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Suzanne Vega


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

A mixture of contemporary folk, folk/rock, alternative pop, and rock, with some industrial, jazz, and experimental elements

Status:

Most recent releases, Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles (2014)

See also:

Suzanne Vega's site

A fan site

Comparisons:

Joan Baez, Wendy MaHarry. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Has had a similar career and surface resemblance to Tracy Chapman (came out around the same time, long breaks in between albums, sings about social issues, incorporated different elements into their folk as time has went on). Vega's incorporation of elements of jazz, industrial, funk, and rock into her folk is also reminiscent of what Ani DiFranco has been doing. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Covers/own material:

Writes her own, a few covers on tribute albums and one on Songs in Red and Gray.

General comments:

Suzanne Vega's voice is perhaps not the most exciting but her music is very good, often with a dark streak in the lyrics (especially on Days of Open Hand). Her voice is very soft and 'intimate'. (jbr@casetech.dk)

suzanne vega pretty took the mantle in the '80s of bridging rock, alternative, and folk in one fell swoop. granted artists were doing much earlier on (hello joni mitchell?), but still she paved the way for later artists like 10,000 maniacs, edie brickell and lisa loeb to find commercial success.
     suzanne vega's career is rather interesting to look at. i find that she has really progressed as an artist, from her early folk singer stuff to her later percussion based CDs, all the while having one or two random hits ("luka" being one, "tom's diner" being the other). I look forward to her 13 early songs CD that she has talked about releasing, that will feature songs from the first two-album period of her life that she never released as she deemed them too personal at the time.(iflin@speakeasy.net)

Suzanne Vega just exudes intelligence. That's what is most striking about all of her work, which has matured and changed dramatically throughout her long career. Her music is brainy, lyric-driven, and catchy when it's at its finest, showcased by superb production and Vega's very simple and direct voice. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Suzanne Vega is the first musical artist I was ever actually a full-fledged *fan* of; her songs were the first to really grab me and force me to Just Listen. I was lost from the first time I heard "Left of Center", on the low-fi tape dub of the Pretty In Pink soundtrack a now long-lost friend gave me to cure me from my embarrassing mid-'80s pop music obsession. (meth@smoe.org)

And for what it's worth, I first heard Suzanne Vega and hated it. Heard her perform on Saturday Night Live nine months later and fell in love with the just-released Solitude Standing, which led me back to Suzanne Vega, which suddenly clicked. But then 99.9 F° came out and, well, it rocked my world. Industrial folk. Or something. Or not. (burka@jeffrey.net)

I think the main thing is she is just very much her own artist. Nobody sounds like her. I've been a fan of hers for so long now, just not a huge fan. I have owned Days of Open Hand and 99.9 F° for a long time now. I guess the reason I didn't run out and get anything else by her was because only a couple songs really grabbed me, among them "Book of Dreams" which I am just in love with. (RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

I really like "Luka". And, interestingly enough, years ago my college roommate used to be nuts about "Luka" and all of Suzanne Vega's work, but at the time I only had ears for Yes and Rick Wakeman. But now, many years later, I enjoy listening to my complete collection of Suzanne Vega albums. I just find it interesting how he "saw the light" then but I did not until now.
     But I also feel that Suzanne's music is, as the marriage counselling book is titled, "bad enough to leave, but good enough to stay". I can't say that I love all of her stuff, but there's enough there to make me want to keep all of her CDs. Once in a while I get in that mood when her songs with that "desolate, lonely feel" just hit the spot. (bill@wagill.com)

Suzanne Vega's voice has a quiet, introvert beauty. (afries@zip.com.au)

Comments about live performance:

She put on an excellent show. Played for about 2 hours with 2 encores. I was pleased to hear her play "World Before Columbus" (perhaps my fave from Nine Objects of Desire) and she mentioned that she wrote it for her daughter. I hadn't thought of the song in that context before, but it makes sense now. ;-) I'm not sure how long her tour is going to last but I would highly recommend seeing her if she's in your neck of the woods. By the way, this is not a solo tour, she has plenty of help on stage; her husband on keyboards, an electric and bass guitar player along with a drummer. Good stuff! (kcd@cray.com)

She performed well (true to her albums); however I found her visually uninteresting, at least in a stadium format. I think she'd be perfectly entertaining in a smaller venue, perhaps a small coffee house, where you could see her more up close, and watch her subtle talent work its magic. (kammerzj@peak.org)

