Various Positions
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Customer Reviews:

  • Great words, lousy production
    There is little doubt that for more than thirty years, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most elegant, profound and skilled lyricists in popular music. His musical and technical knowledge, however, has always been only basic, forcing him to be dependent on producers for the sonic ambience of his work. His best collaborators include John Simon, who added a fine, murky air to his classic 1968 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and Sharon Robinson, who engineered a gentle, computerized R&B tone for his excellent 2001 release, Ten New Songs. His worst include Phil Spector, who, in typical form, overglossed and made gaudy every last second of 1979's Death of a Ladies' Man and John Lissauer, who, although not as overambitious as Mr. Spector (Who is?), overproduced much of 1985's Various Positions.

    Various Positions is often overrun with needless, often annoying, tweaks and trimmings. The two most prevalent irks are Jennifer Warnes' brassy, overdramatic crooning, which drones through the backgrounds of "If It Be Your Will," "Night Comes On" and "The Law" and the chintzy keyboard and synthesizer treatment that injures "Coming Back to You" and "Hunter's Lullaby" and all but ruins the lyrically dazzling "Hallelujah" (Listen to Jeff Buckley's breath taking, unaccompanied version of this song on his widely acclaimed album, Grace, to hear its true power).

    There are some instances in which Mr. Lissauer, like Mr. Simon or Ms. Robinson, seems to understand that Mr. Cohen's weighty lyrics and stark, ontarget vocals have their own titanic presences and places the accompaniment fittingly behind the words. "The Captain" receives an appropriate, light glaze of the barroom ambience of fiddles and pianos; Mr. Cohen's brave quixotic heart leads a fine, waltzy arrangement through the excellent "Dance Me to the End of Love" and, although Ms. Warnes' ostentatious lamenting continues, a gentle sweep of ticking drums and swirling keyboards does much to enhance "Night Comes On." Still, each song contains at least some unnecessary polish.

    It is an especial shame that these songs have all been somewhat spoiled as they feature Mr. Cohen at his most poignant. "Coming Back to You" is his best expression of romantic desperation since "Bird On a Wire;" "Hunter's Lullaby" is a magnificently cryptic dirge; "The Captain" is a sly, easygoing musing about challenge and responsibility; "Night Comes On" is a touching, brilliant chronicle of a life cycle that is somehow both mournful and celebratory and "Hallelujah" is a inspired eulogy to one man's love and faith. Various Positions could have been a classic if only it had received proper treatment. Unfortunately, Mr. Lissauer was not right for the job....more info

  • I Can't Say So Long Marianne
    Leonard Cohen, the debut album released in 1967 is a timeless, brooding, manostic masterpiece. It captivated me to the point where I listened to it almost exculsively for four months or more. I became so engrossed in it that once I put it on, I had to listen to it entirely, without interuption at least once, sometimes as many as four times consecutively. Did I flip out for any subsequant Leonard Cohen release? Well, Songs of Love & Hate comes closest. The Bob Johnston production mimics John Simon and the songwriting is top notch even for Leonard's high standards. But none of his other albums has the same impact or poigancy. Even Songs For A Room isn't as intimate or moving.

    So twenty-something years later along comes Various Positions and I'm drawn in...Not like a first love that envelopes you, but a soft wisper that intoxicates you. I like it..I like it alot... I'm not back at that monastry and I'm not quite at that whorehouse either...Afterall I can't stop loving Suzanne and No I can't say so long Marianne. Until then I'll consider some various positions.

    ...more info
  • Good albums
    I am collecting up albums I remember from my youth and this was a welcome addition...more info
  • Powerful music from a talented writer
    Leonard Cohen's songs are awesome to listen to. His talents as a musician and writer are apparent in any of his songs. In my opinion, there isn't a bad one in the bunch. I'm no musical expert, but I don't think there could have been an improvement on any of his songs. His music is not without religious influence, but I'm hard-pressed to determine what kind of religious message he's trying to convey.

    I first heard Leonard Cohen's music on "Pump up the volume", a movie starring Christian Slater about a high-school student running a pirate radio station. In a couple of the scenes of the movie, Slater's character plays some of Leonard Cohen's songs, including "If it be your will."

