Songs of Leonard Cohen is the debut album by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released on December 27, 1967 on Columbia Records. Less successful in the US than in Europe, Songs of Leonard Cohen foreshadowed the kind of chart success Cohen would go on to achieve. It reached number 83 on the Billboard 200 and achieving gold status in the US only in 1989, but peaked at number 13 on the UK Albums Chart, and spent nearly a year and a half on it.

Cohen had received critical acclaim as a poet and novelist but had maintained a keen interest in music, having played guitar in a country and western band called the Buckskin Boys as a teenager. In 1966, Cohen set out for Nashville, where he hoped to become a country songwriter, but instead got caught up in New York City’s folk scene. In November 1966, Judy Collins recorded “Suzanne” for her album In My Life and Cohen soon came to the attention of famed record producer John Hammond. Although Hammond (who initially signed Cohen to his contract with Columbia Records) was supposed to produce the record, he became sick and was replaced by the producer John Simon.
Initially, Hammond had Cohen work up guitar parts for “Master Song” and “Sisters of Mercy” with jazz bassist Willie Ruff, and then brought in some of New York’s top session musicians to join them, a move that made Cohen nervous. As biographer Anthony Reynolds observes in his book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, the dynamic between Cohen and Ruff had been intimate and natural but “the arrival of more anonymous personnel unnerved Cohen, the studio novice put off by their proficiency.”
After Hammond dropped out of the sessions, John Simon took over as producer and, by all accounts, Simon and Cohen clashed over instrumentation and mixing; Cohen wanted the album to have a sparse sound, while Simon felt the songs could benefit from arrangements that included strings and horns. Writing for Mojo in 2012, Sylvie Simmons recalls, “When Leonard heard the result, he was not happy; the orchestration on Suzanne was overblown, while everything about Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye felt too soft. Several tracks had too much bottom, and there were even drums; Leonard had clearly stipulated no drums.”
Cohen kreeg zijn zin en de opnames werden overgedaan, deze keer met als instrumentalists – not credited on the album sleeve – Chester Crill, Chris Darrow, Solomon Feldthouse and David Lindley of Kaleidoscope, who had been recruited personally by Cohen after he saw the band play at a New York club.
By the time the album was released in December 1967, Cohen had already signed away the rights to “Suzanne” and “Stranger Song” (along with “Dress Rehearsal Rag” which would later surface on his 1971 album Songs of Love and Hate), to arranger Jeff Chase, with the singer lamenting to Adrian Deevoy of The Q Magazine in 1991, “Someone smarter than me got me to sign the publishing over to them. I lost Suzanne, Stranger Song and Dress Rehearsal Rag. I finally got them back three years ago, but I lost a lot of money.” (Wikipedia)

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