Leonard Cohen's album 'Popular Problems'.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two venerable Jewish entertainers are proving that entering their golden years doesn’t mean a deterioration in quality. Barbara Streisand is topping the charts with Partners, an album featuring reinterpretations of 12 previously recorded songs on duets with male counterparts including Billy Joel, John Legend, Stevie Wonder and John Mayer.
That means we have a bossa nova version of “People” featuring Wonder on harmonica, a remake of “The Way We Were” with Lionel Richie and a sleek “What Kind of Fool” with John Legend taking over for the original’s Barry Gibb.
There’s even a kind of creepy posthumous duet with Elvis Presley on “Love Me Tender.”
Despite some hit or miss performances on this vanity project, upon the album’s release last month the 72-year-old diva made musical history by becoming the first musical artist in history to top the Billboard album charts in each of the last six decades. For Streisand, it’s still the way we are, not were.
The same could be said for Cohen, who released Popular Problems
a couple days after turning 80. With his deep growl of a voice sounding more prophet-like with every new album and the song’s rhythms slowing to a crawl, Popular Problems, written with collaborator Patrick Leonard (of Madonna fame), will be loved by Cohen’s multitudes of fans and shrugged off by everyone else.
Like his latter work, the music mixes jazz, country and blues balladry with the usual addition of distinctive instruments like the dobro and choruses of female backup singers galore.
“Almost Like the Blues” may bring listeners closest to his glory days, but all of the tracks are worthy additions to Cohen’s canon. In the plaintive acoustic closer, “You Got Me Singing,” he hints at what keeps him going. “You got me thinking that I’d like to carry on/You got me singing/Even though it all looks grim/You got me singing the hallelujah hymn.”
Let’s hope he continues to on that path until 120.