BY RON HART
Like a big green box of solemn quintessence comes the Leonard Cohen entry of Legacy Recordings’ Complete Albums Collection series, which remasters the catalogs of the most beloved acts on the Columbia and Epic labels and repackages them in these cool mini-LP replicas of the original packaging.
This particular set dedicated to the oeuvre of the Canadian bard boasts a whopping 17 titles ranging from his 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen on through to the critically acclaimed chronicle of his health-defying 2008-10 world tour Songs From The Road. True, a good portion of this set consists of material that has either recently been reissued (namely the aforementioned Cohen, 1969’s Songs From A Room and 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate, all of which were expanded and re-released in 2007), is too new (Live in London and the archival treasure Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, both of which are from 2009) or is too lackluster (2001’s Dear Heather, 2004’s Ten New Songs) to consider investing in the hefty price tag attached to this set unless you are a total Cohen completist. Wedged within the fray, however, are beautifully restored versions of Leonard’s four finest studio works in 1974’s country leaning, sexually charged New Skin for the Old Ceremony, his excellent 1977 collaboration with Phil Spector Death of a Ladies’ Man and his back-to-back pair of goth pop masterpieces in 1988’s I’m Your Man and 1993’s The Future, all of which are arguably as essential as the Songs trilogy, especially for the punk, new wave and alt-rock generations who got put on to the dark art of LC after he expanded his sonic pedigree beyond folk.
Also included here are his two best live albums, 1973’s Live Songs, recorded during his tour of Europe in 1971 and 1972, and Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979, an early 2001 release
chronicling two spectacular England performances during his full band trek in support of that year’s return to quietude, Recent Songs.
As the anticipation begins to grow surrounding Cohen’s next studio endeavor, the promising Old Ideas due out in the spring of 2012, this exhaustive overhaul of his historic body of work, warts and all, is without question well worth the dive into the expansive artistic sprawl of North America’s premier “Chief Apocalyptist” as he enjoys his 77th year on this planet.
DOWNLOAD: New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Death of a Ladies’ Man, The Future RON HART