Lennard Torbijn Reveals Variations Between Mono & Stereo Versions Of 1967 Songs Of Leonard Cohen

Lennard Torbijn1 of the Netherlands writes:

I have discovered a previously undocumented variation between versions of Leonard Cohen’s first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1967).

What’s the deal?

Leonard Cohen’s debut album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, was released as both a mono record (rare) and a stereo record (common). Now, the most significant difference between a mono mix and stereo mix boils down to this: in the mono mix the sound from the left speaker and the right speaker is exactly the same, whereas in the stereo version, the audio signal driven through the left speaker can be different from that driven through the right speaker. Consequently, in stereo, certain instruments may predominate on either the right or left side.

The academic in me wanted to consider the question of whether there are differences between the mono mix and the stereo mix of the album. Since my dad owns both versions of Songs Of Leonard Cohen I played them side by side for comparison’s sake.

And here is what I found.

In general, the mono and stereo versions of Songs Of Leonard Cohen contain not only the same songs but also the same takes of every song.

However, two songs on the mono album – Master Song and Winter Lady – contain an instrument that is not present on the stereo version of the album. I find these differences, however small, very exciting. It is like finding a treasure buried for years!

Master Song

The differences in Master Song are minor but nonetheless intriguing. The third verse of this song (from 1m22s onward) introduces a brass instrument – a trumpet or trombone of some sort – in the background. This is true for both the mono and stereo versions of the song.

In the last two lines (“Now your love is a secret all over the block, and it never stops not even when your master fails”), however, this brass instrument is absent in the stereo mix but returns in the mono mix.

Master Song (Mono)


Winter Lady

The differences in Winter Lady are far more obvious. In the mono mix, Cohen has barely started fingerpicking the first beats of the opening chord when an upright bass joins the arrangement (which accompanies the song for the rest of its duration). In the stereo mix this upright bass isn’t there at all!

Winter Lady (Mono)


Final Notes

Because the mono mix has not been released except in its initial 1967 vinyl format, I have digitized the mono LP myself using my own turntable, receiver, amplifier and computer, which makes for an easy listen, and so now the world can now enjoy the mono mix!

To listen to the stereo mix, you’d best turn on Spotify or any other release of Songs Of Leonard Cohen in your collection. Also, I advise listening to these songs with a pair of headphones so that you can hear everything in the recording more clearly and so distinguish the differences between the two mixes yourself.

Hope this is of the same interest to you as it has been to me!

Note: Lennard Torbijn will be inspecting Leonard Cohen’s second album, Songs From A Room, next. Stay tuned.

  1. Lennard Torbijn has made several previous contributions to this site. See, for example, The Marianne Variations: Leonard Cohen’s 4/4 Version of So Long, Marianne and “Field Commander Cohen” By Leonard Cohen – A Dossier []

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