The Darker Album and the Songs

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

Postby Bennyboy » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:31 pm

Goldin wrote:
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?
For listening to.
vickiwoodyard
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby vickiwoodyard » Sat Nov 05, 2016 5:37 pm

Who is he addressing in the lines, "If I didn't have your love to make it real?" I find this to be the confusing song, since in all of the others, he seems to be convinced that he is the only one making it real. It does seem to be a bit out of line with the other songs, since it is decidedly "undark." Any thoughts on this?
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Sun Nov 06, 2016 3:50 am

teresaq wrote: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.
So if "spirituality" [I don't like this term but it will do for the time being] is part of the song, why catalogue it as "about something else"? I'm not arguing, just trying to understand your way of work. And what exactly do you mean by "subjective" here? From whose point of view?
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby teresaq » Sun Nov 06, 2016 1:53 pm

DBCohen
I went through all the lyrics and tried to decide,looking at the vocabulary used, what each one was primarily 'about'. I came up with six categories - relationships, spirituality (this was the best term I could come up with for a variety of belief systems), addiction, music, ageing and one which I called 'free' (this includes lyrics like 'Avalanche' which can be interpreted by this listener in any way appropriate to them). I also recorded when the other categories occurred in a lyric primarily 'about' one of the others. On average, each Cohen lyric contains slightly more than two of these categories. The predominant main category is relationships (62%), followed by politics (19%) and spirituality (13%). 16% are in the 'free' category. The other categories hardly ever occur as a main theme but occur frequently as a sub-theme or a reference.
I mentioned subjectivity because although I have tried hard to be objective, it is inevitable that my own point of view intrudes occasionally.
Bennyboy
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Bennyboy » Sun Nov 06, 2016 2:00 pm

teresaq wrote:DBCohen
I went through all the lyrics and tried to decide,looking at the vocabulary used, what each one was primarily 'about'. I came up with six categories - relationships, spirituality (this was the best term I could come up with for a variety of belief systems), addiction, music, ageing and one which I called 'free' (this includes lyrics like 'Avalanche' which can be interpreted by this listener in any way appropriate to them). I also recorded when the other categories occurred in a lyric primarily 'about' one of the others. On average, each Cohen lyric contains slightly more than two of these categories. The predominant main category is relationships (62%), followed by politics (19%) and spirituality (13%). 16% are in the 'free' category. The other categories hardly ever occur as a main theme but occur frequently as a sub-theme or a reference.
I mentioned subjectivity because although I have tried hard to be objective, it is inevitable that my own point of view intrudes occasionally.
How many swear words does he use?
Athnuachan
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Athnuachan » Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:41 pm

Vicomte wrote: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'm sure he (LC) once said something along the lines of let the person read the words and take them in the way they see them.
Well said Vicomte.
Over-analysis can kill poetry. The words of Keats come to mind - "slitting the blackbird's throat to see what makes it sing."
LC is a poet. Somehow I think he might have more in common with Keats than with the "what exactly does this line mean?" brigade.
Well, at least those of us bored away from here can still enjoy listening to LC 's albums and reaching our own beautifully varied conclusions!
Last edited by Athnuachan on Sun Nov 06, 2016 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ring the bells that still can ring...
Athnuachan
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Athnuachan » Sun Nov 06, 2016 5:11 pm

vickiwoodyard wrote:Who is he addressing in the lines, "If I didn't have your love to make it real?" It does seem to be a bit out of line with the other songs, since it is decidedly "undark." Any thoughts on this?
I agree Vicki. To me too it seems the odd one out. It seems to date from an earlier era when he thought he had found his beloved, before disillusionment set in. It's the one I tend to skip now when listening to the album as a whole, but 1 out of 9 ain't bad!
Ring the bells that still can ring...
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abby
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby abby » Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:21 pm

Joe & Doron-
I am silently reading your words about the new album. I don't feel capable right now of what you're doing. & the place these particular messages hold on the forum right now feels exposed. I'm too shy & inarticulate to say much here but I want you to know that I appreciate your contributions & I can't be the only quiet one feeling that way.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Judy » Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:56 pm

Joe and Doron, thank you both for your thoughts.
And Abby, you are not the only one feeling that way - thank you for saying what I'm thinking.
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Jean Fournell
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Jean Fournell » Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:59 pm

