The original 'Best Of' (the one with the brownish cover and the sexy smoking picture on the back, which opens with 'Suzanne') is definitely the classic in-road. And it's wonderful. I love it. It's one of my most-listened to records ever. The essential early classics.
However, I think I am unusual in that I am a big fan of mid-period Leonard Cohen; that's where all my absolute favourite songs are - his less-classic songs to me are where he gets really interesting. It's where he tended to get a lot darker, funnier and sexier - all the really outrageous stuff (see: 'The Future', 'Don't Go Home with Your Hard-On', 'I'm Your Man', etc). I love 'New Skin for the Old Ceremony' because it generally sounds drunk and angry (and I am often both) - it's patchy but visceral, with flashes of brilliance. Isn't that what it's all about? And of course 'The Future' must be pretty much the funniest, bleakest album of all time.
'Old Ideas' is a very underrated album, in my humble opinion. I think it's up there with his very best. It came out in 2012, and he was obviously looking very seriously at his mortality and his legacy at this point, with his trademark religious themes - and a really sly sense of humour.
I'm always saying it - humour is the most under-appreciated theme of his work, and this album really nails it for me. As soon as he became old enough, he really started playing up to the dirty old man theme and it fitted him like a leather glove.
On a train yesterday, the song 'Anyhow' (from 'Old Ideas') came up on iPod shuffle, and I had to listen to it a few times in a row. Dear reader, I was almost LOLing in the aisles (especially if you imagine these words in his slow, gravelly, deadpan delivery). What a naughty, sexy old devil he was...
I know it really is a pity
The way you treat me now.
I know you can’t forgive me -
But forgive me anyhow.
The ending got so ugly,
I even heard you say
You never ever loved me -
But could you love me anyway?
I dreamed about you, baby
You were wearing half your dress.
I know you have to hate me -
But could you hate me less?
I used up all my chances
And you’ll never take me back.
But there ain’t no harm in asking -
Could you cut me one more slack?
I’m naked and I’m filthy
And there’s sweat upon my brow.
And both of us are guilty
Have mercy on me, baby
After all, I did confess.
Even though you have to hate me -
Could you hate me less?
Oh, Leonard - you're like the worst kind of boyfriend and I just can't seem to quit you. Admitting you were wrong - oh-so-charmingly - does not make it OK. But I'll forgive you anyway. Always. There ain't no harm in asking.