Whine and cheese with a twist of joie de vivre

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

ICON­O­CLAST that he is, Leonard Co­hen has po­larised lis­ten­ers through the years. Those who have put down his work as ‘‘ mu­sic to slit your wrists by’’ will have rea­son to re­vise their opin­ion af­ter lis­ten­ing to Syd­ney band Mon­sieur Camem­bert and friends’ up­lift­ing trib­ute. Even those who wor­ship at his shrine may see the ep­i­thetic Bard of Bed­sit Land in a dif­fer­ent light. While there have been myr­iad cov­ers of his songs, the eclec­tic Mon­sieur Camem­bert ensem­ble ex­erts a dif­fer­ent kind of ex­per­tise, putting reg­gae, tango, klezmer, Latin and other global lilts on a jazz and swing base to a score of the vet­eran Cana­dian singer- song­writer’s pieces. Recorded live, Fa­mous Blue Cheese puts the ac­cent on the com­poser’s un­der­rated melodies as much as his po­etic lyrics. Head cheese Yaron Hal­lis’s singing brings a mea­sure of joie de vivre miss­ing in the lugubri­ously de­liv­ered orig­i­nals. Four fine fe­male guest singers in­ter­pret ad­mirably, though Abby Dob­son’s and Elana Stone’s ver­sions of Hal­lelu­jah and Suzanne, re­spec­tively, fall not un­ex­pect­edly shy of Jeff Buck­ley’s and Nina Si­mone’s clas­sic ren­di­tions. Carla Werner’s ver­sion of The Guests will not be sub­jected to such odi­ous com­par­isons. The Fu­ture, given a Dix­ieland makeover, and Mem­o­ries, which comes with doo- wop em­bel­lish­ment, stand in their own right. The 10: 22 run­ning time of Ev­ery­body Knows al­lows the vo­cal­ists to al­ter­nate verses and the in­stru­men­tal­ists to stretch out. An Ital­ian taran­tella- es­que read­ing of Clos­ing Time and Dance Me to the End of Love, the lat­ter with an in­fec­tious hum- along cho­rus, en­sures a rous­ing fin­ish. Mon­sieur Camem­bert has suc­ceeded in do­ing jus­tice to the songs’ emo­tional, lyri­cal and melodic in­tent while adding a new di­men­sion. The dou­ble album al­lows a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Co­hen’s ge­nius. The old griz­zler should be eter­nally grate­ful.

Tony Hil­lier

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