Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Leonard Cohen - Old IdeasColumbia 88697986712
Format: CD

Musical Performance *****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment *****


Leonard Cohen is a poet, novelist, painter, and singer-songwriter, and a figure of such sartorial grace that he makes even Bryan Ferry look a bit shabby. He’s a Companion of the Order of Canada (one of several honors he’s received there), and in 2008 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His standing as a poet in music puts him in the same category as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, both of whom are better known but no more widely respected. Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934, has seven years on both of those singer-songwriters, and, like them, is writing about mortality, romance, spirituality, and the mysteries of aging.

Old Ideas is only Cohen’s 12th studio recording in 44 years, and it may be, in "Going Home," the voice of God calling him "a lazy bastard / Living in a suit / But he does say what I tell him," or it might be Cohen’s alter ego. As he approaches the end of his life, he tells us that he’s going someplace better "without the costume that I wore." On Old Ideas, Cohen often admits his faults with a shrug and a resigned chuckle; he seems at peace, even when singing of harsh truths. In "Darkness," he confides that "The present’s not that pleasant / Just a lot of things to do," yet his tone as he sings those words seems both amused and expectant -- he’ll take whatever comes his way.

Cohen’s voice has gotten smokier with age; at times he half recites his lyrics in a near whisper. But when he gets hold of a melody, as in "Show Me the Place," his singing is fragile and beautiful. In "Amen" he captures something of Tom Waits’s tobacco rasp, and in "Darkness" he has the aged wisdom of an old blues singer. He sings "Crazy to Love You" in a way that would do Willie Nelson proud, and Nelson would also be proud to claim one of the disc’s best lines: "Crazy has places to hide in / Deeper than saying goodbye."

Most of the songs on Old Ideas are sparsely arranged; three female harmony singers are the only apparent extravagance. In fact, the music is rich in detail that reveals its layers over time. Cohen used a number of different producers for the recording, and several studios, but the mastering, by Doug Sax and Robert Hadley, has given Old Ideas a consistent sound and feel. No single musician calls attention to him- or herself, but every sound, from the organ washes in "Darkness" to the soft acoustic-guitar notes throughout, is exquisitely right. The uncluttered recording lets rumbling bass guitars ring out clearly, backing voices unfurl their full richness, and acoustic guitars cradle Cohen’s voice.

Cohen has always dealt with spiritual issues in his songs, and in the 1990s he spent five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery. Old Ideas shows a comfort with religion that people of any faith, or even none, should find moving, probing, and profound. The entire disc looks at matters of life, death, and love with ease and humor; in addressing those issues, Cohen’s voice is moving, deeply reassuring, and wise.

. . . Joseph Taylor