- A KILLER sounding original 360 copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
- Bigger, richer and clearer than any other copy we played – the wonderfully intimate, breathy vocals are the key to these amazing sounding pressings
- Sometimes the conventional wisdom is true, and this record makes the case as well as any we play – the right original Columbia pressings are in a league of their own
- 5 stars: “A breathtaking and perfect debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen marked the emergence of one of the most enduring, unique, and brilliant voices in popular music… A masterpiece of perversity and pain.”
Get ready for some serious goosebumps! If this copy of Songs Of Leonard Cohen doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.
We’ve played a ton of 360s and Red Labels, and copies that sound as good as this one are clearly the exception and not the rule.
The Red Label pressings from the ’70s can be quite good if you know which are the good stampers and which to avoid, information that the average audiophile record lover would have a hard time coming by on his own.
For those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found here.
Tubey Magic Is Key
This vintage 360 pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can rarely reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Leonard Cohen singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.
What Shootout Winning sides of Songs Of Leonard Cohen have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For on Leonard Cohen’s Albums
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Folk Rock record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); 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); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); 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 sophisticated recording.
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Songs Of Leonard Cohen.
Clarity and Presence
Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids.
With a real Hot Stamper the sound is TOTALLY INVOLVING, and so is the music. You hear the breath in the voices, the pick on the strings of the guitars — these are the things that allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.
Top End Extension
Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.
Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the arrangement and the recording of the material.
Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies was to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.
The Stranger Song
Sisters of Mercy
So Long, Marianne
Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye
Stories of the Street
One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
Critics have been far kinder to the album since its release, with many considering it a highlight in the Cohen canon.
Mark Deming of AllMusic states, “The ten songs on Songs of Leonard Cohen were certainly beautifully constructed, artful in a way few (if any) other lyricists would approach for some time, but what’s most striking about these songs isn’t Cohen’s technique, superb as it is, so much as his portraits of a world dominated by love and lust, rage and need, compassion and betrayal…few musicians have ever created a more remarkable or enduring debut.”
Writing in Mojo in 2012, Sylvie Simmons called the LP “brilliant,” adding that it “sounded like nothing of its time – of any time really – fresh and ancient, cryptic and intimate.”
Brian Howe of Pitchfork declares, “1968’s Songs of Leonard Cohen contains many of his most essential songs – ‘Suzanne,’ ‘Master Song,’ “Stranger Song,’ ‘Sisters of Mercy,’ ‘So Long, Marianne’ – and establishes the themes and stylistic tics he would pursue relentlessly over the ensuing decades.”
In 2007, Tim Nelson of BBC Music called the collection “the absolute must-have classic.”
Amazon.com deems the album “stunning.”
In a 2014 Rolling Stone readers poll ranking the top ten Leonard Cohen songs, “Suzanne” came in at #2 while “So Long, Marianne” came in at #6.
“Stranger Song”, “Sisters of Mercy”, and “Winter Lady” were included on the soundtrack of Robert Altman’s 1971 film McCabe & Mrs. Miller.