There’s a new Leonard Cohen tribute album coming from Blue Note Records in October. Lineup-wise, Here It Is appears to be in the vein of 1995’s all-star Tower of Song, even featuring one of the same artists (Peter Gabriel), than it is the hipper and better-remembered 1991 tribute I’m Your Fan, which there’s a whole 33 1/3 book about (ahem). The project was compiled by Larry Klein, who has produced iconic many artists, though I believe this is his first proper tribute album (he co-produced Herbie Hancock’s Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters though, which is tribute-adjacent). On paper at least, Sarah McLachlan covering “Hallelujah” doesn’t bode well – but then again, Iggy Pop covering “You Want It Darker” holds promise.
Our first taste, though, is James Taylor covering Cohen’s Various Positions track “Coming Back To You.” Taylor wrote in a statement:
Like almost everyone in my generation, I venerate Leonard Cohen. As soon as I began seeking out my own musical preferences, Cohen’s songs were among my few favorites and had a major influence on my own progression as a songwriter. For the project, I was drawn to a relatively obscure piece that was new to me, “Coming Back To You.” Larry opted to cut the song in Cohen’s original key, which was certainly at the bottom of my own range. But somehow moving me out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So, breathe a deep sigh and, drink up…
Taylor’s version is fine, channeling Cohen’s sing-speaking over a lite-jazz backing, though I can’t say it exactly inspires excitement. We’ll see in October. Listen below, plus the full tracklist.
01 “Steer Your Way” – Norah Jones
03 “Here It Is” – Peter Gabriel
04 “Suzanne” – Gregory Porter
05 “Hallelujah” – Sarah McLachlan
06 “Avalanche” – Immanuel Wilkins
07 “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” – Luciana Souza
08 “Coming Back To You” – James Taylor
09 “You Want It Darker” – Iggy Pop
10 “If It Be Your Will” – Mavis Staples
11 “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” – David Gray
12 “Famous Blue Raincoat” – Nathaniel Rateliff
13 “Bird On The Wire” – Bill Frisell