Leonard Cohen Dear Heather

The good news is that our man Leonard has woken up from the nine-year coma that plagued the non-comeback of 2001’s Ten New Songs. Yet this is still a far cry from Cohen’s best work, at times delving into absurd self-parody. The cheesy arrangements are at an all-time low, the worst being the 9/11 elegy "On That Day,” which is foiled by a jarring jaw harp that shakes the foundation of the song’s strength. Only occasionally does this all seem so ridiculous that it demands respect: the title track sounds like it owes a debt to the Barmitzvah Brothers, of all people, and you wouldn’t think a 70-year old icon would be on the same wavelength as a thrift store trio of teenagers. When he’s not sabotaging himself, Cohen comes up with a classical folk melody on "Nightingale,” creates a haunting narrative on "The Letters,” and takes a cheeky look at his ladies’ man rep on "Because Of.” Overall, his mountain monk meditations may be good for his mind, but it’s still having a numbing effect on his once mighty pen. It’s time for Cohen to move back to Montreal and map the Constellation roster as a backing band. Hell, call in the Barmitzvah Brothers, just leave the Kenny G-isms in L.A., Leonard. (Columbia)