Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Anybody attempting to do a Cohen covers album has a big yardstick to which they must compare. Jennifer Warnes' landmark Famous Blue Raincoat from 1986 set the mark, still considered one of the best-recorded albums ever, with performances that many critics then and now feel outdid Cohen's own. Of course, she had advantages; a co-writer and co-conspirator of Cohen's, she made the album with veterans of his touring group, and even the man himself showed up with new material and did a duet. Plus, Warnes was "born with the gift of a golden voice" as well.

Still, after 50 years, I haven't heard enough of Cohen's songs, so bring it on. Ramolo has both the right, and the right stuff to do this project. The Ontario roots singer-songwriter takes her cue not from Warnes, but Cohen's icier touch. She gets Suzanne out of the way first, and gives it a European feel, cool and distracted. Then comes a nice surprise, a later cut, My Oh My from 2014. A slow pace, a beautiful vocal and distorted guitar make it memorable and a standout here. Her Famous Blue Raincoat emphasizes the sadness in the love triangle story, and some guitar and ambient effects bring on the mystery. The Future is slower, focusing on the groove, not as harsh, and quite successful.

That's the first four of ten cuts, and each has its own spin, without deviating too much from the original. The songs aren't overcrowded, and the focus stays on Ramolo's vocals, certainly a strength. She stays understated but solid, and mixed with producer Michael Timmins' gentle drama, we're drawn into the songs. It certainly adds to our appreciation of Cohen's songs.

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