Review: Adam Cohen, Like A Man

 

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in the instance of the new album from Adam Cohen it is fair to say in this case this is an accurate description as his father’s influence is all over this record. Having Leonard Cohen as a father and lifelong influence in his life was sometimes hard for Cohen to deal with and while on his first two records he tried to move away from his father’s influence and indeed genre of music now with his new record Like A Man he embraces his heritage.

Like A Man is an acoustic album of beautiful melodies where the theme of love is omnipresent. The first song on the album is Out of Bed and from the opening line “For you I’d try to make it rain in the desert, I’d ask the mountains to kneel down” I knew that this was going to be a wonderfully emotive album full of excellent imagery.  Out Of Bed is a song where the narrator is describing his love but how even though he has these deep feelings he is unable to keep his promises but that he loves her all the same.  With an opening line of that calibre it is the perfect opening to the album.

Songs of note on the album include Like A Man where he describes himself as the stereotypical male even though he doesn’t want to be. However he wants her to be the stereotypical woman. It is a song of contradiction but a song that would resonate with many other people. Similar in lyrical style to this song would be Overrated where he believes love is over rated but he still wants it anyway. What Other Guy is another song of note where the narrator claims to know everything about his woman and poses the question what other guy knows her like that. It is a gorgeous declaration of love and of knowing someone so well and when mixed with sublime guitar playing it is the perfect marriage of melody and lyrics.

A song of special mention would be Sweet Dominique. Where most of the songs have the guitar as the main backing instrument to Cohen’s sublime vocals in this song there is a wonderful organ sounding like melody which has an almost religious feel to the music. It is accompanied with the most beautiful lyrics including “You opened like a flower in the heat, your beauty on my eyes like a masterpiece” and also the wonderful line “I didn’t know we could go so many kisses deep” reminiscent of his father’s song A Thousand Kisses Deep. This song also includes the brilliant line “If love was like a mountain you took me to its peak”.

Another song where the lyrics remind me of Cohen‘s father is in Beautiful. This song describes that even if there were many disasters in the world like the examples he uses including if the Hollywood sign catches fire that he would want to tell his lover “Thank you for being so beautiful”. The line “farewell New York City, farewell Bethlehem, so long Willy Shakespeare, so long Marianne” is most certainly a homage to his father’s song So Long Marianne.

My favourite song on the album is the final song Stranger. It is definitely a case for me of saving the best until last. Ironically an album of love songs it is the only song where love is not the central theme. It describes how we all live together but that essentially we are all strangers and are just passing through. This song instantly reminded me of the song Passing Through sang and arranged by his father and originally written by Richard (Dick) Blakeslee.

Looking at the album Like A Man as a whole I feel it works well and the chosen songs and placements work well together. Mixing beautiful melodies with soulful lyrics makes for a perfect combination.  While I have noticed the influence of his father I do believe this is an excellent record which would appeal to anyone who likes acoustic music. Cohen’s vocals are wonderfully relaxing. On my first listen to this album I was instantly reminded of David Kitt and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of his music.

Advertisements

Interview: Adam Cohen

 

Adam Cohen, the son of Leonard Cohen recently released a new album Like A Man and has very generously taken some time out to answer questions for Drop-d.

What artists other than your father influence you as a songwriter?

Bob Marley, Randy Newman, Serge Gainsbourg, Prince and U2. I listened to these artists a lot, and very carefully.

As the son of a famous and successful poet, novelist and artist, as well as a singer songwriter, do you aspire to partake in any of these other fields yourself?

I do participate, as vigorously and intensely and dedicatedly as possible, in all these fields, except drawing/painting (for which I have no talent)

Now you are a father yourself has this changed your outlook in life and how do you deal with the times of separation when you are on tour?

Fatherhood is beautiful, intense, course altering stuff, but Daddy’s got to work. My job is to make my presence felt despite my absence. Many fathers (including my own) had to contend with this pre Skype and such wonderful and inexpensive ways to stay in touch.