She ruled. It was a wonderful show, and I'm very very glad we went. It was great to see her do those old songs, both alone with her guitar and with the cool new arrangements of her Acoustic Ensemble. (circa 1999)
     Last night woj and I saw Suzanne Vega at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. It was, as expected, a great show.
     The place was completely sold out—I've never seen such a crowd there. I wasn't surprised, because it's her hometown and I don't think she's played there since the Knitting Factory show a couple years ago. Somehow we managed to get a good spot up near the front, despite getting there just a few minutes before she took the stage. She was with her band, Gerry Leonard on guitars and the ubiquitous Mike Visceglia on bass, and I never did catch the name of the drummer. The set was surprisingly heavy on older material, but that wasn't a bad thing. She started right in with "Marlene On The Wall" and "Small Blue Thing", then proceeded to do my other absolute faves throughout the set ("Gypsy", "The Queen And The Soldier", "Blood Makes Noise"). She also tossed in "Calypso" during the encore. It was like I was back in high school again. :)
     She also did most of the new album, Songs In Red And Gray, which was fun. I think it's her best album since Solitude Standing, and it was good to hear the songs live. She is still recovering from her broken arm, so she only played guitar on a few songs (the absolute classics), but Gerry Leonard is such a great guitar player, it didn't matter much.
     Mike Visceglia is such an amazing bassist, too. He provided the sole accompaniment on a very cool rendition of "Left Of Center" that was the highlight of the show for me. That's the first Suzanne Vega song I ever heard, and it's largely responsible for my discovery of non-top-40 music back in 10th grade.
     It was well worth getting home at 2 am and being an absolute basket case at work today. (10/01, meth@smoe.org)

I got to see Suzanne Vega in concert at the Birchmere. She was in fine form, backed by a 3-piece. She covered a huge repository of material, including really old stuff, like "The Queen and the Soldier" and "Left of Center," which was performed just with a bass guitar and her voice. Like VHI's storytellers, she revealed the inspiration for the songs. For instance, both "In Liverpool" and "Gypsy" were about her first love, an anarchist (or Dada-ist) boyfriend from Liverpool. The new stuff was memorable—I don't yet have the cd, but I remembered several melodies and bits of lyrics, particularly "Soap and Water." At one point, she took requests. She was very witty. (11/01, ethereal_lad@livejournal.com)

Recommended first album:

All of her albums are strong, but very different. I would recommend Solitude Standing or 99.9 F°, but others swear by her eponymous debut, Suzanne Vega. Tried and True provides a nice summary of her varied career, but is tough to find in the U.S. at present. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

As far as her best albums, I would say her first self-titled album and 99.9 F° are my favorites. I don't think I could ever tire of either one. The first one is very stark and poetic. There is usually some sort of band accompaniment on every song, but the focus is on her voice and the acoustic guitar. 99.9 F° is very different. It's sort of an industrial-folk hybrid. Much more instrumentation and experimentation. But really you can't go wrong with any of her albums. Solitude Standing, Days of Open Hand, and even Nine Objects of Desire (the weakest in my opinion) have some of my favorite songs of hers on them. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I think the albums rank: 99.9 F°, Suzanne Vega, Solitude Standing, Nine Objects of Desire, Days of Open Hand. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Not having heard 99.9 F° and discovering her through Nine Objects of Desire first, I would rank her albums: Nine Object of Desire, Days of Open Hand, Solitude Standing, Suzanne Vega. If the sounds of and in "Caramel" is what got you hooked in the first place (as it did me), then I think that the above ordering would be appropriate; Days of Open Hand to me sounds more towards "night-club-trio simple-and-playful", whereas Suzanne Vega to me sounds more towards "folksy and story-telling", with the other albums varying from one end to the other. (bill@wagill.com)

I find her first album her best, although 99.9 F° is excellent. "Small Blue Thing", for example was a piece that captured me completely. (dgp@TheWorld.com)

Recordings:


Suzanne Vega

Release info:

1985—A&M Records—CS 6-5072

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—acoustic guitar, vocals
Jon Gordon—electric guitar
Paul Dugan—The Vertical Bass, bass
Frank Christian—acoustic guitar, electric slide guitar
C.P. Roth—synthesizers, piano, organ
Frank Gravis—bass
Sue Evans—drums, percussion
Steve Addabbo—background vocals, synclavier guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar
John Mahoney—synclavier programming
Maxine Newman—cello
Shem Guibbory—violin
Mark Isham—synthesizers
Darol Anger—electric violin
Roger Squitero—percussion

Produced by:

Lenny Kaye, Steve Addabbo; Steven Miller (co-produced one track)

Comments:

Wow. Suzanne Vega is one of my favorite albums *ever*. I discovered it at a very critical time in my life, and the songs meant so much to me and the album as a whole has so many deep personal connections in my brain, I could never find it boring. Suzanne Vega was a defining moment for me, and to this day I still get a chill when I hear the first notes of "Cracking". "The Queen & the Soldier" one of my favorite songs ever. When I first got the album, back in high school I would just listen to that song over and over and over.... (meth@smoe.org)

