Cohen burst upon the American music scene in the late '60s with albums like Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs From A Room. Songs such as “Suzanne,” “Bird On A Wire,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Story of Isaac,” and “So Long Marianne” proved that a new songwriter of note was on the scene.
While some of his mid-career releases didn't always earn as much attention as his early work, albums such as Various Positions (with songs like “Hallelujah” and “Dance Me To The End of Love”), I’m Your Man (“First We Take Manhattan” and “Ain’t No Cure For Love”), and Ten New Songs (“A Thousand Kisses Deep” and “The Land of Plenty”) were under-appreciated gems that showed his musical vision expanding in different directions, solidifying his stature as an under-the-radar superstar.
The live material serves as good companions to the studio material, with songs taking on new textures and nuances. As well, listeners can follow the evolution of some of his more famous compositions.
The last two albums in the set are Live At The Isle of Wight 1970, recorded August 31, 1970, and Songs From The Road, recorded in 2008 and 2009; and together they provide suitable bookends to Cohen's career to date (a new studio album is due in January, 2012). Interestingly versions of “Bird On A Wire,” “Suzanne,” “The Partisan,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” appear both albums, 38 years apart.
The Complete Columbia Albums Collection is a trip through the musical mind, music, and soul of Leonard Cohen. So too is it a wonderful odyssey of lyrical and cultural pictures of both a career and time period. For casual and hardcore fans alike, this one is essential.