Personnel: Leonard Cohen (vocals, acoustic guitar, Jew's harp); Gail Kantor (vocals); Jeff Laton (guitar, banjo, mandolin, trumpet); Ralph Gibson (guitar); Lewis Furey (viola); John Lissauer (woodwinds, keyboards, background vocals); Gerald Chamberlain (trombone); John Miller , Don Payne (bass instrument); Barry Lazarowitz (drums, percussion); Roy Markowitz (drums); Armen Halburian (percussion); Erin Dickins, Emily Bindiger, Janis Ian (background vocals).
Though it is the least acclaimed of Leonard Cohen's early albums, NEW SKIN is one of his best, easily the equal of its three predecessors. It is much more ambitious than Cohen's previous efforts in terms of songwriting, but the production is nevertheless understated and tasteful. The urgent delivery and rhythmic drive of "Lover Lover Lover" and "There is a War" makes it seem like the young David Byrne spent as much time absorbing Cohen as he did Jonathan Richman. Ever the rake, Cohen makes a sly romantic appeal to an objet d'amour on the low-key, dixieland jazz-inflected "Why Don't You Try."
NEW SKIN is full of emotionally harrowing moments. On "Is This What You Wanted," Cohen is haunted by the ghost of a relationship that may not even be over yet. "A Singer Must Die" finds him taken to task by the world at large (and himself) for some imagined treason intrinsic to his chosen profession. As effective as they are, these tumultuous scenarios are wisely offset by the black humor of the aforementioned "Why Don't You Try" and the over-the-top "Leaving Greensleeves." In all, this is one of Cohen's strongest and most overlooked albums.
Spin (p.101) - "[H]e makes something fragile and true out of every confessional creep-out."
Q (7/96, p.133) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...Cohen combines the raw, forlorn, bitter, deadpan and throwaway, moulding an atmosphere of wistful misery..."