An all-star list of singers, songwriters, rockers, pop singers and jazz greats have teamed up for Blue Note Leonard Cohen cover album Here it is: A tribute to Leonard Cohen. The 12-track album will be released in October. 14 offers original versions of some of the late songwriter’s best-loved tunes from e.g. Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Mavis StaplesDavid Gray, Sarah McLachlan and James Taylor, whose subdued version of Cohen’s 1984 track “Coming Back to You” is out now.
“When Larry Klein invited me to participate in a Leonard Cohen tribute album, I immediately accepted,” Taylor said in a statement about the album’s producer. “Both because Larry is a great producer of excellent recordings and a good friend, and because I, like almost everyone of my generation, revere Leonard Cohen. As soon as I began to seek out my own musical preferences, Cohen’s songs were among my few favorites and greatly influenced my own progression as a songwriter. For the project, I was drawn to a relatively obscure piece that was new to me, ‘Coming Back To You.’ Larry chose to cut the song in Cohen’s original key, which was definitely at the bottom of my own row. But somehow moving out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So breathe a deep sigh and drink up…”
Grammy winner Klein, a longtime friend of Cohen’s, explained the project’s genesis in the album announcement released Thursday (July 28). “Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” Klein said. “He was possibly the smartest and funniest friend I had, and someone I enjoyed immensely in every way. After he passed away, I found myself often covering his songs with other artists I worked with. One reason is, of course, that the songs are so good – in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever – but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”
Klein assembled a killer band of jazz-based musicians to back up the all-stars, including acclaimed guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Nate Smith, with producer Greg Leisz on pedal steel. guitar and Larry Goldings plays the organ. McLachlan takes on Cohen’s most beloved, oft-covered track, the haunting meditation “Hallelujah,” which, like Taylor’s cover, comes from 1984’s beloved Different positions album. Pop, meanwhile, holds down the other end of the career spectrum with his take on the jet-black title track to Cohen’s latest album, “You Want It Darker.”
The songs cover the waterfront of contemplative crooner Cohen’s romantically charged tone poems about love, death and everything in between, reaching all the way back to the singer’s 1967 debut album, Songs by Leonard Cohenuntil its final effort, the supremely sublime You want it darkerreleased just days before his death in 2016 at the age of 82.
“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems and shed a different light on them,” Klein said of the songs, which range from fan favorites to deep cuts. “I hope that this musical language that we developed together, the context that we put these things into, makes the songs connect with people in a new way.” Klein said the result is similar to the concept behind the 2007 Grammy-winning Herbie Hancock Joni Mitchell tribute album, River: The Joni Letterswhich featured a song with Cohen.
Listen to Taylor’s “Coming Back to You” and see the tracklist below.
Here it is: A tribute to Leonard Cohen track list:
- “Steer Your Way” – Norah Jones
- “Here it is” – Peter Gabriel
- “Suzanne” – Gregory Porter
- “Hallelujah” – Sarah McLachlan
- “Avalanche” – Immanuel Wilkins
- “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye” – Luciana Souza
- “Coming Back to You” – James Taylor
- “You Want It Darker” – Iggy Pop
- “If It’s Your Will” – Mavis Staples
- “Looking so long ago, Nancy” – David Gray
- “Famous Blue Raincoat” – Nathaniel Rateliff
- “Bird on The Wire” – Bill Frisell