Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance review a sublime final statement

This posthumous album finds the poet and singer on reflective, insightful, deadpan form, settling accounts of the soul

After finishing You Want It Darker, which was released just 19 days before his death in 2016, aged 82, Leonard Cohen still wanted to add to his tower of song. Thus, he kept on writing and recording as life ebbed away, and the result is this beautiful posthumous collection. His songwriter son Adam has assembled a stellar cast of musicians, such as Daniel Lanois, Jennifer Warnes and Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, to do justice to the unfinished home recordings. However, the sparse, sublime instrumentation never takes the focus away from Cohens inimitable voice, which is lush, deadpan, warm and poetic, with a hint of frailty adding to the sense of a final statement.

Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the dance album art work

Opener Happens to the Heart reflects on his career with trademark humility: I was always working steady, I never called it art. I got my shit together, meeting Christ and reading Marx. Other songs consider human flaws, some of which were exposed in the recent documentary Marianne and Leonard. He considers his restlessness in relationships We played a stunning couple but I never liked the part and rues what Ive left undone.

Puppets powerfully contends with the world he is leaving, comparing fascism (German puppets burned the Jews) and recent foreign policy (Puppet presidents command puppet troops to burn the land). Like those of Marvin Gaye and Prince, Cohens oeuvre sought to reconcile the spiritual and the sensual, which both feature heavily again. Any initial chuckles at the fading octogenarian deadpanning about nipples that rose like bread disappear as it becomes apparent that he is reliving a distant encounter with startling, undimmed passion: Ive forgotten half my life. I still remember this.

As the pace slows to a transcendent crawl and backing vocals form a heavenly choir, The Hills mocks his ageing body (The system is shot / Im living on pills) and the stunning The Goal finds him almost alive and settling accounts of the soul. The last poem he recorded, Listen to the Hummingbird, implores us to find beauty in God and butterflies: Dont listen to me. And, finally, there is a vast, empty silence, and he is gone.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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