Leonard Cohen – New Skin for the Old Ceremony Columbia AL 33167 (1974)
Cohen summons an impressive assortment of styles. It is as if he tries them on, proving how versatile his songwriting can be by demonstrating that all the ones that fit. So take “Lover Lover Lover,” which even concludes with a bit of klezmer clarinet. Of course, then there is “Chelsea Hotel #2.” This is a song you can listen to, start over again, and again, and suddenly an hour has gone by listening to just that one song. It has Cohen’s inimitable sense of intimacy. Cohen later admitted the song is about Janis Joplin. Like a lot of Cohen’s best album-length statements, this one is great not because of one or two key songs, or even the production or eclectic styles. No, what makes the whole album great is Cohen’s brilliant sense of place and social context. He’s for the underdogs, doing what he can for their cause, a kind of consciousness-raising through song, without losing sight of the tenuous position of underdogs and the tactical challenges they face. This is epitomized by “There Is a War.” All said, this is one of Cohen’s better albums.