Photograph titled "Man on Vespa in Stockholm" by unknown photographer, 1952
I decided a little while ago that, when I write about a "classic" album that everyone knows, I'd limit myself to a brief numbered list of observations bout the album. I've discovered, though, that a list of five points ends up being long than my usual two- to three-paragraph summary, so I'm going to try to winnow this down to three observations from now on. Here are things I've noticed listening to Songs From a Room for the first time:
1. There sure is a lot of mouth harp on this album! I'm sure everyone makes this observation, but it's an important in two ways - first, it demonstrates how the odd arrangements make this album less accessible than it could be, and second, it is part of what makes this album so different and identifiable.
2. The songs that stick with me from Songs From a Room are among my favorite Cohen songs ("Bird on a Wire", "The Partisan", "Lady Midnight"), but there are a couple tracks that are so uninteresting to me that I could not tell you a single thing about them, even though I've heard them a dozen times or more ("The Old Revolution" and "The Butcher").
3. The alternate version of "You Know Who I Am" that's included on the reissue of this album (titled "Nothing to One [You Know Who I Am]") is, in my opinion, a super version of the song. Recorded by David Crosby in May of '68, a few months before the Songs From a Room sessions with Bob Johnston, this version has a harmony vocal on the chorus that's really nice.
"Nothing to One (You Know Who I Am)" by Leonard Cohen