CD Review: Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
Columbia/Legacy
By David Chiu

Those who have seen Leonard Cohen live earlier this year were surely impressed by his wonderful performances, even in his mid-70s. Then seeing and hearing him on stage 40 years earlier is equally, if not, more poignant as this new DVD film (directed by Murray Lerner) and CD from his Isle of Wight show in 1970, documents. Appearing in the wee hours of the morning after Jimi Hendrix’s set and disruptions amongst the festival goers, Cohen delivered a masterful performance that was a combination of wit, grace and passion. One can hear and see through this package the soulfness in his voice and the poetry of the words and music as he delivered songs that have been part of his legendary repertoire: “Bird on the Wire,” “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” “Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “The Partisan.” (The concert film on the DVD is also interspersed with recent interviews with Judy Collins, Kris Kristofferson, producer Bob Johnston, and Joan Baez). Certainly for a rock festival that was going through the motions, Cohen brought a calming influence to the proceedings—this film and the accompanying music importantly captures this important artist at his prime.

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