New Leonard Cohen Album – Updated Possibilities

About Leonard Cohen's New Album

A post published last month, The New Leonard Cohen Album – “Forthcoming,” reviewed references to a long-promised album of new songs from Leonard Cohen and listed unreleased songs from Leonard Cohen that might (or might not) be part of that new album.

Two significant updates have now been made to that post.

1. Sharon Robinson Refers To New Song, “Different Sides”

[This information just became available and was not known when the original post was published.]

According to Leonard Cohen delays Europe tour after back injury by Dean Goodman (Reuters, 06 February 2010),

Cohen, who is known to take years to craft a new song, has just finished writing a tune called “Different Sides,” his musical collaborator, Sharon Robinson, told Reuters at the Grammy event. It was not known when the song would be released.

2. Works In Progress Revised

The section in the original post headed “The Leonard Cohen Works In Progress Report – Songs From A Room, A Radio Broadcast, A Couple Of Concerts, …”  was modified in collaboration with the author, Tom Sakic, webmaster at One Thousand Kisses Deep.  The revisions have been made to the appropriate portion of the original post, which can be found in its compete form at The New Leonard Cohen Album – “Forthcoming.” The pertinent section is also printed below:

The Leonard Cohen Works In Progress Report – Songs From A Room, A Radio Broadcast, A Couple Of Concerts, …1

Responding to that American Songwriter book review headline, tomsakic (AKA Tom Sakic, webmaster at One Thousand Kisses Deep) offered an analysis at LeonardCohenForum on Nov 04, 2009, which is the most thorough and accurate consideration of Cohen works in progress and the potential contents of the frequently foretold new Leonard Cohen album I’ve found. Happily, Tom has graciously allowed it to be reproduced here:2

… Now, the next album: according to recent rumours that Leonard and the band will not go to the studio after the tour, but to a vacation and to their families (well, it will be 18 months of touring), and the fact that SonyBMG sites removed “Leonard Cohen: TBA album” from all their forthcoming-titles lists (where it was listed since Remasters series in 2007), I guess the album will be another slow work. In April Leonard admitted he has only couple of songs, Amen and Lullaby.  Did he forget about Book of Longing and Puppets? Maybe yes: because those two tracks were computer-produced, while in all recent interviews he announced that he will record the album with the current tour band. On the other hand, Sharon said clearly that the album is coming up (slowly) and that she knows that as she was involved in some songs. I firmly believe those are the songs she mentioned in her 2004 interview for our sites, one of the titles being “A Thousand Kisses Deep No. 2″ (but then, Leonard used those words for “Recitation w/ N.L.”). According to the early draft of Book of Longing, which was given around as PDF/print out, that song – printed in the final version of Book of Longing as “1” under “Thousand Kisses Deep” – was titled “Still Into That”. Finally, although I think Dino Soldo commented that they’re rehearsing and recording on the afternoon sound check, I read recently that the album has to be done in the studio.

My list of works-in-progress, 2004-2009:

1. “Still Into That (A Thousand Kisses Deep No. 2)”, with Sharon Robinson, in production after Dear Heather [plus another song or two produced and co-written by Sharon] [add.: that lyrics has been recited as Recitation with Neil Larsen on the current tour.]

2. “Taken Out Of Egypt”: the original version of “I Can’t Forget”, discarded in 1987-88. Also titled at one point as “Born in Chains”.

“[…] that song started off as a song about the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. As a metaphor for the journey of the soul from bondage into freedom. It started out, I was born in chains but I was taken out of Egypt / I was bound to a burden but the burden it was raised / Lord I can no longer keep this secret / Blessed is the name, the name be praised. It went on like that for a long, long time, and I went into the studio and tried to sing this song about how “I was born in chains and I was taken…” But I wasn’t born in chains and I wasn’t taken out of Egypt, and not only that, but I was on the edge of what was going to become a very serious nervous breakdown. So I hadn’t had the burden lifted and the whole thing was a lie! It was wishful thinking. And this song, “Taken Out of Egypt,” took months and months to write. Nobody believes me when I say these things but I have the notebooks and I don’t fill them in an evening. And there were many of them. So it wasn’t as if I had an endless supply of songs: I had to start over. And I was saying to myself, “What is my life?” and that’s when I started writing that lyric: I stumble out of bed / I got ready for the struggle / I smoked a cigarette / And I tightened up my gut / I said this can’t be me / Must be my double / And I can’t forget / I can’t forget / But I don’t remember what. That was really true.” (Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Mark Rowland, “Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough”, Musician, July 1988.
Source: … ttakes.htm

I clearly heard Leonard mumbling these lines “I was born in chains” etc. to the unknown melody in Lian Lunson’s 2005 documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. At that point [in 2005] I firmly believed he’s gone back to that song.

3. “Book of Longing”, demo aired at KCRW in 2006

4. “Puppets”, demo aired at KCRW in 2006

5. “The Street”, recited live in 2006, according to Leonard in an interview: music co-written by Anjani Thomas

6. “Blue Alert”, Leonard’s own version, demo discarded after he heard Anjani’s version and then given to her for her album. This song is probably discarded forever, although I’d like to hear Leonard performing the version from Anjani’s album (her music) as it’s an excellent song for his voice.

