Sound: Released exclusively to independent music stores in honor of Record Store Day 2012, this pleasant live E.P. contains songs from a 2008 show in Fredericton, New Brunswick during the same tour that birthed Cohen's previous full-length live album, "Songs From The Road". Only 1,000 copies of this E.P., which includes renditions of "Bird On The Wire", "Who By Fire", "In My Secret Life" and several others, were produced.
Cohen's backing band is in top form on this release, nine musicians strong. The instrumentation is eclectic and relaxed, with bandurias, archilauds, wind instruments, and female backup singers complimenting Cohen's raspy baritone voice which has, over the years, aged like a fine wine. The band is flexible, going from light accompaniment to a full-on old country twang on "Heart With No Companion". Still, a few of Cohen's notes come out a bit flat as he tries to reach pitches that have long left him. // 8
Lyrics: What is there that can be said about Leonard Cohen's lyrics that hasn't already been said? They are poetry at its finest, accessible to anyone and intensely personal to those who have endured longing, heartbreak, and defeat. That isn't to say that Cohen doesn't have his lighter moments. Hopefulness prevails in at least one number, "Dance Me To The End of Love", and Cohen himself seems to be in good humor, speaking in French to his audience briefly before several songs.
Cohen certainly hasn't turned into a heritage act, either, repeating the same material night after night. Not at all. Even now, more than forty years after the release of his first album, he is toying and adjusting his own lyrics, giving many songs a fresh, new identity or perspective by changing a single line or phrase. // 10
Overall Impression: This is a fantastic release from one of the world's best and most renowned songwriters, and, seeing that it was manufactured in such a small quantity, it will become a coveted item in the years to come. The performance itself is wonderfully executed and Cohen is for the most part in top form vocally-emotional and in search of liberation from his own world of despair.
My only problem with this E.P. (apart from it ending too quickly!) is that the material, while excellent, was culled from a series of shows that had already been mined for what makes up "Song From The Road". Two songs, even, were featured on that album, and because of that I can't say that this release is groundbreaking or something completely new and fresh (unlike Cohen's newest studio album, "Old Ideas", which is both).
I was lucky enough to procure a copy of this E.P. on Record Store Day, and I encourage any and all Leonard Cohen fans to go out and see if their local record store has a copy left! // 7