Warren Zevon doing Leonard Cohen…the old masters at work. While the two auteurs approach to their craft is obviously different, Cohen and Zevon were far from diametric; working the same seam, exorcising tales of the human condition — not to mention their own demons — through song. Not surprisingly, the similarities and contrasts of Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman immediately come to mind.

An inspired cover, Zevon’s live reworking of “First We Take Manhattan” injects a bitter bite into the Cohen original (found on the 1988 LP, I’m Your Man). Ditching both the synthpop and attitude of the source material, Zevon’s version is all slathering snarl and paced like a dystopic “Lawyers, Guns And Money.” Listen closely and you can almost sense the caustic sneer spread across Zevon’s lips.

MP3: Warren Zevon :: First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen cover)

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8 Responses to “Warren Zevon :: First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)”

  1. Sounds like this was from when he was backed by Canadian rockers The Odds. Is this the Live @ the Empire Concert Club in Cleveland radio broadcast?

  2. I write about Leonard Cohen frequently on my site and also admire Warren Zevon so this cover is naturally a favorite. I like Zevon’s own comments before performing “First We Take Manhattan” at the Empire Club, Cleveland, Jan 5, 1992:,

    “I think the only three singer-songwriters I can stand since Bob Dylan are all Canadian. What do you think about that? So, we’re going to do a Leonard Cohen song for you here. [indecipherable] I was born to sing this song.” [emphasis mine]

    After finishing the song, Zevon adds,

    “I bet Leonard Cohen doesn’t perspire like this. Neither does John Updike.”

  3. Just an amazing song, no matter who sings it. I’ve always loved REM’s take, but this version is so good in a completely different way.

  4. @chandler – yessir, exactly

  5. We recently took a look at Warren Zevon’s Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School in an edition of Fresh Fossils. See if we named it a Verified Classic, Dust Collector, or Garage Sale Fodder here: http://www.earbuddy.net/2011/09/fresh-fossils-vol-2-warren-zevons-bad.html

  6. I’ve always loved REM’s cover of First We Take Manhattan off of the I’m Your Fan tribute album. It’s one of the best things REM has ever done. I never get tired of it.

  7. [...] Cover Alert: Warren Zevon tackles Leonard Cohen [...]

  8. Another great man. I am doing Splendid Isolation (even though Pete Yorn did it).

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