Leonard Cohen
Live at The Isle of Wight 1970

Release Date: October 20, 2009
Produced by: Murray Lerner
Format: CD/DVD



Matt Rowe


Since Leonard Cohen's reemergence as a singer-songwriter after the well-publicized theft by a trusted friend that left him without funds to retire on, he has provided his fans - and newly acquired ones along the way - with Ten New Songs, Dear Heather, and Live in London (a document of his latest and immensely successful worldwide tour).

Legacy Records now releases a Live document of an earlier Leonard Cohen, namely his 1970 appearance at the 3rd Festival at the Isle of Wight.  As history paints this story, the crowd had turned surly, tearing down fences and burning things.  After a riotous Jimi Hendrix set, this 600,000-strong crowd of adrenalized, rained-on attendees were amazingly quieted by the mild but engaging demeanor of Leonard Cohen.

This larger than usual digipak issue of the CD, and the accompanying DVD, is a stunning revisitation of that calming force in the midst of a storm.  Cohen had only had a few albums out by this time, but the songs found on those albums are amongst his most resilient, best remembered tunes.  Each of them possess a life of their own.

The poems recited by Cohen here has an uncanny resemblance to the commanding  oration style of Dylan Thomas.  But where Thomas is forceful, Cohen is calming, underscoring his ability to completely capture and engage an audience, a trait once again witnessed on his latest and exhaustive (and final) tour.

The CD contains the complete set as performed on this early morning (2 am) amidst a literal sea of varied humanity.  The fact that he had their complete attention with a mellow folk set following a high-energy Rock set tells volumes about his abilities.  There 14 Cohen classics that include "Bird on a Wire," "So Long, Marianne" (I hope she was there), "Lady Midnight," "The Stranger Song," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye," and the oft-covered "Suzanne.". All in all, the set heard here is a perfect picture of a perfect entertainer.

The DVD is the captured footage of this event by video chronicler, Murray Lerner, who had previously been nominated for an Oscar for his film, Festival! that captured the 1969 Newport Folk Festival.  The video us a patchwork of songs that include 11 performance songs and several instances of banter with the completely awake audience.  There are extras in interviews with Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Bob Johnston (a Cohen producer).

The included 20-page booklet is an excellent addition for an already wonderful set.  It contains a seven-page essay by Sylvie Simmons that details Cohen's amazing set, notes by film director, Murray Lerner, whose film is on the DVD, notes by set producer, Steve Berkowitz, on the historical aspect of this CD/DVD, and complete DVD and CD credits.

Leonard Cohen is a marvel in our time.  Lou Reed, in introducing Cohen's introduction into the Rock Hall of Fame, stated that we are lucky to be alive at the same time as Leonard Cohen.  I concur.  This CD/DVD underscores that sentiment.









Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
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212 Frech

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