    His songs have also been used in popular movies like Shrek, which features "Hallelujah," sang by someone else....more info

  • One of Cohen's best
    One of the few composers that can transform his poetry into beautiful and popular songs. Almost as good as his earlier work , an album that you will hear again and again. ...more info
  • Great words, lousy production
    There is little doubt that for more than thirty years, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most elegant, profound and skilled lyricists in popular music. His musical and technical knowledge, however, has always been only basic, forcing him to be dependent on producers for the sonic ambience of his work. His best collaborators include John Simon who added a fine, murky air to his classic 1968 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and Sharon Robinson who engineered a gentle, computerized R&B tone for his excellent 2001 release, Ten New Songs. His worst include Phil Spector who, in typical form, overglossed and made gaudy every last second of 1979's Death of a Ladies' Man and John Lissauer who, although not as overambitious as Mr. Spector (Who is?), overproduced much of 1985's Various Positions.

    Various Positions is often overrun with needless, often annoying, tweaks and trimmings. The two most prevalent irks are Jennifer Warnes' brassy, overdramatic crooning, which drones through "If It Be Your Will," "Night Comes On" and "The Law" and the chintzy keyboard and synthesizer treatment that injures "Coming Back to You" and "Hunter's Lullaby" and all but ruins the lyrically dazzling "Hallelujah" (Listen to Jeff Buckley's breath taking, unaccompanied version of this song on his widely acclaimed album, Grace, to hear its true power).

    There are some instances in which Mr. Lissauer, like Mr. Simon or Ms. Robinson, seems to understand that Mr. Cohen's weighty lyrics and stark, ontarget vocals have their own titanic presences and places the accompaniment fittingly behind the words. "The Captain" receives an appropriate, light glaze of the barroom ambience of fiddles and pianos; Mr. Cohen's brave quixotic heart leads a fine, waltzy arrangement through the excellent "Dance Me to the End of Love" and, although Ms. Warnes' ostentatious lamenting continues, a gentle sweep of ticking drums and swirling keyboards does much to enhance "Night Comes On." Still, each song contains at least some unnecessary polish.

    It is an especial shame that these songs have all been somewhat spoiled as they feature Mr. Cohen at his most poignant. "Coming Back to You" is his best expression of romantic desperation since "Bird On a Wire;" "Hunter's Lullaby" is a magnificently cryptic dirge; "The Captain" is a sly, easygoing musing about challenge and responsibility; "Night Comes On" is a touching, brilliant chronicle of a life cycle that is somehow both mournful and celebratory and "Hallelujah" is a inspired eulogy to one man's love and faith. Various Positions could have been a classic if only it had received proper treatment. Unfortunately, Mr. Lissauer was not right for the job....more info

  • Very underated record
    Beautiful record full of wonderful and moving songs. Lovely arrangements especially on the voices. This rarely seems to be mentioned as one of his great records, but it's my favourite, and contains as many great songs as anything he's done."If it be your will" is in my opinion the finest song he's written....more info
  • I missed Leonard in the 60's and 70's
    I missed the 60's and 70's raising children. I heard a voice in the background of a video thru the internet. I asked around and finally found that it was Leonard Cohen. I love his voice. He tells a story thru his songs and they are calming to me. I'm glad I found him. It's never too late. I now have 6 of his CD's....more info
  • "From this broken hill I will sing to you ..."
    During the five years between Recent Songs and this album, Cohen's voice became the sound of a tired God. That voice suits this album very well. Several of the songs deal with questions of faith and hope, including one of Cohen's best songs, "If It Be Your Will". This is not an album I enjoyed thoroughly upon first listen, but over the years it has grown on me and is now one of my favorites. Not all the songs are great, but songs like "Dance Me to the End of Love", "The Night Comes On", and "Hallelujah" make it well worth the price. I must say, though, that the version of Hallelujah included on this album is not as good as the cover versions by Jeff Buckley and John Cale. Still, a very worthy addition to Cohen's body of work....more info
  • Cohen Does It Again
    Though it's not as strong as the subsequent two albums of his "comeback"-I'm Your Man and The Future-Various Positions is a strong and poignant album. Some of Cohen's most sentimental and thoughtful lyrics persist here. From the "love conquers all" mysticism of Dance Me To The End of Love to the religious ambivalence of Hallelujah (which contains the nominal verse "You say I used the name in vain/But I don't even know the name/But if I did, well really, what's it to ya?/There's a blaze of light in every word/It doesn't matter which one you heard/The holy or the broken hallejulah"), to the poignant, touching war story The Captain, Cohen is a lyrical genius here. This album is also notable because it is the last one where Cohen has complete control over his voice. Indeed, since it also manages to do without the keyboards and such that would come to dominate the textures of his next two album (particularly I'm Your Man) you could call this the last of Leonard Cohen's folk-styled albums. A must for any fan of his....more info
  • Excellent!
    A proper following to "I'm Your Man" and very nearly as prolific. Haunting and evocative....more info
  • Wow! Lewis in pop-music!
    Oh, my God, that's a great album! Here you will find essential Christianity presented popularly and in disguise of popular songs.
    Can be compared with "John Weshley Harding" by Dylan and with books by Clyve Lewis.
    It's a VERY good album....more info
  • Cohen always hits it
    as long as he doesn't work with Phil Spector.
    Just another great one....more info
  • the best album ever written
    I've got every official albums written by Cohen, Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Drake among lots of others. But I just want to tell you if you're thinking about buying this album that in my opinion it's the best album of Cohen (though all the other are great too) and more it's the best album I've ever listened to in my life. Every track on this album is a big poetry and the music is exelllent. Leonard Cohen is probably the most underrated poet in the whole world because he's simply in my opinion the best. If it be your will, the law and Hallelujah are the closest to my heart today but tomorrow I might name Coming back to you or Night comes on. Please let me know if you can name me albums that are better than this. Birgir Mar Hannesson...more info
  • Dance Me To The End Of Love
    In this album Leonard Cohen displays the full range of his genius.

