Leonard Cohen – The Future

Leonard Cohen’s The Future first hit my audio radar as a result of the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. “Waiting for the Miracle” first captured my attention, but it didn’t take long for the rest of the songs to develop a tight grip on my senses. Cohen’s deep and commanding vocals, accentuating his contemplative and sometimes haunting lyrics, draw forth an unexpected range of emotion.

Previously, my sole exposure to this album came via 16-bit /44.1k CD-quality sound. Stumbling across Music On Vinyl’s analog reissue was a happy accident. The LP meets my high expectations in two important ways. It has more presence, and sounds as if I stepped a few rows forward in the auditorium. The second notable improvement pertains to the vocals. The digital glare on the CD pleasantly disappears. The range and texture of Cohen’s voice is beautifully rendered, and front and center in the mix. It’s also appropriately “sized” in the stereo image.

Disappointments exist, however. Like those on the CD, instruments still can sound repressed. While drums, piano, and guitar offer a reasonable level of realism on “Always,” the same instruments lack detail and presence on other fare. On the title track, for instance, cymbal strikes offer little impact, ring, and decay. The tambourine’s sparkle outshines them. Strings are also hit-and-miss. On the instrumental “Tacoma Trailer,” both piano and strings illustrate a step-up in sonics when compared the CD. However, it’s still not transparent enough to be mistaken for live sound.

Perhaps the source material has inherent limitations, and there’s little else to dig out of it. Or perhaps vocal quality remained the absolute top priority for the reissue, even if it meant some tradeoffs were necessary. Truth be told, the captivating vocals initially sold me on the album, so the latter scenario is an acceptable compromise. While the overall experience leaves me wanting more, having The Future available on a good vinyl pressing makes up for the deficiencies. –Rob Johnson

Columbia/Music On Vinyl, 180g LP