A few attributes all but guarantee an album is going to be hit or miss. As a general rule, compilations, tributes, live albums, soundtracks and cover albums can aspire to mediocrity at best. When all of these come together in one album, as they do on Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man– the soundtrack for the film of the same name–the results are, unsurprisingly, middling.
The strongest cuts on the album are mainly tied to one family: the Wainwrights/McGarricles. Martha Wainwright kicks things off with a passionate version of “Tower of Song” before joining her mother and aunt, Kate and Anna McGarricle respectively, for an ethereal rendition of “Winter Lady.” Martha’s better known brother, Rufus, also performs two of the stronger songs on the soundtrack. If there was ever a perfect candidate to cover Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” a song about casual sex with a fellow musician, Rufus is it.
The Wainwrights/McGarricles aren’t the only ones who shine. Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons fame, puts his stunning voice to work on “If it be your Will,” former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker does his best gravelly Cohen voice and U2 manage to keep themselves restrained on their duet with Cohen that closes out the disc.
The rest of it doesn’t fare as well. Though no song is awful–the possible exception being Perla Battalla’s absurd attempt at “Bird on the Wire”–most are simply forgettable.
Considering everything Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man has stacked up against it, the album makes an amicable push for relevance. Sadly, that small achievement will only be recognized by Cohen junkies.