With his acumen for gripping poetry, inimitable baritone, and trademark Spanish-influenced fingerpicking, Leonard Cohen married his talents for poetry and song-craft to create some of the most enduring music of the singer-songwriter era and beyond. Like every great songwriter, Cohen’s work continues to inspire an array of cover versions. Sure, there’s the million-and-one covers of “Hallelujah,” but even before the 1967 release of his debut Songs of Leonard Cohen, early supporters like Judy Collins and Buffy Sainte-Marie helped propel his words into the public consciousness. Years later, Cohen reflected on the joys of hearing his songs reinterpreted: “I’ve never gotten over the pleasure of someone covering one of my songs,” he said. “I don’t have a sense of proprietorship, which probably stems from coming up as a folksinger where it was understood that songs develop a patina through interpretation. I feel that’s the mark of excellence.”
Ace Records has just released Hallelujah: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. The latest volume in the label’s Songwriter series, the collection brings together 18 eclectic Leonard Cohen covers, including two songs that never appeared on his own albums: “Come Spend the Morning,” as interpreted by Lee Hazlewood, and “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot,” a piece from Cohen’s book Beautiful Losers, set to music and recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
From Judy Collins’ 1967 hit version of “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” that helped introduce Cohen’s music to the world, to Marissa Nadler’s 2007 interpretation of “Famous Blue Raincoat,” the collection spans decades, genres, and approaches. Along the way, listeners are treated to several of Cohen’s best-known songs. There’s Nina Simone’s spell-binding “Suzanne,” Nick Cave’s recasting of “Avalanche,” k.d. lang’s take on “Bird On The Wire,” and Jeff Buckley’s trademark cover of “Hallelujah.” But deep cuts abound as well, such as Stina Nordenstam’s cover of “I Came So Far For Beauty,” originally released on Cohen’s Recent Songs, and Tom Northcott’s rare 1995 interpretation of “True Love Leaves No Traces” from Cohen’s collaboration with Phil Spector, Death of a Ladies’ Man. There’s also David Blue’s funky 1975 cover of “Lover, Lover, Lover,” featuring Joni Mitchell on backing vocals and the LA Express providing accompaniment, and Joe Cocker’s gritty “First We Take Manhattan.”
With a 24-page booklet of liner notes penned by Cohen biographer Ian Johnston, plus in-depth track-by-track commentary with Cohen quotes compiled by Mick Patrick, not to mention the music within, Hallelujah: The Songs of Leonard Cohen spotlight the far-reaching impact of his words and music across the decades.
Hallelujah: The Songs of Leonard Cohen is out now in the U.K., and this Friday (April 5) in North America, from Ace Records. You can find the full track listing below, along with links to order your copy!
- Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
- Bird On a Wire – k.d. lang
- Chelsea Hotel No.2 – Rufus Wainwright
- Tower of Song – Marianne Faithfull
- Dance Me To The End Of Love – Madeleine Peyroux
- Sisters Of Mercy – Dion
- Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye – Judy Collins
- Everybody Knows – Barb Jungr
- Heart With No Companion – Ron Sexsmith
- I Came So Far For Beauty – Stina Nordenstam
- Famous Blue Raincoat – Marissa Nadler
- True Love Leaves No Traces – Tom Northcott
- Suzanne – Nina Simone
- Come Spend The Morning – Lee Hazlewood
- Lover, Lover, Lover – David Blue
- God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot – Buffy Sainte-Marie
- First We Take Manhattan – Joe Cocker
- Avalanche – Nick Cave Featuring The Bad Seeds
Track 1 originally released on Grace, Columbia CD CK 57528, 1994.
Track 2 originally released on Hymns of the 49th Parallel, Nonesuch CD 2-79847, 2004.
Track 3 originally released on Want, Geffen Records CD 9887273, 2005.
Track 4 originally released on Vagabond Ways, it Records/Virgin CD ITRCD-1 8477592, 1999.
Track 5 originally released on Careless Love, Rounder Records CD 11661-3192-2, 2004.
Track 6 originally released on Dion, Laurie Records LP SLP 2047, 1968.
Track 7 originally released on Wildflowers, Elektra LP EKS-47012, 1967.
Track 8 originally released on Hard Tain: The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen, Kristalyn CD KLCD1, 2014.
Track 9 originally released on Ron Sexsmith, Interscope Records CD IND-92485-2, 1995.
Track 10 originally released on People Are Strange, EastWest CD 3984-24506-2, 1998.
Track 11 originally released on Songs III: Bird On the Water, Kernado Records CD KEM-055, 2007.
Track 12 originally released on Joyful Songs of Leonard Cohen, Full Circle CD 2-02, 1995.
Track 13 originally released on To Love Somebody, RCA Victor LP LSP-4152, 1969.
Track 14 originally released on Poet, Fool, or Bum, Capitol Records LP ST-11171, 1973.
Track 15 originally released on Com’n Back For More, Asylum LP 7E-1043, 1975.
Track 16 originally released on Illuminations, Vanguard LP VSD-79300, 1969.
Track 17 originally released on No Ordinary World, Parlophone CD 5-23091-2, 1999.