Ten New Songs
|Ten New Songs|
|Studio album by Leonard Cohen|
|Released||October 9th 2001|
|Recorded||late 1999 – mid 2001
Still Life Studios, Los Angeles;
Small Mercies studio, Hollywood
|Leonard Cohen chronology|
Ten New Songs is Leonard Cohen's tenth studio album, released in 2001. It was co-written and produced by Sharon Robinson. It was produced in Cohen's and Robinson's home studios in Los Angeles. It was also his first album in nearly 10 years. The album peaked at #143 on the Billboard 200, #4 in Canada (where it went platinum), #1 in Poland (where it went platinum) and #1 in Norway.
After successfully touring behind the award winning album The Future, Cohen was awarded a Governor General's Performance Arts Award for his contribution to Canadian music in 1993 and was the subject of an hour-long CBC Radio retrospective called The Gospel According to Leonard Cohen. Cohen also published a collection of poems and songs called Stranger Music and released his second live album Cohen Live in 1994. Then, sometime that same year, Cohen unexpectedly retreated to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles to spend time with his Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, or Roshi, a sabbatical that would last five years. In 2001 the singer explained to Mojo's Sylvie Simmons, "Well, I was always going off the deep end, so it was no radical departure. When I finished my tour in '93 I was approaching the age of 60 and my old friend and teacher Roshi was approaching the age of 90, and I thought it would be the right moment to spend some more time with him...I wasn't looking for a new religion or another list of dogma." Cohen has stated in numerous interviews that throughout the success of the I'm Your Man and The Future tours, he remained desperately unhappy; in the book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, biographer Anthony Reynolds quotes the singer: "I'd been drinking three bottles of wine a night on the tour and one of the things I was looking for was a rest...I didn't know what else to do." Interest in Cohen only grew, however, with a tribute album called Tower of Song being released in 1995. According to Ira Nadel's 1996 Cohen memoir Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen, Cohen flirted with the idea of recording an album of fourteen short songs during this period but eventually scrapped the project (One song, "Never Any Good," would turn up on the 1997 release More Best of Leonard Cohen). In June 1999, Cohen returned to his L.A. duplex to live with his daughter and began collaborating with Sharon Robinson (co-writer of "Everybody Knows" and "Waiting for the Miracle") on what would become Ten New Songs.
Recording and composition
Robinson would produce, co-arrange, co-write and sing on Ten New Songs, making it a true collaboration. Cohen gave Robinson some lyrics he had written and she built the music around them. Cohen was so impressed with Robinson's demos that she ended up singing all the songs with him, including several leads. "At his insistence," Robinson clarified to Mojo's Sylvie Simmons. "It's ironic, isn't it, that the man who's got this voice that women swoon over just wants to hide it away?" The album was recorded by Robinson and Cohen in virtual isolation, with Leanne Ungar engineering and Bob Metzger adding guitar to the LP's first single, "In My Secret Life." In 2010, Robinson spoke about the recording with Cohen biographer Anthony Reynolds:
- The way the album came about is linked to the actual sound of it. The album had a unique path and it wasn't done in the way an album is normally done. It was also recorded pretty much in the order it plays in...The recording was some kind of extension of his time at Mount Baldy. He was still very reclusive during this time...I would initially sing and play everything, at the time not knowing if we were bringing in other musicians or singers. Of course as it turned out, we didn't so my voice stayed because Leonard liked what he was hearing.
Robinson also divulged to Reynolds that most of the album was recorded in her three-car garage that was adjoined to her house (which she had converted to a studio) and that she would take the raw audio on a portable hard drive to Leonard's converted studio above his garage. The album was Cohen's first to be recorded completely digitally. "There's a sense of relaxation in the tunes that comes through," the singer enthused to Nick Patton Walsh of The Observer in 2001, "there's a kind of pulse, an invitation to get into it - a groove." Although the album has an adult contemporary, R&B feel ("Boogie Street," "That Don't Make It Junk"), several songs contain themes of unspeakable desolation and loneliness, including "By the Rivers Dark" and the brooding "A Thousand Kisses Deep," reinforced by the album's contained, almost womb-like feel and sound. Several of the tracks on Ten New Songs existed in some form or another long before they appeared on Cohen's tenth studio album; Cohen first revealed he was working on a new song called 'My Secret Life' in 1988, and, in 1995, Melinda Newman of Billboard reported that two tracks, "My Secret Life" and "A Thousand Kisses Deep", were "close to completion..." "I’d like to have a very intimate kind of record," the singer confided to Newman at the time, "of a very different nature than actual songs." "In My Secret Life," a song that wound up being an ode to unrequited love, became the album's first single with an accompanying music video that was filmed in Montreal at Habitat 67. Other songs, such as "Alexandra Leaving" (based on "The God Abandons Antony", also translated as "The God Forsakes Antony," a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy, published in 1911) and "You Have Loved Enough," imply departures of some sort or another.
