The Darker Album and the Songs

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

Post by its4inthemorning » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:08 pm

Just received C/D from Amazon today. After two listens, here is my "FOXWOOD" type review:

Like the way everything fits together to maximize the overall impact on the listener.

Favorite track is "Steer Your Way," great lyrics put to a captivating tune.

We got truth in advertising, in comparison "Songs of Love and Hate" is easy listening.

The MAN continues to deliver!

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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by B4real » Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:42 am

I’ve had time to play these soulfully expressive songs quite a few times now and with every hearing I seem to discover more of a meaning and feeling beyond them pertinent to me. That is par for the course with Leonard’s songs and poems but over the years I’ve come to realise that at times it is best to just let it flow. Sometimes there is a danger that too much investigation can destroy the very thing that makes it what it is. There have been many interesting and varied comments about this landmark album as there are interesting and varied people. I am now simply going to enjoy this treat Leonard has kindly bestowed upon us.

Just one last comment relating to my recollection of those two similar verses in Treaty and Diamonds In The Mine. Listening again to them spanning at least a 31 year progression of time, the musicality, expression of delivery and timbre of voice of course has changed but they are really light years apart – they belong to the here and now with Treaty.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Clementine » Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:41 am

Treaty - definitely. It could apply to almost any relationship. I just love it. I hope that my neighbours like LC because he's been blasting out across our deck in Auckland, constantly, this early summer afternoon!
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Bennyboy » Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:43 am

phillyfoggy123 wrote:Quite enjoying the new album, more than even the last two. I feel this one has a fuller more interesting production. Am curious, would everyone here say TREATY is a direct rewrite of ANTHEM? To me, melodically it sounds nearly exactly the same, yes? Am curious as to the history of the song, if it is deliberate or just a case of an artist "self plagerizing" a little bit. Any thoughts?
I think the echo of 'Anthem' might well be intentional. After all, remember these lines from 'Going Home'?

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering

I would hazard that ' Treaty ' is that very song he was referencing.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Joe Way » Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:36 am

I bought the album on Friday and had a family wedding about 3 hours north of here that we left for immediately. We had our darling little 4 year old Lulu with us so had to keep the album low and couldn't hear the words very well. On our return, Lulu wasn't with us and I listened to the album at least three times (but on a car stereo).

I just love it. I think it is probably the best recording that Leonard has done since "Various Positions." And that is acknowledging that "Recent Songs," "I'm Your Man" and "The Future" are tours de'force!

I have much to say about the record and I'll give a full report in a couple of days.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by lightning » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:21 am

The repeated theme that percolates through this new masterpiece seems to me to be the failure of religion, i.e. Judaeo- Christianity and the triumph of materialism. "As he died to to make men holy, let us die to make things cheap." "It used to be the truth but it's not the truth today." Sin is victorious, he gladly yields to temptation, prayers go unanswered, as we kill the flame. It brings to mind the I Ching hexagram "The Darkening of the Light." Have we reached that point in the cycle where all seems to grow darker? Is this, then about spiritual rather than physical death?
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Joe Way » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:30 am

You Want It Darker

At the outset, let me say I love this album. I haven’t been so seduced by an album since either “Various Positions” or “Recent Songs.”

I was one of the fortunate few who got to hear it streamed in Amsterdam. I wasn’t listening critically at the time-it was a perk, a great benefit for having attended that wonderful event. But I will say that “Treaty” took me in immediately. The music was beautiful and lines like “I don’t care who takes this bloody hill” absolutely captured my attention. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t recognize the Synagogue choir and Cantor in “You Want It Darker.” i guess that I thought that it was more Arabic language and music that was present in “Popular Problems.”

The first song, “You Want It Darker” sets up the entire album. The Synagogue choir nudges us toward the opening rhythm of the song. The bass establishes a steady beat and Leonard’s rich voice starts to intone the intellectual choices that we make.

Let’s talk a little bit about the notion of “Darkness.” Most of us would say that like cold is the absence of heat, darkness is the absence of light. But if one examines the lines from Isaiah, one notices that like light, darkness was created.

I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

So the notion the G-d wants it darker might be something that Leonard considered apart from the “darkness” his fans seek.

Look at these great opening lines:

“If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame.

He immediately sets up a dichotomy between two versions of the Divine.