    It begins with the richly melodic `Dance Me To The End Of Love', with it's distinct Mediterranean/Israeli style, which remind me of hot romantic summer nights, by the sea.
    It also includes such magnificent works as the passionate and intense love ballad, `Coming Back To You' and the fascinating mix of romantic and satirical `Night Comes On', the biting satire of `The Captain' and `Heart With No Companion' which embodies a heartfelt and deep explanation of the terrible experience of loneliness and isolation.
    The greatest track on this album however, is the majestic and spiritual `Hallelujah':

    "They say there was a sacred chord
    That David played and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It went like this, the fourth, the fifth
    the minor fall and the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah"

    I also love Jennifer Warnes' rich, melodic, sensual voice, which particularly adds beauty to `Dance Me to The End of Love' and `Hallelujah'....more info
  • A nice job all the way through...
    I've been a casual Cohen fan since BEFORE he even made music for money. When I was in college, Leonard's novel "Beautiful Losers" was a moderate hit in artsy, intellectual circles. I aspired to be in such a circle, so I read the book. Only months later did I find out that he was a singer/songwriter as well. In the past 40 years, I've only bought a few of his albums, and none in the past two decades. Last month, however, I found this one on sale for an irresistable price and plunged in. I like all the tracks. While none of the songs have the commercial appeal of his early folk hits such as "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire" and "Sisters of Mercy", they are all poetic, competent, pleasant, and feature Leonard in good voice. I saw Mr. Cohen in concert only once, around 1970, and while he appeared to be stoned and not aware of his surroundings, it did not affect his singing. Maybe that's just the way he handled stage fright? "Various Positions" was a bargain, for me, and will get a fair share of repeat play....more info
  • Ignored but one of the best
    Everyone seems to ignore this when they mentioned Cohen's greatest work (I'm Your Man, Songs Of and The Future). It is however, a wonderful record with some great songs. "If It Be Your Will" is also one of my favourites....more info
  • A masterpiece
    This album wasn't released in the USA because of lack of interest in Cohen's work, but did very well in Europe. It's Cohen's most personal work about his longing for religious comfort and human warmth and reflects memories from his past. It took me a while to fully appreciate it because it can't be compared with his earlier stuff, but I do now agree with Cohen himself that this probably is one of his best albums. My favourite songs are "Night comes on" and "The law", but all the songs are good. "If it be you will" is an excellent prayer and to many people one of Cohen's most enchanting songs. Cohen did it again, a great album...more info
  • not his best, but gotta have it
    you got to have every Leonard Cohen album, but you an get this one last, or next to last (the phil spector-produced disaster of an album, compilations and live albums do not count), but it is not a bad album at all. Just get all the other studio recordings first. And dance me to the end of love....more info
  • 'Embrace and hold us tight, all your children in their rags of light'
    This 1984 album, the last of Cohen's folk masterpieces and one subtly spiced with country, never grows stale due to the intricacy of its arrangements - vocal & instrumental - while perennially revealing deeper layers of metaphysical & symbolic significance. Or as one ages one understands better! Particularly sublime is the interaction of male & female vocals calibrated to bring out the best in both. The devotion and the vocals of Anjani Thomas and Jennifer Warnes make a major contribution to the music's enduring beauty.

