Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Death of a Ladies' Man

Leonard Cohen seems to be going through a bit of a resurgence in popularity at the moment after doing the festival rounds this summer. I didn't get to see him (so pissed off - damn my Glastonbury aversion), but it jogged my memory of how much I was obsessed with him when I was at college.

There is a second hand record shop near my college called Golden Disc ('Stolen Disc' to the locals due to the amount of nicked cds in there) where I used to spend money I had for lunch on records. One of my purchases was the 'Best of Leonard Cohen':

I listened to it obsessively for ages afterwards, then kinda forgot about it.

When in Music & Video Exchange a few years later, on one of many weekend excursions there, I picked up a vinyl copy of 'Death of a Ladies' Man'. It came out in 1977, I hadn't heard any of it before and didn't know much about the album, but it was Leonard Cohen and a quick scan of the liner notes revealed it was produced by Phil Spector (another long time obsession of mine), so for £2 I couldn't go wrong.

One listen and I quickly realised that, although not 'classic' Cohen, it was one of my favourite albums by him. 'Memories' was the song that hooked me - "won't you let me see...your naked body??".

NB - I think Lenny is taking the piss slightly in this video:

'Memories' reminds me of 'Baby Let's Stick Together' by Dion from his 'Born To Be Together' album , also produced by Phil Spector. Loads of his trademark echo, especially on the drums.

This period of Phil Spector is usually overlooked, but to me 'Born To Be Together' and 'Death of a Ladies' Man' is some of his best work. You should get both albums. Jason Pierce, Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Loog Oldham and Pete Townshend have all called 'Born...' genius. Dion doesn't like it though - "I don't think we ever really finished it".

'Death of a Ladies' Man' turned out to be Leonard Cohen's lowest selling album ever. They wrote it in three weeks, Spector saying "we wrote some great fucking music". Cohen, however, moaned that Spector's mix "stripped the guts out of it" and claiming it was "an experiment that failed". But with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg on backing vocals on the most famous of the songs here - 'Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On' and with songs as good as any Cohen or Spector have worked on before you can't go wrong with this album. It's cheap too.

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