According to Sharon Robinson, Cohen took the grainy photo on the album cover himself: "We were just sat at Leonard's computer and he just took one of those webcam pictures with the basic camera that was attached to the computer," she explained to Anthony Reynolds. "Of course, he does everything with a lot of thought and care and I remember him composing the shot. But at the time I don't think he intended it as the album cover - he was just taking a picture."
In the October 2001 Rolling Stone review of the LP, Steven Chean stated, "Ten New Songs manages to sustain loss's fragile beauty like never before and might just be the Cohen's most exquisite ode yet to the midnight hour." Uncut deemed it "worth the wait." Playboy opined: "Although the tones of these odes and meditations is mournful, at the age of 67 Cohen's pessimism about the human condition is tempered with reconciliation. He'll never be cheerful, but a Zen-like serenity pervades every song."
Eric Burdon, Katie Melua, Till Brönner and Edo Zanki have recorded "In My Secret Life". Luciana Souza recorded "Here It Is" on her album The New Bossa Nova. Jonathan Richman recorded "Here It Is" for his 2008 album Because Her Beauty Is Raw & Wild. "A Thousand Kisses Deep" was used in the movie The Good Thief, in the 2010 French movie Le bruit des glaçons, and in Season 3 of the TV Series Veronica Mars. It was also covered by Chris Botti in his album of the same name in 2003. "That Don't Make It Junk" was covered by Widespread Panic three times in 2011. "Alexandra Leaving" was covered by Canadian singer Patricia O'Callaghan on her fifth solo album Matador: The Songs of Leonard Cohen in late 2011. It has also been covered by Anne Hills and Allan Olsen. "The Land of Plenty" was used in the 2004 movie "Land of Plenty" directed by Wim Wenders. German punk singer Nina Hagen covered "By the Rivers Dark" with German lyrics by Ton Steine Scherben-member Misha B. Schoeneberg as "Am dunklen Fluss" for the 2014 cover-collection Poem - Leonard Cohen in deutscher Sprache.
- "In My Secret Life" – 4:55
- "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (feat. string arrangement by David Campbell) – 6:29
- "That Don't Make It Junk" – 4:28
- "Here It Is" – 4:18
- "Love Itself" – 5:26
- "By the Rivers Dark" – 5:20
- "Alexandra Leaving" (based on The God Abandons Antony, a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy) – 5:25
- "You Have Loved Enough" – 5:41
- "Boogie Street" – 6:04
- "The Land of Plenty" – 4:35
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- Discogs - Still Life Studios (Leonard Cohen's private studio) profile
- Discogs - Ten New Songs 2001 US promo
- "Oficjalna lista sprzedaży :: OLIS - Official Retail Sales Chart - 29 October 2001 (sales for the period 15.10.2001 - 21.10.2001)". OLiS. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
- de Lisle, Tim. 'Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen's head?' The Guardian, September 17, 2004.
- Discogs - Music On Vinyl profile and discography
- Discogs - Ten New Songs 2009 Netherlands remastered vinyl, Barcode: 5099750120217
- Allmusic review
- Robert Christgau review
- Pitchfork Media review
- Rolling Stone review
- "Everyday Companion Online - That Don't Make It Junk". Everydaycompanion.com. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
- "Canadian album certifications – Leonard Cohlen – Ten New Songs". Music Canada.
- "Polish album certifications – Leonard Cohlen – Ten New Songs" (in Polish). Polish Producers of Audio and Video (ZPAV).