Let me second Abby and Judy.
(Or should it be "third"?)
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
DBCohen
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Mon Nov 07, 2016 2:48 am

teresaq wrote:DBCohen
I went through all the lyrics and tried to decide,looking at the vocabulary used, what each one was primarily 'about'. I came up with six categories - relationships, spirituality (this was the best term I could come up with for a variety of belief systems), addiction, music, ageing and one which I called 'free' (this includes lyrics like 'Avalanche' which can be interpreted by this listener in any way appropriate to them). I also recorded when the other categories occurred in a lyric primarily 'about' one of the others. On average, each Cohen lyric contains slightly more than two of these categories. The predominant main category is relationships (62%), followed by politics (19%) and spirituality (13%). 16% are in the 'free' category. The other categories hardly ever occur as a main theme but occur frequently as a sub-theme or a reference.
I mentioned subjectivity because although I have tried hard to be objective, it is inevitable that my own point of view intrudes occasionally.
teresaq,
Thanks for explaining. If so, why isn’t “politics” one of your main categories? It’s an interesting experiment, although, as you admit, it is hard to pinpoint accurately the subject of many of the songs. As for subjectivity, no doubt poetry and songs can mean different things to different people; sometimes a line can grab and haunt us without us being able to explain why. However, careful textual analysis should demonstrate what one claims to find in a certain poem or song; if one can’t find a way to show it, then it remains a subjective notion that should remain in the private realm. Looking at what is happening in the world around us recently, it is evident that objectivity and truth are on the defense and are in danger of losing out, so I for one would argue that even with poetry one should try to keep a level head and remain true to the text.

Abby, Judy, Jean,
I’m glad you are interested in what Joe and I have to offer; I hope more people - including you! - will actively join the discussion.
Bennyboy
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Bennyboy » Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:19 am

Athnuachan wrote:
vickiwoodyard wrote:Who is he addressing in the lines, "If I didn't have your love to make it real?" It does seem to be a bit out of line with the other songs, since it is decidedly "undark." Any thoughts on this?
I agree Vicki. To me too it seems the odd one out. It seems to date from an earlier era when he thought he had found his beloved, before disillusionment set in. It's the one I tend to skip now when listening to the album as a whole, but 1 out of 9 ain't bad!
You choose not to play the one song on the album - and the one that sits at the centre of the album - which shows connection and love with the world?

Who knows who the narrator is addressing - and let's be clear here, it's wrong to assume the person singing the words in any of his songs is Leonard himself - it could be God, his family, his lover. But the impulse to show love and gratitude is important. Remove this song and the album becomes too totally bleak.
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Jean Fournell
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Jean Fournell » Mon Nov 07, 2016 4:43 pm

DBCohen wrote:Abby, Judy, Jean,
I’m glad you are interested in what Joe and I have to offer; I hope more people - including you! - will actively join the discussion.
Thanks for the invitation!
For my part, I'm one of the slow-working ones. There are bits and pieces, shreds and trifles stumbling through my mind, but they take a long time (if they do!) to coalesce to ideas, then words, and then can be phrased (what's more: in English).

Here just a few first impressions:

One delightful aspect of this album is that it is not cryptic. Things are in the open only, Leonard Cohen is dealing with difficult matters.

Right now, "Treaty" seems to me the key to the album, and "If I Didn't Have Your Love" the lock.
Bennyboy has already suggested complementing Vicki's question
vickiwoodyard wrote:Who is he addressing in the lines, "If I didn't have your love to make it real?"
[...]
It does seem to be a bit out of line with the other songs, since it is decidedly "undark."
with the question: Who is speaking?

Let me suggest one further question: Who is the "we" who would be able to "live[...] (in) an endless night"?
(Surely not humans: depending on artificial warmth, food and oxygen, our species would certainly not survive "endless[ly]".)

Maybe the song will reveal just how "dark" it actually is...
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
Vicomte
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Vicomte » Mon Nov 07, 2016 5:32 pm

Athnuachan wrote:
Vicomte wrote: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'm sure he (LC) once said something along the lines of let the person read the words and take them in the way they see them.
Well said Vicomte.
Over-analysis can kill poetry. The words of Keats come to mind - "slitting the blackbird's throat to see what makes it sing."
LC is a poet. Somehow I think he might have more in common with Keats than with the "what exactly does this line mean?" brigade.
Well, at least those of us bored away from here can still enjoy listening to LC 's albums and reaching our own beautifully varied conclusions!
What an excellent comparison, Athnuachan, I like that a lot.

Ever since I first came across Leonard Cohen, Winter Lady and Sisters of Mercy were the songs that turned my head and sent me on the path that has lasted close on 50 years now, I have tried hard not to take too long in mentally analysing his words. As you said, he is a poet, his first love and it was his books that I went out and bought after the first album. That was partly because I thought it might help me to understand him more, it didn't really but Spike Milligan "poems" did, as the story line although sometime hidden until the end, you somehow knew Spike had a story within and bluddy humorous to boot!

Anyway I digress, to me if one wants to delve in to what one likes to believe Cohen is saying in any album, including this latest offering my money would be on us all being wrong on a lot of the thoughts, except for the fairly obvious passages. I tend to, also the other half, play LC at any time of day but mainly later at night and a fair amount on long road journeys. We are off after Christmas on a 14 hour plus trip by car, it is then we will probably play the CD through a couple of times or so but what I will hear I will take in what I think it means and maybe change my mind on later plays. What I won't do is sit down and analyse it until my head says no more, let me enjoy, let me hear the words and take them in my way, in a way that others wont, or might but as I said, my money will be on none of us will be right.

