Review Summary: [i]An absurd collaboration, and a jarring change of direction; but not without moments of great beauty from both artists.[/i]
It goes without saying that Death of a Ladies’ Man
is a strange album. Inherently the pairing of the soft-singing, minimalistic poet, with the indulgent and notably overbearing producer would make for a bizarre outing. With Cohen’s usual folk style being replaced entirely by Spector’s flamboyant orchestral production, ranging from doo-wop to rockabilly. As can be expected from such a drastic creative turn; the reception for this album on its release was not warm. Contemporary reviewers and Cohen fans were confused at the production and collaboration choice, and were largely derisive. Subsequently neither artist collaborated again, making this album perhaps Cohen’s most unique, and polarizing.
Time has warmed the reception towards the album, as it so often does. It still remains however, a highly overlooked album; filled with haunting lyricism and arrangements.
Coming from the then 43 year old Cohen, it is often viewed as a ‘mid-life-crisis’
album, and it explores a range of topics; such as love, inadequacy, and infidelity. A general theme of melancholy not uncommon for Cohen, is shown throughout; and there is a Death
of Cohen’s persona as a Ladies’ man
is the key subject throughout the album; whether it’s out of the narrator’s control in ’Paper Thin Hotel’
, or something that inevitably fails leaving both parties unfulfilled on ’Death of a Ladies man’
. Cohen explores Love
from different perspectives, and often describes it with an air of dissatisfaction and regret. Sex
is to be expected in discussing a Ladies’ man
; and it is a topic explored on most of the songs. Whether it’s sexual inadequacy on ’Iodine’
, or the emptiness in the act itself without love on ’Don’t Go Home With your Hard On’
and the title track, or infidelity
While the album is lyrically consistent, Spector’s nostalgic arrangements bring a musical consistency that is strong for most of the album. Many of the arrangements nod to the music of Cohen’s youth; such as the song ’Memories’
. While the song’s lyrics explore the hormonal lust of the narrator’s teenage days, the strong is strengthened by Spector’s chamber pop production hearkening to the pop of the late 50’s and early 60’s. ’Memories’
being the standout example of this; the doo-wop and chamber pop style is consistent throughout most of the album. Apart from the rockabilly-esque ’Fingerprints’
, a song that is reminiscent to some of Spector’s early 70’s productions with John Lennon and George Harrison; and the pounding ’Don’t Go Home With Your Hard On’
, the production is usually consistent.
That being said, it is definitely not an album for everyone. It is a jarringly different album to anything else Cohen ever did; and the layered and sometimes crowded production choices are neither artists’ best. Death of a Ladies Man
is a truly bizarre album, but it is not without some moments of great lyrical and musical beauty.
True Love Leaves No Traces
Don’t Go Home With Your Hard On