Leonard Cohen Tribute Album Features James Taylor, Peter Gabriel, Norah Jones

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Leonard Cohen will be the subject of an all-star tribute album. Six years after his passing in 2016, Blue Note Records will release Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen on Oct. 14, 2022. The album, produced by Larry Klein, presents renditions of the legendary singer-songwriter’s profound songs performed by a superb line-up of vocalists: James Taylor, Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Mavis Staples, Gregory Porter, Sarah McLachlan, Luciana Souza, Iggy Pop, David Gray, and Nathaniel Rateli­ff. Listen to Taylor’s version of “Coming Back to You,” Rateliff’s rendition of “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and Jones’ cover of “Steer Your Way” below.

“Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” says Klein in the original July 28 announcement. “He was possibly the wisest and funniest friend that I had, and someone that I enjoyed, immensely, in every way. After he passed away, I found myself frequently covering his songs with other artists that I was working with. One reason, of course, is that the songs are so good—in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever—but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”

Listen to Norah Jones sing “Steer Your Way”

More from the announcement: Klein decided to assemble an album’s worth of Cohen songs, matching vocalists from different genres with an exceptional core band of jazz-based musicians—or, as he puts it, “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world”—guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Nate Smith with additional contributions from Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar and Larry Goldings on organ.

“When Larry invited me to participate, I accepted immediately,” says Taylor. “Both because Larry is a great producer of excellent recordings and a good friend, and because, like almost everyone in my generation, I venerate Leonard Cohen. As soon as I began seeking out my own musical preferences, Cohen’s songs were among my few favorites and had a major influence on my own progression as a songwriter. For the project, I was drawn to a relatively obscure piece that was new to me, ‘Coming Back To You.’ Larry opted to cut the song in Cohen’s original key, which was certainly at the bottom of my own range. But somehow moving me out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So, breathe a deep sigh and, drink up…”

The album’s 12 tracks offer a range of Cohen’s compositions, with songs drawn from his beloved 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen all the way up to selections from his final album, You Want It Darker, released just days before his death in 2016. The set covers some of his best-known classics and less familiar deep cuts, all given new life through thoughtful and unexpected arrangements and performances. The resulting collection is ultimately reminiscent of the concept that guided Klein’s production of Herbie Hancock’s 2007 album, River: The Joni Letters, which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year (and on which one of the featured singers was, in fact, Leonard Cohen).

On “Famous Blue Raincoat,” Rateliff is accompanied by saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, guitarist Bill Frisell, pedal steel guitarist Greg Liesz, pianist Kevin Hays, organist Larry Goldings, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Nate Smith.

“Leonard Cohen has been a massive influence on me since I was very young,” says Rateliff. “When I was asked to be a part of this project, I sent a huge list of songs that I wanted to do, honestly it was hard to pick. So many songs of his are my favorite songs of all time. ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ was one of my early Cohen favs. It was truly a pleasure to work with such great musicians on this arrangement and to have Larry Klein at the helm was just a treat.”

Watch the video for Rateliff’s performance of “Famous Blue Raincoat”

Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen Track Listing
Steer Your Way – Norah Jones
Here It Is – Peter Gabriel
Suzanne – Gregory Porter
Hallelujah – Sarah McLachlan
Avalanche – Immanuel Wilkins
Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye – Luciana Souza
Coming Back to You – James Taylor
You Want It Darker – Iggy Pop
If It Be Your Will – Mavis Staples
Seems So Long Ago, Nancy – David Gray
Famous Blue Raincoat – Nathaniel Rateliff
Bird on The Wire – Bill Frisell

Watch the brief album trailer

Related: A new documentary HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song, premiered in 2022

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