- Another BR rarity — Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
- Here you will find a big, spacious soundstage and rich, natural vocals virtually no other copy in our shootout could compete with
- Fairly quiet vinyl on both sides — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- “The first thing Leonard Cohen’s music fans noticed about his sixth new studio album, given the typically open-ended title Recent Songs, was that, musically, it marked a return to the gypsy folk sound of his early records…” – All Music
This 1979 album marks Cohen’s return to the simple folk arrangements of his early albums. The songs are as stunning as ever, but only the best pressings really do them justice. As you might expect, the key elements here are going to be vocals, acoustic guitars and Cohen’s trademark female backup vocalists (Jennifer Warnes among them). This one really gets them all right, with the kind of big, spacious soundstage and full, rich tonality most of the copies in our shootout could not compete with.
We love these albums around here. No, they’re not audiophile spectaculars, but much like the best Dylan recordings, when they work the sound fits the music perfectly. The vocals are right up front and fairly dry, throwing the words and phrasing into high relief. Hard to argue with that!
What to Listen For (WTLF)
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Modern Folky Singer Songwriter Album (assuming any of these categories can hold the unique qualities of this man’s work.)
A few qualities to listen for:
Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);
Freedom from smear (easily heard on the guitar transients; they are often a tad blunted and the harmonics won’t ring the way they should);
Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.
Humbled In Love
Came So Far For Beauty
The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien Errant)
Our Lady Of Solitude
The Gypsy’s Wife
The Smokey Life
Ballad Of the Absent Mare
AMG 4 Star Review
The first thing Leonard Cohen’s music fans noticed about his sixth new studio album, given the typically open-ended title Recent Songs, was that, musically, it marked a return to the gypsy folk sound of his early records after the incongruous arrangements Phil Spector imposed on its predecessor, Death of a Ladies’ Man, only two years earlier.
There were subtle musical developments, particularly a flavor of the American Southwest, courtesy of the band Passenger, which played on several tracks, but the acoustic guitars and violin recalled classic Cohen. Fans of the artist’s poetry noticed something else. His writing had become increasingly bitter and angry during the 1970s in the books The Energy of Slaves and Death of a Lady’s Man as well as in his lyrics, but there was a new equanimity in these Recent Songs that began with the welcoming introduction of “The Guests.”
All was not suddenly well, of course, but “the open-hearted many” outnumbered “the broken-hearted few.” Cohen’s usual mixture of religious and sexual imagery in the songs was elegant and evocative rather than painful. If he was conscious of the sacrifices he had made in vain in “Came So Far for Beauty,” he was nevertheless able to make a sincere plea to a woman in “The Window,” mixing it with a prayer to “gentle this soul.”
The album was full of references to absence and dislocation, but Cohen deliberately countered them with humor. The cover of “The Lost Canadian (Un Canadient Errant)” was enlivened by a mariachi arrangement, and the album ended with “Ballad of the Absent Mare,” an allegory about a cowboy’s search for a horse that ended with the suggestion that the pursuit was only a romantic game. Though often abstract, Recent Songs suggested Cohen had regained a certain equilibrium after a long dark period.