Leonard Cohen – Dear Heather (2004)

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Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ (21 September 1934 – 7 November 2016) was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationship. Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.
Dear Heather is the 11th studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released by Columbia Records in 2004.
There is an air of finality on Leonard Cohen‘s Dear Heather. Cohen, who turned 70 in September of 2004, offers no air of personal mortality — thank God; may this elegant Canadian bard of the holy and profane live forever.
It nonetheless looks back — to teachers, lovers, and friends — and celebrates life spent in the process of actually living it. The album’s bookend tracks provide some evidence: Lord Byron‘s bittersweet “Go No More A-Roving,” set to music and sung by Cohen and Sharon Robinson (and dedicated to Cohen‘s ailing mentor, Irving Layton), and a beautifully crafted reading of country music’s greatest lost love song, “Tennessee Waltz.” Cohen‘s voice is even quieter, almost whispering, nearly sepulchral. The tone of the album is mellow, hushed, nocturnal. Its instrumentation is drenched in the beat nightclub atmospherics of Ten New Songs: trippy, skeletal R&B and pop and Casio keyboard- and beatbox-propelled rhythm tracks are graced by brushed drums, spectral saxophones, and vibes, along with an all but imperceptible acoustic guitar lilting sleepily through it all.
But this doesn’t get it, because there’s so much more than this, too. That said, Dear Heather is Cohen‘s most upbeat offering. Rather than focus on loss as an end, it looks upon experience as something to be accepted as a portal to wisdom and gratitude. Women permeate these songs both literally and metaphorically. Robinson, who collaborated with Cohen last time, is here, but so is Anjani Thomas. Leanne Ungar also lends production help. Cohen blatantly sums up his amorous life in “Because Of”: “Because of a few songs/Wherein I spoke of their mystery/Women have been exceptionally kind to my old age/They make a secret place/In their busy lives/And they say, ‘Look at me, Leonard/Look at me one last time.'” “The Letters,” written with Robinson, who sings in duet, is a case in point, reflecting on a past love who has been “Reading them again/The ones you didn’t burn/You press them to your lips/My pages of concern…The wounded forms appear/The loss, the full extent/And simple kindness here/The solitude of strength.”
“On That Day” is a deeply compassionate meditation on the violence of September 11 where he asks the question: “Did you go crazy/Or did you report/On that day….” It is followed by the spoken poem “A Villanelle for Our Time,” with words by Cohen‘s late professor Frank Scott that transform these experiences into hope. “We rise to play a greater part/The lesser loyalties depart/And neither race nor creed remain/From bitter searching of the heart….” On “There for You,” with Robinson, Cohen digs even deeper into the well, telling an old lover that no matter the end result of their love, he was indeed there, had shown up, he was accountable and is grateful. Cohen quotes his own first book, The Spice Box of Earth, to pay tribute to the late poet A.M. Klein. “Tennessee Waltz” is indeed a sad, sad song, but it is given balance in Cohen‘s elegant, cheerful delivery. If this is indeed his final offering as a songwriter, it is a fine, decent, and moving way to close this chapter of the book of his life

Tracklist

  1. “Go No More A-Roving” (words by Lord Byron, poem “So, we’ll go no more a roving“) – 3:40
  2. “Because Of” – 3:00
  3. “The Letters” (Cohen, Sharon Robinson) – 4:44
  4. “Undertow” – 4:20
  5. “Morning Glory” – 3:28
  6. “On That Day” (Cohen, Anjani Thomas) – 2:04
  7. Villanelle for Our Time” (words by F. R. Scott) – 5:55
  8. “There for You” (Cohen, Robinson) – 4:36
  9. “Dear Heather” – 3:41
  10. “Nightingale” (Cohen, Thomas) – 2:27
  11. “To a Teacher” – 2:32
  12. “The Faith” (music based on a Quebec folk song, see “Un Canadien errant“) – 4:17
  13. Tennessee Waltz” (Redd Stewart, Pee Wee King, additional verse by Cohen) [Live at Montreux Jazz Festival] – 4:05

All songs were written by Leonard Cohen, except where noted.

Personnel

  • Leonard Cohen – vocals, Jew’s harp
  • Sharon Robinson – vocals, arrangements
  • Anjani Thomas – vocals, backing vocals; piano on “On That Day”, “Nightingale” and “Tennessee Waltz”
  • Bob Sheppard – tenor saxophone on “Go No More A-Roving”
  • Stan Sargeant – bass on “On That Day” and “Nightingale”
  • Johnny Friday – drums on “On That Day” and “Nightingale”
  • Sarah Kramer – trumpet on “Dear Heather”
  • Mitch Watkins – guitar on “The Faith” and “Tennessee Waltz”
  • Garth Hudson – accordion on “The Faith”
  • Roscoe Beck – bass on “The Faith”
  • Bill Ginn – piano on “The Faith”
  • Raffi Hakopian – violin on “The Faith”
  • John Bilezikjian – oud on “The Faith”
  • Ron Getman – steel guitar on “Tennessee Waltz”
  • John Crowder – bass on “Tennessee Waltz”
  • Richard Crooks – drums on “Tennessee Waltz”
  • Producer(s) – Leanne Ungar, Sharon Robinson, Anjani Thomas, Henry Lewy, Leonard Cohen

Track notes

  • “Go No More A-Roving” is musical adaptation of Lord Byron’s poem “So, we’ll go no more a roving”, dedicated to Cohen’s friend and mentor, Canadian poet Irving Layton, member of the Montreal Group of modernist poets.
  • “Villanelle for Our Time” was recorded 6 May 1999, shortly after Cohen’s return from Mount Baldy Zen Center. It is an improvised jazz recitation of a poem by F. R. Scott, Cohen’s older colleague from the Montreal Group of modernist poets.
  • “To a Teacher” is a spoken-word track based on Cohen’s poem from his 1961 book of poetry The Spice-Box of Earth, dedicated to the Canadian poet A.M. Klein.
  • “The Letters” is a duet with Cohen’s producer, collaborator and track’s co-writer Sharon Robinson.
  • “Because Of” is a recitation of Cohen’s poem which was included in his 2006 Book of Longing.
  • “On That Day” is a song about the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.
  • The track “Nightingale” is dedicated to the late R&B singer Carl Anderson, Anjani Thomas’s colleague. She composed the music using Cohen’s abandoned poem.
  • Music track for “The Faith” is actually an outtake from Recent Songs, with completely new lyrics, re-mixed and with new vocals added (thus the production was co-credited to Recent Songs producer Henry Lewy).
  • The final track is a live performance of “Tennessee Waltz”, recorded 9 July 1985 at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was taken from the bootlegged radio recording and cleaned up digitally.

In Memory Of Jack McClelland 1922-2004.

Notes

Released: October 26, 2004
Recorded: 1979, July 9, 1985, 2002–04
Genre: folk rock,
Style: contemporary folk
Length: 49:27

Label – Columbia Records

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