Hallelujah, Round Two

Thanks for Petellius for the suggestion:

John Cale vs. Allison Crowe.


  1. AnotherCoward says

    Allison wins.

    Though, I’m still inclined to say Buckley’s is superior to either of them.

    The one minor exception might be the “there was a time when you let me know … ” verse .. I think Allison pulls that one off a little more convincingly than either of the other. but instrumentally, i’m more inclined towards buckley.

  2. Wow, mentioned on the front page. I finally made the big time!

    First, biases out in the open: I am a big partisan of Cale on this point, though I far prefer the piano-only version off the “I’m Your Fan” Leonard Cohen tribute album. The strings in the live version from YouTube just muddle up the effect.

    What I think is interesting about the history of the song is that Cale has defined the song almost as much as Cohen did. That is, Cohen wrote 15 verses, recorded some of them on the album “Various Positions,” and recorded a different (but partly overlapping) set of verses on his later album “Cohen Live.” Cale recorded his cover in ’91, and both his selection of verses and (to varying extents) his stripped-down instrumentation have been adopted by all subsequent covers. No one since, as far as I know, has drawn on the other 10 verses. So in a sense, someone like Rufus Wainwright or Jeff Buckley is not really covering Cohen. They are covering Cale covering Cohen.

    The importance of the verse selection is brought out in this article from the Times of London, where the omission of certain of Cohen’s original verses makes a huge difference in how to read the song:


    (For the record, I actually find some of the omitted verses quite effective, and don’t entirely agree with the critic from the Times. In particular, I think that there is great power in the original final verse’s hope in something higher after the look at the failure of eroticism. But we at least agree on the fact that Cale’s version is the best of the covers.)

  3. One other thing I just found:



  4. Allison Crowe’s performances are amazing – all the more so because they’re invariably live.

    Buckley recorded and re-recorded parts for the version on Grace.

    Cale definitely deserves credit for distilling the song to its essence. Lyrically, all versions since have been shaped by his interpretation.

    As for listening, I’d choose the Crowe album recording above any and all versions.

  5. p.s. not that everything need be recorded live, but, too much pre-meditation makes the Buckley studio version sound arch to my ears – though, not all hear it that way

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