The notion that G-d is a “dealer” is a late nineteenth century, early twentieth century notion. In a famous poem called “Hap” Thomas Hardy speaks of a universe that G-d has disappeared or doesn’t exist. Consider this poem:

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!” 

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so.   How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
—Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

Dicing Time like pure chance deals out the pain and sorry, blesses and graces.

Compare this with the second line,

If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame.

This is certainly more contained in the Judeo-Christian themes that G-d loves His/Her creation and wants the children to be happy with Him/Her.

There are many differing paths between these views, but for the poet’s purposes, this can be a great starting point.

The next lines, “If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame.” starts the first reference to “Glory” which appears later and must be the opposite of Shame.

The next verses with the references to “Magnified, Sanctified, Vilified, Crucified” and the references to a “lover in the story” all fall into the Judeo-Christian pathway and the references to the scriptures. Next comes the execution image that he has used repeatedly lately and uses again here and on other songs. It is as if to say that death is not pre-ordained as natural but was a line-up of the prisoners. He introduces the idea of demons and how they allow us to both be middle-class and to be able to murder and to maim.

The chorus, of course, is “Hineni, Hineni” Here I Am, Lord. I’m Ready. This could include the “game” that includes the random sufferings and joys or the pre-destined course set by a deity or a course set by our choices and actions.

I’m going to quit here and take it up again soon. “Treaty” is such a beautiful song-I’ll start there next time.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by DBCohen » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:25 pm

Way to go, Joe, and please keep them coming. I may also post something later on, but meanwhile just listening over and over again; it’s one helluva record.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Athnuachan » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:14 pm

DBCohen wrote: just listening over and over again; it’s one helluva record.
Yes ! Well said. Loving getting to know this album. More than most it lends itself to listening to in its entirety, with the final string section a lovely coda. "On the level" and "Travelling light" were immediately attractive to me, but my absolute favourites after repeated hearings are "Leaving the table", "Treaty" and "Steer your way". They are the ones which keep going around in my head when I am walking the dogs, getting the dinner, etc. But do you know what? I love them all, with the possible exception of "If I didn't have your love" - a bit too sweet for my taste. (I like it darker...) To be honest, I worried that this album might be too sweety-pie, repentance before death, etc., but no - Leonard never disappoints, the bite is still there! The ability to face up to reality, however unpalatable, with touches of humour. And Adam Cohen and all involved have done a great job - it sounds just gorgeous.
Last edited by Athnuachan on Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by stephencharlton » Mon Oct 24, 2016 6:14 pm

It certainly is superb. Treaty is sublime ! :)
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Zennard » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:40 pm

Such a beautifully instilled and yet outwards album. I wonder how the songs would sound like live, more pronounced i guess, as that often goes with the territory.
This is classic Leonard Cohen, you have to do some effort to listen to the album. I mean, lately musically the last couple of albums were straightforward in the sence that they they did not require more,listen to dig up the melodies, as beautiful as they were,
Now the tasteful execution of the music (thanks to Adam Cohen)leaves a lot of room to fill im the empty spaces in the music. But imho the more often you listen to this brilliant record, the more the empty spaces speak for themselves. And they are integral part of the lyrics and music. Less is more.

Favorites at this point:
- on the level
- leaving the table
- if i didn't have your love
- traveling light
- it seemed the better way
- steer your way
- treate/reprise

Pretty much the whole album.

Thanks, Mr. Cohen, for these songs.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by LMTRZ » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:47 pm

Mr. Cohen has once again enthralled this fan. You Want it Darker hits every motion. Thank you Mr. Cohen.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by lightning » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:21 pm

I just noticed that there is no question mark after "You Want it Darker," so I now understand it to be an assertion, not a question. Heretofore I and most people understood the title as (Do) You Want it Darker? They would answer jokingly, "Yes please," to mean they like Leonard's dark songs. But there is no question. You do want it darker.
So who is "you?" Is it Us? Is it God? Why is God not addressed in biblical language, i.e. "Dost thou wish it darker?" In other "I and Thou" addresses he uses the biblical "thine" and "thy" for the Deity. So now I understand he is say to us (everybody), "You want it darker" then he switches to include himself , "we (all humans) kill the flame."
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Unspoken Words » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:33 am

Think that this could well be the Debussy sound and feel that Leonard wished for when he recorded 'Death of a Ladies Man' (but Phil Spector, a fanatic of Wagner, gave it a different feel!).

