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2009: Leonard Cohen's Stellar Comeback Year Capped By DVD Debut Of 1970 Concert Performance

Nearly 40 summers ago on August 31, 1970, 35-year-old Leonard Cohen was awakened at 2 a.m. from a nap in his trailer and brought onstage to perform with his band at the third annual Isle Of Wight music festival. The audience of 600,000 was in a fiery and frenzied mood, after turning the festival into a political arena, trampling the fences, setting fire to structures and equipment - and stoked by the most incendiary performance of Jimi Hendrix's career, less than three weeks before his death.

As Cohen followed Hendrix's set, onlookers (and fellow festival headliners) Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Judy Collins and others stood sidestage in awe as the Canadian folksinger-songwriter-poet-novelist quietly tamed the crowd. Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner, whose footage of the 1970 festival did not begin to see release until 1995, was able to capture Cohen's performance. Likewise, Columbia Records staff A&R producer Teo Macero, who was ostensibly there to record Miles Davis' set, did a brilliant job of supervising Cohen's live recording as well.

Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' is a fascinating and timely portrait of the artist as a young man, just three years into his recording career (though he was already a published poet and novelist for 15 years). As he mesmerizes the Isle Of Wight audience, Cohen intersperses a baker's dozen songs with tales both real and apocryphal, as well as a handful of his poems. In pristine condition after nearly four decades in the archive, the video and audio programs will be available together as a deluxe two-disc DVD+CD package at all physical and digital retail outlets starting October 20th through Columbia/Legacy, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. A double-LP vinyl set and Blu-ray, will be released on the same date.

The CD (and double-LP) of 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' represent the 77-minute concert set as performed by Cohen and his backup band: Bob Johnston (Cohen's Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer), and Nashville musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar), and Elkin 'Bubba' Fowler (bass, banjo). They were joined by backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn. During the course of their European tour - which Cohen only agreed to undertake if Johnston (producer of Cohen's most recent LP, 'Songs From A Room') would manage him and organize the
band - the group began to call themselves The Army, owing to the battles they were subjected to by audiences on the road.

The DVD (and Blu-ray) of 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' is a masterwork by Murray Lerner, known for his work on Festival!, his Oscar-nominated 1969 documentary of the Newport Folk Festivals. His work on that film spurred the Isle Of Wight promoters to bring him aboard and document their festival - whose violence turned it into the last of the three original Isle Of Wight festivals of 1968, 1969, and 1970. (Bob Dylan put the festival on the map when he performed there in 1968, his first public performance since recovering from his fabled motorcycle crash of 1966.)

Lerner's Isle of Wight footage went unfunded for decades until 1995, when the multi-artist Message To Love (with its brief snippet of Cohen singing "Suzanne") was finally issued on video. Since then, Lerner's documentary-style Isle of Wight videos on the 1970 performances by Miles Davis, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix have inspired a new generation of music fans. In 1980, Lerner's From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern In China won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Adding further historic provenance to 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' is a newly commissioned 2,000-word liner notes essay written by veteran British rock journalist and BBC commentator Sylvie Simmons. Author of well-received biographies on Neil Young (Reflections In Broken Glass, 2003), Serge Gainsbourg
and others, Simmons previously wrote liner notes for the 2003 Sony International compilation MOJO Presents An Introduction To Leonard Cohen.

"Before he sang," Simmons writes, "Cohen talked to the hundreds of thousands of people he couldn't see. He told them - sedately - a story that sounded like a parable and a bedtime story that worked like hypnotism and at the same time tested the temperature of the crowd. He described how his father would take him to the circus as a child. Leonard didn't much like circuses, but he enjoyed the part where a man would stand up and ask everyone to light a match so they could locate each other in the darkness. 'Can I ask each of you to light a match,' Leonard asked the audience, 'so I can see where you all are?'"

All but three of the songs on 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' originated on Cohen's first two LPs, his debut 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen' from 1967 ("So Long, Marianne," "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong," "The Stranger Song," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye," "Suzanne"); and 'Songs From A Room' from 1969 ("Bird On The Wire," "You Know Who I Am," "Tonight Will Be Fine," "The Partisan," "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"). The three other songs - "Diamonds In The Mine," "Sing Another Song Boys," and "Famous Blue Raincoat" - were destined for Cohen's third album, 1971's 'Songs of Love and Hate' (which actually reprised the Isle of Wight live version of "Sing Another Song Boys").

The October 20th release of 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' coincides with the next leg of Cohen's first full-scale U.S. tour in 15 years, opening October 17th at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida (Fort Lauderdale), ending November 13th at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. (Please see complete itinerary below.)

Cohen made history earlier this year when - in between critically acclaimed concerts in Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand - he played New York's Beacon Theatre in February, followed by California's Coachella Festival in April. These were his first U.S. performances since 1994, the year that he commenced a five-year retreat at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center atop a mountain in the San Gabriel Forest.

