrote:Or being really greedy, an extra track in the form of an uptempo Happens to the Heart... we can dream!!
I think we will get Happens To the Heart, on the album after the orchestral one, God willing (to use Leonard's phrase). I imagine a scenario where these two will be released within the next 18 months or so.
Bennyboy
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Bennyboy » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:54 pm

Here's another fantasy - construct one killer album from Old Ideas, Popular Problems and You Want It Darker.
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Goldin
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Goldin » Sat Nov 05, 2016 1:45 pm

Bennyboy wrote:Here's another fantasy - construct one killer album from Old Ideas, Popular Problems and You Want It Darker.
One killer album out of three killer albums? What for?
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