Let the Devil Loose

Again this is another short entry, but nothing can be helped about this.  I am currently lost in the fantastic wilderness that is Mikhail Bulgakov’s epic, ‘The Master and Margarita‘.  I am currently half way through the book and wishing that I was only a quarter of the way through instead, although even then I suspect I would only hope I was 1/8 of the way through!

Aside from belated reading Bulgakov’s masterpiece, I found myself back in an old rehearsal room this weekend with a good friend.  He took up the sticks and drummed and I took my beloved Jazmaster and amp and played.  We touched upon old riffs, a part of a Hendrix song, some Jeff Buckley (albeit briefly) and ended trying to emulate the wall of noise that My Bloody Valentine do so well.  I tried to emulate some of the circular guitar playing that Anna Calvi does so well (not circular picking as such), although I think I was only partly successful in this.  It is an interesting technique though and one that makes the guitar sound more like a stringed instrument than it often does.

Heck, even though my friend couldn’t hear me above the beat of his bass drum and the roar of my Blackstar amp, I also attempted to sing along to my own guitar playing.  Now, even though we have jammed innumerable times before, I am still a relatively shy person.  So to sing was quite exhilarating, especially because it was just a daft made up song on the post.  But it felt good, sounded alright, and it was quite ridiculous.  A fine mixture of feelings!

I managed to get a photograph of the last time we went into the same rehearsal rooms, of my friend playing my old battered guitar across from a quite column of a Marshall stack.

The question is, of course, are you ready to sing and to be heard?

CNV00039If the photograph is re-used, please credit as appropriate.

A Blues Dance

I see the bus a-rolling, heading down to Centenary Square,

But my mind is all over and I can’t hop a-board.

Can’t you see my dear, I am too tired to move and I need my rest,

Let that sharp little needle stab my skin, let it mix with my blood,

Let me just get my hit and I will handle it.


I see the bus a-rolling, heading down to Centenary Square,

But my mind is all over and I can’t hop a-board.

I got into a fight last night, fought a man and brought him down,

Now I’m missing a tooth or two, but don’t that mean any-thing.

I got my dreams but I have lost my hopes.


I see the bus a-rolling, heading down to Centenary Square,

But my mind is all over and I can’t hop a-board.

It is Tuesday every-day, but Wednesday is my own,

I take my girl out, let her drop that broom to the floor.

Sweep clean, she is my dream.


I see the bus a-rolling, heading down to Centenary Square,

But my mind is all over and I can’t hop a-board.

The rain is falling, oh how the rain falls,

Let the clouds break, bring on that torrent down.

I feel lighter with each exploding drop.


Old Ideas

That old troubadour Leonard Cohen released his latest album, ‘Old Ideas‘, on the 31st of January of 2012, now almost a year ago.  For myself it was a welcome return from this man of music, whose wise and melancholy words have kept me company long into the night on many an occasion.  I first discovered him through listening to Jeff Buckley’s tremendous version of ‘Hallelujah‘, and I subsequently dived into into Cohen’s works.  A poet, a novelist, a singer, and a lover, Cohen continues to be all of these and more.  He is the eternal voice of despair, depression, love, acceptance, melancholy, and culture.  As I discovered through my musical journey of his works he has been through a few different musical styles, but his lyrics, and his voice, have always remained distinctive.  A review of his extensive oeuvre of albums would be better served by seeking them yourself, but what follows here is a selected highlight of some of my favourite albums, songs and books of his.

His back catalogue is an extensive one, but it is a beautiful one.  One of the first albums I managed to procure was the elegant, subtle and subdued ‘Songs From A Room‘, his 2nd album released in 1969.  Largely consisting of Cohen and his acoustic guitar, occasional female backing singers and little else, the album is a revelation, even during its own decade of release in the 1960’s.  It is beautifully stripped back in its approach to highlight the poetry of Cohen’s lyrics and story telling.  Perhaps my favourite song from this album (though the album is rewarded when played as one) is the song ‘The Partisan‘.  The haunting lyrics, “‘oh the wind the wind is blowing, through the graves the wind is blowing, freedom soon will come”, is heightened by the addition of a french verse sang by both Cohen and female backing singers, extolling the grim reality of partisan war, of how life is often entangled in a deep romance with death.

Songs of Love and Hate‘ followed ‘Songs From a Room’ in 1971, and is much in the same vein as the previous album.  The most moving song is ‘Famous Blue Coat‘, a paean to a triangle of love written in the form of a letter.  It is an elegant, expressive, and an evocative song, with the details of a love soured.  A late album now, released in 1992 ‘The Future‘ is a move away from the bare singer song writer, and includes a fuller band working on Cohen’s songs.  The album largely leans towards folk rock, although there are tantalizing hints of synth and keyboard playing.  The song ‘Democracy‘ prompts the listener into exploring the views extolled in the song.

Cohen toured the world from 2008-2010, in a much anticipated and long awaited return to the spotlight after some financial difficulties.  The London date, in 2008, was released in DVD form, and showed the exquisite showman at his finest, singing strong even after all those years.

My first introduction to his poetry was the delightful and playful ‘Book of Longing‘ (2006).  The poems are joined by the doodling’s and drawings of Cohen’s which litter the book, and are often colourful and joyful.  A quick scan will show that he has a certain fascination with the female form, often returning back to it for further study and doodling.  At the moment a collected edition of his poetry sits by my bed, ready to dip into at a moments notice.

This has been a brief introduction to some of Leonard Cohen’s  works, and there are obvious gaps, but I hope you can fill them in by giving him a listen.  He is often given criticism for sounding dour, or downbeat, but he has become more cheerful as the years have drifted by, by some accounts.  Needless of what the critics have to say, his music, art and poetry will resonate for far longer than the snipes of criticism as to his state of mind or mood in which he created them.  I sincerely hope you enjoy what you hear.