Oct 152012

I’ve long been a skeptic regarding the musical value of Leonard Cohen, but I’ve always liked the song “Suzanne.”

As a Beatles diehard who’s never been a big fan of vocal jazz music, I did make an effort to check out Nina Simone shortly after reading that a section of “Michelle” was lifted/inspired by one of her songs. Anything I’ve heard from her is OK. It’s got that jazz singing thing I usually don’t like.

This marriage of “Suzanne” with Nina Simone, however, is a revelation. I suspect the dashiki-wearing band factors into my enjoyment. Nevertheless, is there more like this?

Perhaps there’s an artist who has never otherwise impressed you yet who has one performance that’s caused you to seek recommendations of possibly more similar charms. Who might that be and what’s the one track that’s raised your curiosity? Maybe we can help.


  10 Responses to “More, More, More?”

  1. misterioso

    I’m generally cool with Nina Simone, too, but nothing about this performance does much for me. Maybe I’m just puzzled at your Cohen skepticism.

  2. I have the album” Nina sings Ellington” and the first two tracks are great IMHO. “I like the Sunrise” and “Solitude” (which she does better than Billie Holiday) . These tracks made me go out and find a bunch of early Nina. In getting back to the question, I just picked up the greatest hits of Major Lance. All the songs are by Curtis Mayfield. I kinda like the consistent feel of these songs more then the Impresions. I plan to seek out more Major Lance!

  3. I think E. Pluribus Gergely also appreciates the consistency of Lance’s approach to Mayfield songs. I’m pretty sure he’s got a lot of those records.

  4. Nina recorded a lot of pop stuff at RCA in the late ’60s. Interestingly, she had a particular affinity for the Bee Gees — she recorded several of their early songs, including “Please Read Me,” “To Love Somebody” and “Holiday.”

    She also recorded a completely whacked-out version of Jonathan King’s “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” apparently because her A&R man told her to: it’s deliberately weird and fucked up.

  5. It’s fun hearing people tackle Bee Gees songs. I’ll have to check them out.

  6. I really love the cool, very expressive singing of Nina Simone. She can really put over a song.

  7. BigSteve

    Sorry, but my divaphobia prevents me from enjoying this Cohen cover. This kind of ‘look at me, look at me’ performance irks me.

    Plus I don’t think it makes sense for a woman to sing this song. In general Cohen’s versions of his songs are better than any covers.

  8. misterioso

    Agreed. I can’t think of any Cohen covers that have come close to the originals.

  9. BigSteve, can I commission you to write a “Give Peace a Chance”-type song with lyrics consisting of phobias rather than -isms?

    I know what you mean about divaphobia. That’s typically why I don’t like Nina Simone, but seeing her in full self-absorption is kind of fun and even unintentionally funny. Plus, in this clip, I like the guitarist’s rhythm.

    We are in agreement that this take on “Suzanne” is nowhere near as good as Cohen’s original. I’ll have to pull out that album I have with that song, his first. I bought it because John Simon produced it – you know, I was chasing all Band connections. I remember liking the album when I was down, but all the songs run together. Sometimes I like that on an album.

  10. You guys can laugh your ass off if you’d like, but through my childhood experiences hanging in my uncle’s bedroom I was raised a sucker for Joe Cocker’s live version of “Bird on a Wire.”

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