Leonard Cohen's new take on "Old Ideas"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:22pm EST
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By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sitting in a dimly lit New York City bar wearing a trilby hat and a dark suit, no tie, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen pauses before responding to a question about how his ideas have changed over his lengthy career.

He smiles and recalls something his close friend, the late Canadian poet Irving Layton, once said.

"'Leonard's mind has not been contaminated by a single idea,'" the 77-year-old Cohen quipped dryly, eliciting laughter from an audience gathered for a preview of his first studio album of new material in eight years, 'Old Ideas.'

The album, which sees its release on January 31, touches on themes the Montreal-born poet has spent a lifetime exploring -- love, sex, faith, mortality and others. But there is a lightness to the work, and Cohen refuses to take himself too seriously.

'I love to speak with Leonard/He's a sportsman and a shepherd/He's a lazy bastard/Living in a suit,' he croons in his

gravelly baritone on the opening track, 'Going Home.'

The 10 new songs are minimalist in construction, recalling some of Cohen's earlier and most well-known works, like 'Suzanne,' 'Bird on a Wire,' and the often-covered 'Hallelujah.'

Long-time Cohen collaborators, Jennifer Warne, Sharon Robinson, and Anjali Thomas also lend their voices to the album, which is lightly peppered with guitar, keyboards, horns and strings.   Continued...

<p>Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen takes his hat off at the end of one of his songs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California April 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>