It has instantly hit the depths of my soul and being, something the last two albums did not (and to which I have never fully warmed or embraced)

This is a fine album which I have enjoyed listening to and thinking on in contemplative silence. Even the reprise of the 'Anthem' tune in The Treaty works as do a number of other references to and melodies/reprises from other songs from his repertoire which are welcome and work as a continuation, link and the familiar. Several times the lyrics made me think about Marianne.

Overall it is a fine conclusion and culmination of his works, if that is what it ends up being (hope not). It certainly has that theme.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Post by Joe Way » Tue Oct 25, 2016 4:00 am

I’ll start by saying that I think Treaty is just a wonderful song-we are treated to one of the few melodies that Leonard writes these days-and isn’t it terrific?

A long time ago, Leonard wrote that he believed that the order of the songs on his album became important, but I can’t find the quote and don’t remember which album it was. With that said, I think this album has a beginning, a middle and an ending and is carefully composed. This song addresses an entity that I think is probably G-d. But before I go into my reasoning, let me say a couple of things about the notion of Axis Mundi that I’ve spoken about before-this is the theory put forth by the great Canadian critic, Northrop Fyre. It posits that there is a level of spirituality that is similar in many respects to the Id, Ego & Superego. The middle level is the world that we live in, joined by the depths that plunge into lower level characterized by hell etc. The upper regions represent the divine light and heaven.

I think much of this album represents traveling between these levels. Here is another quote from Isaiah:

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds

We are fortunate to have Leonard as a narrator who acts like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and speaks to G-d, complaining and praising.

I think that Leonard in Treaty is trying to end the quarrel with his Maker, but it is even more complicated.

Leonard uses Christian imagery. The first image is the water being turned into wine. Of course, I read this as changing from the middle level to the higher level of spirituality, but then it changes back again-to simple water. The narrator sits at “your table” which in this instance is the table of sustenance or perhaps altar where the gifts are prepared. He says he can’t get “high” or into the upper realms.

After the chorus talking about the “treaty” we pass to a verse about celebration.

Dancing in the street-Jubilee and celebration, but he also talks about having “sold ourselves for love but now we’re free.” This harks back to Babylon. Then comes a really important passage “I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be. Only one of us was real and that was me.”

If indeed, he is talking to the “creator” this represents the “doubt” that the whole story isn’t real. Only the narrator is real.

The next verse references the disappearing of G-d “I haven’t said a word since you’ve been gone.” (That any liar couldn’t say as well).

Then the next few lines raise us back up to another level,

“You were my ground-my safe and sound
You were my aerial.”

It is so obvious that the narrator is so invested in the presence of G-d in the world that he can’t give up this notion. “Aerial” is a great image and one that Leonard has used in the past. It signifies capturing those higher level signals.

The next line is “The fields are crying out-its jubilee” This hearkens back to “Coming Back to You” where the narrator says that “the fields are under lock & key.” In that song, it references the late years and the passing of time. Here it obviously references the same thing but in a more positive sense.

The next verse goes for the heart of the matter-referencing the elemental snake.

“I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything.”

If the narrator is the only one who is real-what about the presence of evil in the world? The snake’s transformation puts doubt again into the whole scheme of things. What an elegant passage! The snake, baffled, confused and only playing his role as the tempter of Adam & Eve, then shedding that role to go deeper (what a Cohen concept!)-into an entity without a skin. Or into something that lets evil permeate everything.

Then after this elemental verse, we go back to the struggle, to the desire for the treaty and a repetition of those characteristic signs of aging-anger and weariness. My Mom had problems with osteoporosis that led to fractures in her back like Leonard has suffered and anger and weariness like he is undergoing. I don’t think she was able to place it into this wonderful cosmic concept that Leonard has done, but it is the same impetus. After reading what I have written about the song, I don’t think I’ve captured how deeply moving this whole song is. Here is a man who has been firmly grounded in many religious traditions where a supreme being has given us hints of an afterlife that may be dependent on our actions and beliefs in this life. Leonard is also worldly enough to know that it all may be a sham, that this is it-this is all that we get. But in his background he has experienced a richness and an abundance of passion that stems from the traditions that have informed his life from a very early age. This album records the struggle between the two.
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