Tuesday, October 4, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: ADAM COHEN - LIKE A MAN
Now 39, something's clicked in his head, regarding the overriding influence on his life, dear old dad. It's one thing to have a parent who is successful, and follow in their footsteps, but quite another with that person is iconic. Harper Simon, Julian Lennon, Dhani Harrison, Jakob Dylan, it's impossible to escape the shadow, so as Dylan the Younger showed, you gotta do what you want, and persevere.
Cohen, it seems, is done with fighting fate. He's as big a fan of Dad as you and I, and has the added benefit of having the guy around anytime he wants, to help explain this writing and singing thing. Adam admits he seeks his father's help and loves it, and now is also happy to say he's deliberately choosing to emulate him. Specifically, he wants to sound like early Cohen, and has been trying to convince his father to return to that old nylon-string sound he used on his first view albums. In a recent interview with England's The Telegraph he said: "I have basically made this record because he wouldn’t. I had been begging my father to make a record more reminiscent of his older work, when he was writing on a nylon string guitar. There’s a particular record I have been studying my whole life, New Skin For Old Ceremonies. I think, in a lot of people’s mind’s eye, that is the era they really identify with Leonard Cohen. But when I try to tell him this, I don’t think he likes it very much, and he so vehemently has declined that I sort of said ’F*** it, if you’re not gonna do it, I will."
Brilliant, I say. And I have to tell you, this is by far the best work Adam Cohen has ever done. And, it's a lot better than most of the last couple of albums by his father, too. Time might change that opinion, but there's really nothing memorable on Leonard's Ten Recent Songs, for instance. Yet Like A Man has some striking songs, including the title track, a classic family-style lyric, admitting the failures of his gender and his desire to be better. It's the nylon string, stand-up bass sound, but with a nice twist, as a string section pops up for the bridge. You can hear his father in his voice for sure, but it's not ridiculously similar, and he's actually a better singer, more tuneful, although with Leonard it's the phrasing and sexuality, so there's no real attempt to copy on Adam's part, he's just stuck with a similarly-shaped throat, thanks to shared DNA.
Is he the equal of his father? No, of course not, just the legacy won't allow that. But there's an awful lot of talent that finally bubbled to the top here, and a darn fine disc has come out of it. And in case you've missed the point, and think he doesn't know how he's walking in his father's footsteps, he even drops this laugh-line into the cut Beautiful: "So long Willie Shakespeare, so long Marianne." Oh, and if the backing vocals sound familiar? One Jennifer Warnes, who did that job so perfectly through the 70's and 80's in the family business. I'm beginning to think the old man had better rethink his son's advice, he's getting beat at his own game.