“I’ve never gotten over the pleasure of someone covering one of my songs,” Leonard Cohen once 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 a new collection of excellent Leonard Cohen covers with Hallelujah: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. It’s the latest volume in the label’s Songwriter series, and it brings together 18 eclectic tracks, 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.