Leonard Cohen: Avalanche

March 20, 2008

An early Leonard Cohen song revisited in a live performance in San Sebastian in 1988. Cohen’s performance here hasn’t changed much from his original recording. A dark and galloping song. There is no dominant in the opening verse. His sexy flat-six chord has three notes of a French augmented-6th chord (F A B) with a ringing E before it finally resolves to the dominant; a distinctively Spanish sound. Chord progressions that feature a fall from flat-six to the dominant include IV6 to V, the three augmented-6th chords, McCartney’s parallel bVI-flat7 to V7 (“Honey Pie”), and now this chord, which could be described as a flat-six with a flat 5 and a major 7th. The F A moves down to E G#, while the B E are common tones between the two chords. I propose we call this a Spanish flat-VI chord. It is a common progression in Flamenco guitar literature. This harmonic progression is the most violent move in the song.


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