    Cohen's gift of melody & rhythm finds buoyant expression in Dance Me to the End Of Love which may sound catchy and even frisky like a simple pop tune but if one pays attention multiple meanings & possibilities emerge. In contrast, Coming Back to You unfolds slowly and solemnly through a graceful melody wed to imagery that navigates delicately between romantic & divine love. The two tracks The Law and The Night Comes On evoke something of John Berryman's poetic sensibility ... The Moon and the Night and the Men, The Song of the Tortured Girl and above all, Sonnet number 34.

    The Night Comes On may be the absolute highlight of this album, a rare gem ranking amongst the greatest of Cohen's songs. Like assembling a pearl necklace, it strings striking images of the domestic & personal, the universal, the spiritual, historical and prophetic on a thread of longing. As the song unfolds, the symbolism unleashes an almost supernatural power that stirs the psyche hinting at or conjuring vague specters of ancient memories. There are close correspondences in the song Anthem on The Future.

    Being familiar with John Cale's soaring version of Hallelujah on the tribute album I'm Your Fan and Jeff Buckley's on Grace, Cohen's own sounds somewhat monotone and subdued, still beautiful but constrained within a narrow range compared to the aforementioned. The tale of David & Batsheba that started with desire, led to murder & a string of tragedies but was ultimately transformed into the redemptive, relies in the songwriter's version on the atmosphere created by the female vocals rather than his voice.

    The words of the rhythmic lilting song The Captain with its tinkling piano, tangy country flavor & ironic comment on "some country-western song" contain & conceal more than they reveal as they undulate on the tune & the beat. Then the tempo drops for the cold & alienating Hunter's Lullaby that in arrangement (not mood) resembles the 1979 album Recent Songs. The message is baffling but may refer to the subconscious impulses that isolate & lead us astray. There is a sense of menace & desolation without the redemptive introspection of The Beast In Me by Nick Lowe on his album The Impossible Bird.

    Cohen's mysticism, masked or open, infuses every song. It manifests most painfully in Hunter's Lullaby & most inspiringly in The Law, The Night Comes On & The Captain while in Heart With No Companion it shines like a thousand suns. The healing power can go everywhere and reach anyone, only & exactly because it has been shattered. It recalls the crack in everything that allows the light in on the aforementioned Anthem, a reference to the shattering of the vessels as explained in the Arizal's The Tree of Life: Introduction to the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria as preserved by Rabbi Vital, and less clearly in the Zohar.

    The impassioned Heart With No Companion combines a lilting uptempo beat & hypnotic tune with lyrics contemplating disillusionment, shattered dreams & immobilizing fear exacerbated by a terrifying prophecy: "Through the days of shame that are coming/through the nights of wild distress". These negatives are all erased, however, by the lines: "Now I greet you from the other side/Of sorrow and despair/With a love so vast and shattered/It will reach you everywhere". The defiance expressed by: "Though your promise count for nothing/You must keep it none the less" is in fact the antidote to nihilism, affirming the primacy of spirit and of the word. Land Of Plenty on Ten New Songs covers some of the same territory: "For the Christ who has not risen/From the caverns of the heart/For what's left of our religion/I lift my voice and pray/May the lights in the land of plenty/Shine on the truth some day".

    If Hunter's Lullaby seemingly submits to despair whilst Heart With No Companion directly defies it, the final song is a prayer of intercession on an ancient pattern, the same to which The Lord's Prayer conforms. With praise and reverence, If It Be Your Will intercedes not only for the tormented souls in hell but for all the children in their "rags of light," the remnants of the shattered vessels. As a sung prayer it is as moving as Calling My Children Home performed by Emmylou Harris on Spyboy although it is serene where Emmylou's song yearns with burning heartache. The one represents Rachel weeping for her children whilst the other calms the tempest with trust in the Eternal Divine, knowing that Spirit in mercy overrules The Law (of cause & effect).

    Revisiting Anjani and Jennifer, I highly recommend the first's inspiring album The Sacred Names on which she sings in Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Aramaic, Portuguese & English, and the second's sensitive interpretations of Cohen compositions on her Famous Blue Raincoat, the Twentieth Anniversary edition that has been enhanced by four extra tracks: The Night Comes On, Ballad of the Runaway Horse, If It Be Your Will & Joan of Arc live in Antwerp where the Novecento Orchestra, West Brabants Operakoor & De Tweede Adem support Jenny & her band, adding depth to Cohen's elegy to the Maid of Orleans.
    ...more info