Cohen Descending

I love it when my favourite people intersect:

All of the lyrics are Rushdie’s, taken directly from the book. It’s so rare to have music from a book actually put to music. It makes it come to fruition, somehow, like a play that’s finally staged. I also love the author cameo at the beginning, and you’ve got to admire/roll your eyes at Bono’s guts for singing a song from a book about Orpheus.

On a slightly related note, I’ve been slowly falling  love with Leonard Cohen’s music, especially Halleluja. It’s a testament to his brilliance as a songwriter that I can’t actually pick a favourite version. I think I like K.D. Lang’s best – she really does have the perfect voice for this:

…but Jeff Buckley’s still manages to latch onto its pathos, and the simplicity and weakness of his voice matches the banality-vs-elevation setup of the song, although it’s definitely not as brilliant as either of the others:

…And Cohen’s own version, while not as good musically as either of the others, is actually musical, for once (unlike many of his others), and the fact that the poet himself sings it, of course, adds a layer of meaning to the song that the others simply don’t have access to.

Speaking of Cohen songs you can actually listen to, I absolutely love “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” and it’s the only Cohen song I actually prefer in his own rendition – the later one (below), rather than the earlier versions.

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2 comments
  1. Jeff said:

    I don’t like the way that Lang sings it – she’s got a good voice and all, but she just… slurs it too much. Buckley’s version I like better – but it’s still not quite there. Neither of them, in my opinion, carry the piece – which is so strong and powerful even while it seems so simple. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time just because of how much incredible force it holds. Played the right way, played on the right day, it can leave me exhausted just from listening to it. It’s an emotional storm.

    I know I’ve heard a Cohen version that I liked better than the one you posted, but even that one I like best out of all those ones. In my opinion, it’s performed best with one vocal, one instrument. It’s an incredibly personal song/poem. I’ve actually been considering doing a recording with either a piano and a violin, or a guitar and violin. But any further than that, and I think it stops conveying the song itself and turns into a performance piece. But then again, I’m not a musician who rakes in mad cash, so what do I know. :p

    Wainwright does a decent one, but there’s a live version of his that I really like – the regular recording you’ll find everywhere is also kinda crap for the same reasons. He performs it, he doesn’t feel it. Allison Crowe’s is just… Wainwright’s rendition with a female voice for the most part.

    In my aimless searchings, I ran into this random guy on YouTube. I like it. :D

    • Julia said:

      Ok here’s why I love k.d. lang’s version. The song balances the elevated – the halleluja – with the banal relationship that its being compared to (think of the throne vs. kitchen chair). The cries of halleluja bridge the two sides of it. The singer addresses the man in the song in second person, which means that it’s up to the singer to supply the elevated side of the equation, which no one does better than lang. I actually think she echoes the emotion of the song better than anyone else, but she does this from the point of view of an observer.

      Or i’m totally overanalysing it.

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