Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan and Mavis Staples are among the heavy hitters appearing on the new Leonard Cohen tribute album Here It Is, which will arrive Oct. 14 from Blue Note. The 12-track project was produced by longtime Cohen friend Larry Klein and is led by Taylor’s cover of “Coming Back to You,” originally found on Cohen’s 1984 album Various Positions.
“Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” Klein says. “He was possibly the wisest and funniest friend that I had, and someone that I enjoyed, immensely, in every way. After he passed away, I found myself frequently covering his songs with other artists that I was working with. One reason, of course, is that the songs are so good — in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever — but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”
To celebrate Cohen, who died at 82 in 2016, Klein rounded up “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world” as the album’s core backing band, including guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Nate Smith. Pedal steal great Greg Leisz and organist Larry Goldings also appear.
Taylor’s rendition of “Coming Back to You” features a very uncharacteristic, deep vocal performance from the veteran singer/songwriter — one “which was certainly at the bottom of my own range,” he says. “But somehow moving me out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So, breathe a deep sigh and, drink up.”
Pop sings Cohen’s classic “You Want It Darker” on Here It Is, bringing to mind a legendary story about the two artists replying to a personal ad from a woman seeking “the poetic sensitivity of Leonard Cohen and the raw power of Iggy Pop.” Elsewhere, McLachlan performs “Hallelujah,” which itself is the subject of the 2021 documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song, while Jones covers “Steer Your Way” and Gabriel handles the album’s title track.
“It was an immensely gratifying experience to re-contextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” Klein says. “I hope that this musical language that we developed together, the context that we put these things in, makes the songs connect with people in a new way.”
Here is the track list for Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen:
“Steer Your Way,” Norah Jones
“Here It Is,” Peter Gabriel
“Suzanne,” Gregory Porter
“Hallelujah,” Sarah McLachlan
“Avalanche,” Immanuel Wilkins
“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” Luciana Souza
“Coming Back to You,” James Taylor
“You Want It Darker,” Iggy Pop
“If It Be Your Will,” Mavis Staples
“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy,” David Gray
“Famous Blue Raincoat,” Nathaniel Rateliff
“Bird on the Wire,” Bill Frisell