Appendix about Leonard going back to decades old songs: Undertow, from 2004′ Dear Heather, was written down on “Closing Time” manuscripts dated around 1990-91, on the margins of the notebooks (check viewtopic.php?p=44013#p44013); Never Got To Love You, written in 2004-05 for Anjani’s Blue Alert, is in fact new version of the original, slow-ballad version of Leonard’s own 1992 song Closing Time.

[Closing Time] Recorded “in 3/4 time with a really strong, nostalgic, melancholy country feel. Entirely different words.” (Paul Zollo, “Leonard Cohen: Inside the Tower of Song”, Song talk, April 1993). Takes have been destroyed by Cohen and he starts a new version (lyrics & music) in March 1992 (Ira B. Nadel, Leonard Cohen: le canadien errant (Various Positions), 1997: 327).
Source: … ttakes.htm
“On the song “Closing Time”, from The Future, we had a gorgeous track that we worked on for quite a while. We brought in new musicians and did overdubs; a great arrangement that I was absolutely in love with. And Leonard said: “Darling it’s not working.” So he disappeared for a week, played into his synthesizer at a much brighter tempo with new lyrics – it was almost another song. The “new” version on the song was a great hit for him in Canada”. (Leanne Ungar, interviewed by Mel Lambert, INSIGHTS: Leanne Ungar, April 2001).
Source: … ttakes.htm

For instance, a song like “Closing Time” began as a song in 3/4 time with a really strong, nostalgic, melancholy country feel. Entirely different words. It began:

The parking lot is empty;
They switch off the Budweiser sign.
It’s dark from here to San Jobete,
It’s dark all down the line.
They ought to hand the night a ticket
For speeding, it’s a crime.
I had so much to tell you,
Yeah, but now it’s closing time.

And I recorded the song and I sang it. And I choked over it. Even though another singer could have done it perfectly well. It’s a perfectly reasonable song. And a good one, I might say. A respectable song. But I choked over it. There wasn’t anything that really addressed my attention. The finishing of it was agreeable because it’s always an agreeable feeling. But when I tried to sing it I realized it came from my boredom and not from my attention. It came from my desire to finish the song and not from the urgency to locate a construction that would engross me. So I went to work again. Then I filled another notebook from beginning to end with the lyric, or the attempts at the lyric, which eventually made it onto the album.


7. “Lullaby”, performed live in 2009. Lullaby was also performed in Dublin in Summer 2009 because that show was shot for the Blu-Ray release and obviously LC wanted the song preserved. Dates, locations, and available videos can be found at “Lullaby”

8. “Amen”, mentioned in 2009 interviews as “finished”

9. “The Darkness,”  first heard  as a work-in-progress in Venice, August 2009, at the soundcheck.  “The Darkness”, in polished form, premiered in concert at the Fall 2009 US shows. Dates, locations, and available videos can be found at “ The Darkness ”

10. “The Other Blues Song” was first performed at the October 29, 2009 Rosemont (Chicago) Concert and was also performed at other cities in the Fall 2009 US Tour. Dates, locations, and available videos can be found at “ Feels So Good ”

  1. The mock album cover atop this post and the title, “Songs From A Room, A Radio Broadcast, A Couple Of Concerts, …” are based on the Leonard Cohen album, Songs From A Room. []
  2. This iteration builds on an earlier LeonardCohenForum post by Tom Sakic on the same topic []

4 responses to “New Leonard Cohen Album – Updated Possibilities

  1. That footnote in the previous post is about a “cat-cure”, not a “car-cure” right? (Not that my car couldn’t use some healing vibes.) So are you saying LC knows how to do Buddhist chants? (I can never tell which posts are jokes.) Have you heard the Tibetan monk chants? They’re amazing, some of them can sing two tones at once. So,

    11. Healing monk chant

    …and why not add, since I love it so much

    12. Priestly blessing

    And here is your album cover. Or if you prefer something more spiritually neutral, just photoshop this one. Okay, I know neither of those will quite do, spirituality doesn’t sell unless it’s about lust, but you’ll know how to spin it. (Maybe LC can put the Song of Songs to music. )

    • Thanks for the car-cat correction. While LC may have cured an automobile or two (Toyota might want to check into this, just in case), the reference was to a feline fix. I am, alas, unaware of the nature or extent of chanting skills Leonard Cohen/Jikan may have picked up during his five years at the Mt Baldy Zen Center. Finally, distinguishing between my factual transmissions and my ostensible jokes has long been a difficulty for others, lending a certain degree of risk to my interactions – and, except for a few catastrophes (my first marriage comes to mind), what can sometimes pass for ironic charm.

  2. Sorry to be so anal, but it did change the meaning. It’s one of the hazards of today’s instant text editors, they only pick out misspellings, not mis-meanings.

    As a peace offering for my pickiness, I have written a Sacred Chord post with a collection of videos, in case you have never heard the dual tone chanting.

    I see my question didn’t get answered, but whatever, I’ll consider it yet another LC myth; if it isn’t true, it should be. I’ll go along for the ride, especially after that “crack and anal sex gift registry” that was so outrageous it made my fall off my chair.