Monday, 14 September 2009

Album Review - Leonard Cohen: The Remixes

Leonard Cohen’s contribution to the world of dance music cannot be overstated. Since his appearance as guest vocalist on the acid house anthem Gimme Ecstasy (Take it Higher) by DJ Marvellous in 1989, the Canadian troubadour has been synonymous with big beats, thumping basslines and hardcore rave.

That said, it is somewhat surprising that nobody has seen fit to compile the dance remixes of Cohen’s songs until now. Few artists have appeared on as many twelve inch white label releases as he, and the compilers of Leonard Cohen: The Remixes must have been faced with a daunting task when they tried to select an album’s worth of tunes.

So for that reason alone, the producers of this compilation are to be lauded. They have pulled off a remarkable feat here, and the album must rank among the greatest dance albums of all time, alongside Elliott Smith Live @ Gatecrasher and the impossible-to-find Tony Bennett vs Felix Da Housecat bootleg.

Take the Armand Van Driver remix of Suzanne, one of Cohen’s best-loved songs. The soft, almost whispered vocals and arpeggio guitar are really accentuated by the chunky 240 bpm bass and newly-added vocal accompaniment on the chorus from what sounds like an angry robot with a sore throat.

While Suzanne is still recognisably Cohen, some other remixes take the balladeer’s music to entirely new places. Famous Blue Raincoat is another fan favourite, but DJ Malty Treat’s remix removes most of the lyrics, the guitar and the backing vocals to make it utterly unlike the original. Consisting of the line “Famous Blue Raincoat” sampled and repeated over a melody created by the sound of drills breaking up concrete, it’s fair to say that this remix, while danceable, takes the song way beyond the one that Leonard wrote.

The main selling point of this album is the remix of Halleluiah by DJ Ubiquitous Ocelot featuring MC Caralarm. It was impossible to escape this track in the clubs of Ibiza and Agia Napa in 2002; for many clubbers it was the song of the summer, and high chart positions over the world resulted. Due to a copyright issue over the use of a Glenn Medieros sample in the track, it could not appear on any compilations until now. And what luck this is for us! With uplifting European house beats and a hint of happy hardcore in there for good measure, the secret chord that David played and which pleased the Lord (but you don’t really care for music, do you?) never sounded better.

Not every track on this album is as good as the ones mentioned above, though. DJ WasBobSagetsDaughterinFullHouse tries to give True Love Leaves No Traces a sparse drum n bass makeover, but it falls flat. From this tune, it’s clear that the songs of Leonard Cohen are really not suited to minimalism.

All in all, this compilation really succeeds in showing the danceable side of Canada’s favourite dour singer/songwriter. From the high-speed German techno gabba of DJ Kuntz’s Avalanche remix to the melodic house of The Dub Waiters’ version of Don’t go Home with your Hard-on, there’s something for everyone here.

Leonard Cohen: The Remixes by Various Artists is released Tuesday on Dance, You Twats! Records. A special double vinyl gatefold edition is available with free dancefloor and doorman. Mp3s can be downloaded for - heh, get this, they’re expecting people to pay for it, the naïve fools - $6.99 from the record label’s website, which I couldn’t be bothered to look up. Just Google it.


Feisty Democrat said...

...newly-added vocal accompaniment on the chorus from what sounds like an angry robot with a sore throat...

Well-phrased sir!

Mr London Street said...

Scary - I am mentioning Mr Cohen in my post later. This is just genius, and I'm so impressed that you smuggled in an ocelot.

BeckEye said...

This is brilliant.

And I think DJ WasBobSagetsDaughterinFullHouse goes by the much simpler name of DJ Tanner now.

words...words...words... said...

While I am sure to purchase this album, it will have to be quite good indeed to rival Jim Croce Tears The Roof Off Tha Sucka

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Mathdude: Never let it be said that my powers of description are...are...are...bad.

Mr. LS: I love co-occurrence such as that. And yes, the ocelot was for you. Can I be in your club now?

Beckeye: Thanks! And thank you for the info. I'm not that well up on my DJ comings and goings.

WWW: I bet you're excited for the forthcoming Sinatra Drum n Bass album too, right?