This is the start of a series of stray tracks albums from Leonard Cohen. Now, usually when I post a stray tracks album from someone, it's all songs that don't appear on the official albums. But with Cohen, there aren't a lot of rarities. However, in his case, his quality control is so high that I think even his alternate versions are interesting, so this includes those as well.
I'm proud to say that I've included some serious rarities that probably aren't even known to most die-hard Cohen fans. Cohen's musical career began in 1967 with the release of his first album, "Songs of Leonhard Cohen." However, he actually had a career as a poet and novelist that started in the mid-1950s, with a number of popular books. There was a gradual shift with him doing some poem recitations, poem recitations with backing music, and then full-on songs. I found a few poem recitations set to music from 1965, as well as one from 1968. Plus, there are some straight-up poem recitations without music.
All of those were not only unreleased, they were very hard to find. Furthermore, they were in bad shape, often with so many pops and crackles (obviously from a well-played vinyl album) that it was a tough listen. But I turned to my musical associate MZ and asked for his help. He cleaned them up to a remarkable degree. There's still some crackling, but it's nothing compared to what it used to be.
Most of the rest of the songs here are bonus tracks from his first three albums. There are some unique songs, and also some early alternate versions of songs. (Note that "Dress Rehearsal Rag" is a bonus track from the 1971 album "Songs of Love and Hate," but it was actually recorded in 1968, so it fits within this time frame.)
In 1966, Cohen gave a public performance in New York City. It was mostly filled with poem recitations and excerpts from his books, but he finished it with "The Stranger Song." That may well be the first time Cohen sang one of his sings in front of an audience. At least, it's the first time one got recorded for posterity.
This album is short, at only 33 minutes.
Note that in 2023, I found out there was a copyright extension release that is extremely rare, and contains more studio outtakes from this time period, including previously unknown songs like "In the Middle of the Night" and "The Beach of Idios." If anyone has that, PLEASE share, so I can add to this album!
UPDATE: On November 23, 2023, I updated the mp3 download file. I removed "The Stranger Song" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" because they're BBC performances and I'm putting them on a BBC album instead. I also removed the bonus track of Richie Havens performing "Priests," since I've found a Cohen version of that song and will put it on a different album soon. I added the poem "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot," and upgraded a couple of bonus track poems to go on the regular album, "For E. J. P." and "You Have the Lovers."01 Twelve O'Clock Chant (Leonard Cohen)
02 Out of the Land of Heaven [Poem for Marc Chagall] (Leonard Cohen)
03 Twelve O'Clock Chant [Reprise] (Leonard Cohen)
04 God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot [Poem] (Leonard Cohen)
05 Store Room (Leonard Cohen)
06 Blessed Is the Memory (Leonard Cohen)
07 You Have the Lovers [Poem] (Leonard Cohen)
08 The Stranger Song (Leonard Cohen)
09 For E. J. P. [Poem] (Leonard Cohen)
10 Gift (Leonard Cohen)
11 Bird on the Wire [Early Version] (Leonard Cohen)
12 You Know Who I Am [Early Version] (Leonard Cohen)
13 Dress Rehearsal Rag [Early Version] (Leonard Cohen)
In looking for a photo for the cover art, I found lots of photos of Cohen from his early years, but all of them were in black and white. Luckily, there's a color video of Cohen's appearance on the BBC with host Julie Felix, so I took a screenshot of him from that video.