If I don't like a song on any album and LC has written and sung a few, I just move on, so if Athnuachan doesn't like the song she spoke about and has decided the music moves on from that particular song, that is far more sensible than listening to someone telling her if she doesn't listen to it she will miss the album as it becomes totally bleak....oh come on, do be sensible. Telling people what they should listen to is about as bonkers as it sounds. We all like many of his songs and if 100 of us wrote down our top likes and top dislikes, we will end up with 100 different lists and will we then all be telling each other what we should like as our lists differed, no of course not, well I hope not.

I like how Jeff Buckley put all this:

“Dylan and Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, all dark, all romantic. When I say “romantic,” I mean a sensibility that sees everything, and has to express everything, and still doesn’t know what the fuck it is, it hurts that bad. It just madly tries to speak whatever it feels, and that can mean vast things. That sort of mentality can turn a sun-kissed orange into a flaming meteorite, and make it sound like that in a song.”


I get that without spending days thinking about it, I think I knew what he meant. I won't say I know exactly and if was right according to Jeff Buckley but in my own head, he wrote it and I understood it.

No offence to those who enjoy picking a song to bits but when the sun shines..... ;-)
I guess it all started for me sometime around Christmas 1967 and now, goodness me, it's.........2018 and over fifty years later.
No one ever listens to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.
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Joe Way
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Joe Way » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:25 am

First let me thank Abby, Judy & Jean for your encouraging words (and Maarten earlier in the thread). I write this much for myself as it helps me to clarify my thinking about the album. And like, Doron I encourage you and all others to comment on the songs-as Doron has said-there is no single "take" on a song-it is a living, breathing work of art that is subject to many interpretations.

Before I start to comment on "Leaving the Table" I would like to discuss a little bit about the "Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man" and the wonderful essay that the great Canadian Literary Critic, Leon Edel wrote about the subject. Mr. Edel introduced a young Leonard Cohen at a poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y in New York many years ago. Like Leonard, Mr. Edel was educated at McGill and I believe taught there for a number of years. I would love to be able to discuss Leonard's work with Mr. Edel and some of this is a reaction to that imaginary conversation.

There are not a lot of artists who are privileged to have a lengthy career like Leonard. Many burn out young due to many different factors. Keats was only 25 years old when he passed away. Mr. Edel's essay discussed in particular three artists, Tolstoy, Henry James and W. B. Yeats and spoke about the different treatments of art that their aging brought to them. He speaks of the compromises that must be made because of the deterioration of the body, but the benefits of the experience that has been granted to them.
"...a summoning of new powers, the final powers of synthesis-as if one has lived one's whole life to be strengthened by the insights and fortitude of experience. Old men and old women learn to accept the incomplete. Youth may be able to say more than it knows; age tends to leave a great deal unsaid. What is said has an achieved simplicity, a beautiful starkness."
Mr. Edel speaks passionately about Yeats, who we know was a major influence on Leonard in his youth.

In one passage he quotes Yeats.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
-Those dying generations-at their song.
The salmon-falls, the mackeral crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
And then, Edel interjects:

We can paint a large portrait indeed of a man who could insist upon "unageing intellect" even while seeing himself as a comic pathetic figure. (and again quotes Yeats):
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress.
And that dear friends, is what I believe that Leonard is doing on his wonderful song, "Leaving the Table."

Again, we are given a melody written by Leonard himself. It is in lively triple time-a variation of 3/4, 6/8 or some other multiple. The accompaniment includes some beautiful guitar work by Adam Cohen using the "chops" made famous by his father on a nylon stringed guitar. I think Leonard sings passionately on this song-it is certainly one of my favorites on the album.

As Doron mentioned, "Table" is one of those words that Leonard uses that are fraught with meaning. Obviously it can mean an altar or a holy place. It also can mean the gaming tables-an image that Leonard has used continually through his work. I think here, it is probably meant to summon up both images.

Again, the big question is who is the "you" that he is addressing?

Many of the images seem to make allusions to those things that are talked about regarding "final reward" and the afterlife. In fact, the narrator says, "There is no reward." And then an image from birth, "We're cutting the cord." The Bible urges us to put off striving for earthly treasure to earn Divine Treasure in the afterlife. The narrator says, "We're spending the treasure that love cannot afford." But this leads to the "Sweetness restored."

I can't give you more suggestions for meanings, but it is a great song. The images are terrific-the lawyer, the claim, the wretched beast, etc. The narrator's tired and lame excuses. It is Leonard at his best and with one of his best vocal performances. Enjoy!
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."

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