Cohen returned to recording and touring in 1999, when he released the studio album 'Ten New Songs' in 2001. The live album 'Field Commander Cohen' came in 2001 (culled from British tour dates back in 1979); and the studio album 'Dear Heather' in 2004. 2006 marked the release of 'Blue Alert', the debut album by Anjani Thomas, a protégé of Cohen since the '80s, produced by Cohen, with all songs co-written by Cohen and Anjani.

Leonard Cohen has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1991, Cohen was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2003, a Companion to the Order of Canada - the latter of which is Canada's highest civilian honor recognizing a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. On March 10, 2008, Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame at the 23rd annual dinner ceremony and was made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in June
2008.

In March 2009, Cohen released 'Live In London' as a DVD and as a separate double-CD package. The concert was recorded at the O2 Arena in 2008 and received 5-star reviews and in Canada the DVD is Triple Platinum and the CD is Platinum.

Along the way, Leonard Cohen became the first Canadian-born artist 'inducted' into Legacy Recordings' prestigious Essential series - when 'The Essential Leonard Cohen' was issued in 2002. The 31-song compilation was personally chosen by the artist, with selections that ranged from 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen' through 2001's 'Ten New Songs'. In May 2007, Columbia/Legacy issued expanded editions of 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen', 'Songs From A Room', and 'Songs Of Love and Hate', each with multiple tracks of previously unreleased bonus material.

All of the tracks on 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970' were written by Leonard Cohen except the highly-charged "The Partisan," originally a French song of World War II heroism and resistance. The English translation was penned by Tin Pan Alley songsmith Hy Zaret, of "Unchained Melody" and "One Meatball" renown. Joan Baez had been singing "The Partisan" for years, and at Isle of Wight Cohen dedicated the song to her "and the work she is doing." (Baez finally got around to recording "The Partisan" on her 1972 album, 'Come From the Shadows', whose title came from a line in the song.)

Joan Baez - whose performance preceded Hendrix at Isle of Wight - is among the quartet of fellow festival performers who bear witness to Lerner in 2009, along with Judy Collins, Bob Johnston, and Kris Kristofferson. Their interviews add to the historic impact of 'Live At The Isle of Wight 1970.'

"It was a brilliant performance," Simmons writes, "and Lerner's cameras captured Cohen's commanding presence, hypnotist's charm, and an intimacy that would seem unfeasible in such a vast, inhospitable space." As Johnston sums up, "It was magical, from the first moment to the last. I've never seen anything like it. He was just remarkable."

DVD + CD:


LEONARD
COHEN LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970




Disc One: DVD - Chapters: 1. Intro: Diamonds In The Mine • 2. Famous Blue Raincoat • 3. "It's A Large Nation"4. Bird On The Wire • 5. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong • 6. The Stranger Song • 7. Tonight Will Be Fine • 8. "They've Surrounded The Island"9. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye • 10. Sing Another Song Boys • 11. Judy Collins Introduces Suzanne12. Suzanne • 13. Joan Baez On The Isle Of Wight14. The Partisan • 15. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy • 16. Credits: So Long, Marianne • Bonus Interviews: Bob JohnstonJudy CollinsJoan Baez
Kris Kristofferson
.

Disc Two: CD - Selections: 1. Introduction • 2. Bird On The Wire • 3. Intro to So Long, Marianne • 4. So Long, Marianne • 5. Intro: "Let's renew ourselves now..." • 6. You Know Who I Am • 7. Intro to Poems • 8. Lady Midnight • 9. They Locked Up A Man (poem)/A Person Who Eats Meat/Intro • 10. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong • 11. The Stranger Song • 12. Tonight Will Be Fine • 13. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye • 14. Diamonds In The Mine • 15. Suzanne • 16. Sing Another Song, Boys • 17. The Partisan • 18. Famous Blue Raincoat • 19. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.

Blu-ray


LEONARD COHEN LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970




Chapters: 1. Intro: Diamonds In The Mine • 2. Famous Blue Raincoat • 3. "It's A Large Nation"4. Bird On The Wire • 5. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong • 6. The Stranger Song • 7. Tonight Will Be Fine • 8. "They've Surrounded The Island"9. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye • 10. Sing Another Song Boys • 11. Judy Collins Introduces Suzanne12. Suzanne • 13. Joan Baez On The Isle Of Wight14. The Partisan • 15. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy • 16. Credits: So Long, Marianne • Bonus Interviews: Bob JohnstonJudy CollinsJoan BaezKris Kristofferson.

Vinyl double-LP:


LEONARD COHEN LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970

LP One: Selections - Side one: 1. Introduction • 2. Bird On The Wire • 3. Intro to So Long, Marianne • 4. So Long, Marianne • 5. Intro: "Let's renew ourselves now..." • 6. You Know Who I Am • Side two: 1 Intro to Poems • 2 Lady Midnight • 3 They Locked Up A Man (poem)/A Person Who Eats Meat/Intro • 4 One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong • 5 The Stranger Song.

LP Two: Selections - Side one: 1. Tonight Will Be Fine • 2. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye • 3. Diamonds In The Mine • 4. Suzanne • Side two: 1 Sing Another Song, Boys • 2 The Partisan • 3 Famous Blue Raincoat • 4 Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.