You have previously spoke of how hard it was when you started out as a musician and how you wanted to move as far from what your father did and have your own style but now you appreciate his influence more. What were the factors in changing this opinion for you?

Three main factors lead me to where I am now:

  1. A series of disappointments, misfortunes and career choices that lead to disillusionment.
  2. The admirable, unexpected, triumphant and inspiring resurgence of my father to the stage.
  3. My becoming a father and the courage, insight and wisdom that wondrously came along with it.

Having lived as a child on different continents and countries and now having travel as a compulsory part of your job, do you enjoy all the travelling that you do?

Travelling is one of the great joys of life and the world, a true privilege in which I so often get to revel.

What age did you start writing songs?

My earliest memory of “writing” a song is at the kitchen table with my father (who lead the impromptu and decidedly domestic session) and sister, perhaps I was 3 or 4.

How many different musical instruments can you play?

I play guitar, piano and drums, all moderately well at best.

Which comes first for you when writing songs, the lyrics or the melody?

Often a song will start with a sentence that sticks in my head. If the sentiment or idea is strong enough I’ll start to flesh it out with strumming and humming. The shapeless chord structure and murmurings might begin to take a shape, and then, for this exercise to turn into (yield) a song, I must succumb completely to inspiration or something that feels more like luck than know-how.

Do you find writing songs come naturally or is it something you have to really work on?

I work hard at it, start over and over, sometimes curse out loud at the idiocy of some of my thoughts. Sometimes can’t believe I penned something after it came out of me.

Like A Man is released in October, how long did it take to complete this album?

All together about two weeks. Two delightfully painless, inspired and course altering weeks. The least painless, most joyous experiences I’ve ever had in studio (a place that has more often caused a sense of anxiety and self-doubt)

Having previously being in a band, Low Millions, do you relish being a solo artist?

I love being in a band. There’s nothing like it, or maybe being in a great gang or fearsome tribe is just like it but I loved it. Being a solo artist is also great, at times. Both are privileges.

You wrote Lullaby in Blue for Bette Midler. Who else have you written songs for?

I’ve written so many songs for so many artists, almost none of them ever making it onto records. So so many infernally close calls. Artists holding the song till the last minute and not actually keeping them for the record. It’s not a subject I care to revisit, discuss or think about!

Are there any songwriters that you aspire to work with or duet with?

I’d love to write for Adele, Feist, Beyonce, Norah Jones and Taylor Swift, for every reason you can think of.

What would you say has being your greatest achievement to date?

This latest album Like A Man is without a doubt my proudest artistic achievement but having my son is my most delicious personal “achievement”.

What are your feelings on how reality TV shows like American Idol have changed the music industry?

They perpetuate the idea of instant success.

Before performing a gig do you have any rituals that you follow?

The ritual usually consists of scrambling to find a measure by which to calm my nerves or clear my mind of clutter standing in the way of great focus.

What is your favourite way to unwind after a gig?

If I’ve had a great gig, I want to drink, laugh, eat, meet, greet, smoke, flirt and plot other gigs. If I’ve had a difficult gig, I want to go home, and quit.

If you hadn’t chosen this career where would you see yourself now and was music always the foremost calling in your life?

Music was a virus contracted at such an early age, something so powerfully seductive to me, as far back as I can remember. It was my only certainty. There was no plan b. Still isn’t.

Is religion an important aspect of your life?

Not as much as travel or food, or sex, or music, or love.

Outside of music and your family what are your favourite pastimes and forms of relaxation?

Travel, food, music, love, sex.

10 Years from now where would you like yourself to be as a person and a musician?

I’d like to chart clear growth. The specifics of which I’d prefer not to bait.

 

This interview was carried out by me for an Irish online music magazine calle Drop-d and the interview originally was published there:

http://www.drop-d.ie/adam-cohen-interview/21204