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Famous Blue Raincoat

Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 04:41AM
In this long age of drastic re-imaginings and ironic covers, I have not given Jennifer Warnes' tribute its due.

Just recently, I finally gave it a good listen and was amazed at how she makes Leonard Cohen songs into unremarkable AOR.

Not that it's a bad thing (nor is my description just.)

And her recital of "Ballad Of The Absent Mare" is great.

Cohen is an exemplar of good, uncluttered songwriting and performance. He has at least three tribute albums. But there seem to be few admirable covers of his songs.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Any good uncollected/stand-alone stabs at Leonard?

And is Dylan referring to him in the intro to BIOGRAPH's "Isis?"
Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 04:51AM
The I'm Your Man DVD and soundtrack's got Brett Sparks doing Famous Blue Raincoat. I was at the Opera House show, it was stupendous, and saw laughing Lenny himself just three nights ago in better voice than last time.

My wife's nuts about him so when I saw the Jennifer Warnes CD on a freebie table at work I grabbed for her. She made me put it back the next day. And she's a true completist.
Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 11:39AM
I liked the J&MC's Tower of Song and Concrete Blonde's Everybody Knows but Cohen fans probably wouldn't agree.
Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 08:17PM
After Cale's Hallelujah, Rufus Wainright's Chelsea Hotel is my favorite Cohen cover. I tend to like 90% I'm Your Man though.
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Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 02:30PM

Cohen is an exemplar of good, uncluttered songwriting and performance.

Not sure I agree with the uncluttered performance bit of that equation. I think Cohen often clutters his performances with schmaltzy Vegas arrangements and overbearingly goopy female doo-be-doo-wa-was.

In fact, it was John Cale uncluttering "Hallelujah" that opened the door for it to become the ridiculously overused cover choice for the chronically unimaginative that it is today. It took someone like Cale to strip off the somewhat bombastic lounge music cheese Cohen had swaddled it in to reveal the aching world-weariness so attractive to legions of dullards unable to put it into words themselves, and then someone like Jeff Buckley to die young and leave a good looking corpse to cement it into legend.

Mind you, the anachronistic cheesiness of a lot of Cohen's recordings is part of what I love about him, and if you're referring to his own vocal performances then yeah, that's the very definition of uncluttered.

I got to see him last year and I think he was the one who finally managed to pry the Pogues out of the top spot of best concert I've ever been to.
Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
November 11, 2010 07:02PM
Yes, sir, I agree with you.

Actually, I forgot to ask (in my original post) why he ever traded in Jennifer Warnes for those Julie and Perla birds. They just ain't good.

But I don't hold anything Leonard did up to The Future agin him. And up to then 90% of his arrangements were quite sparse. The other ten, well their schmaltz was often fitting, and amplified by contrast to his other works.

I wonder if Cale knew what he was doing. Did he strip down "Hallelujah," or was he just performing it the way Leonard might have on his first few albums?
Re: Famous Blue Raincoat
May 17, 2024 12:18PM
And is Dylan referring to him in the intro to BIOGRAPH's "Isis?"

14 years too late on this, but yes, Dylan was dedicating it to Cohen (if he was still there).

I never got to see Cohen's shows - I was actually planning to go with an employer who was a lifelong fan, but neither of us realized he had been ill and he passed away weeks later. Fortunately that London show from 2008 (and released as an album the following year) is spectacular, and I would even recommend getting the DVD over the CD edition as it's now easily found for peanuts. My home system's set up so that I can pop in the DVD as if it was a CD and not turn on the TV, but it really is worth seeing Cohen happy and humbled by the appreciation from his audience. The image of him skipping across the stage, of Cohen holding his hat while watching his audience with an immense smile is burned into my memory.

Any good uncollected/stand-alone stabs at Leonard?

"Bird on a Wire" has had several. Joe Cocker's from his second album may be definitive but Johnny Cash's from American Recordings was my introduction to that song and remains a favorite.

Nick Cave's "Avalanche" from his debut album is great, but there's a later version on his B-sides collection that's really good too.

Re: Warnes, I can give the album another try, but I thought Famous Blue Raincoat was just okay. The last song, "Came So Far For Beauty," was a highlight for me, simply for the melodic changes of her vocal interpretation alone. Better than anything on the album was "Night Comes On," which actually was not an outtake but a newly-recorded bonus track made for the 2007 reissue.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/17/2024 12:19PM by belfast.
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