I've been a big Vega fan since her debut, when a good friend bought it, and I made fun of him until he put it on the turntable. Man, I can hear "Cracking" like it was the first time again. I was riveted! (colford@chlotrudis.org)

It was only after I bought Solitude Standing and then Suzanne Vega for my dad that I went back and listened to the first album and fell in love with it. Haven't played it in a while, but last weekend I had both "The Queen and the Soldier" and "Knight Moves" stuck in head. Odd. (burka@jeffrey.net)

I am definitely a dissenting opinion, but I think you're better off with any of Vega's other albums. There are a few songs I absolutely love—"The Queen and the Soldier", "Cracking", "Marlene On The Wall"—but overall it's a little wan for me. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

This is an album I can still remember the excitement of hearing for the first several months we owned it (and getting caught up in the lyrics especially in songs like "Cracking" and "Small Blue Thing"). I can bring that feeling back just by putting the album on again. That's staying power! This is still my favourite of her albums by far—there's something so winning about the simplicity and power of the style here. There are few albums that compare with it. No wonder this album blazed a shining trail for hundreds of lesser folk/pop albums to reach the mainstream again after being shut out since the late '60s. It's a marvel. I still thank the friend who suggested we try it. (Neile)

her self-titled debut is the album that made me a mega-fan. "cracking" from is the one which, i think, captures this lonely feeling the most. and it's perfect for cloudy, grey, autumn days when the dead leaves blow. (woj@smoe.org)


Solitude Standing

Release info:

1987—A&M Records—5136

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, acoustic guitar
Michael Visceglia—bass guitar, synth
Anton Sanko—synthesizers, classical guitar
Marc Shulman—electric guitars
Stephen Ferrera—drums, percussion
Jon Gordon—guitar solo
Sue Evans—drums, percussion
Mitch Easter—rhythm guitar
Steve Addabbo—guitar solo
Frank Christian—electric guitar

Guest artists:

Shawn Colvin—background vocals

Produced by:

Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye

Comments:

actually both solitude standing and her first album (Suzanne Vega) were songs pretty much written at the same time. one reason that the second album might not have been as strong as the first (i liked them both actually) is the whole sophomore slump phenomenon which is not a myth but based on practicality. what usually happens is a singer/songwriter is writing songs and songs and songs, and then finally (hopefully) gets signed and releases a solo album. sifting through their entire repertoire of songs they usually cull the best of the best of their catalog and that makes up the first album. if the second album follows soon after, without enough a lag time to write more quality songs, the majority of the album ends up of just leftover songs that didn't quite make it onto the first album. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I had heard little bits of the eponymous album, but largely written them off, when I saw Suzanne appear on Saturday Night Live in the spring of '87. I went into work the next morning at the record store I worked at then, and told my manager that we absolutely *had* to open Solitude Standing for store play. I played it *constantly* in the store, and we sold a lot of copies as a result. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Beautiful, haunting album (though with a few songs that break the overall mood). (jbr@casetech.dk)

"Gypsy" is perhaps her most beautiful song ever. I get goosebumps every time I listen to it. Also the home of "Luka" and "Tom's Diner," her two hits that will always have a special place with me. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Ok, I just have to say I can't stop playing "Luka", it is one of the best pop songs I have ever heard. Suzanne's kind of subtle, rich vocal style really gets me. The third track is one called "Ironbound/Fancy Poultry Parts" which has kind of a desolate, lonely feel. Wonderful song. At this point I started thinking this was going to be the Suzanne album that made me a mega-fan, but none of the other songs really grabbed me. Oh well, it's a great album. (RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)


Days of Open Hand

Release info:

1990—A&M Records—7502-15293-2

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, guitar
Marc Schulman—guitar
Anton Sanko—keyboards
Michael Visceglia—bass
Frank Vilardi—drums

Guest artists:

Philip Glass—string arrangement on "50/50 Chance"

Produced by:

Anton Sanko and Suzanne Vega

Comments:

Days of Open Hand would have to be the "disappointment" if Suzanne had one...it has some superlative songs on it, but as a whole, there's something missing. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

I've always placed Days of Open Hand at the bottom of the list of her albums. When it was released, it bored me. While I came to appreciate it, and I think it has some phenomenal songs, it still largely leaves me a little cool, and it's the least frequently played of the discs I have...(meaning I probably pull out the couple of cd singles more frequently!) (burka@jeffrey.net)

This album is more consistent than Solitude Standing but probably takes some time to really get into. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Definitely her most uneven work, but holds some moments of brilliance. "Men In A War" is a ridiculously catchy song about amputation (!), "Tired of Sleeping" has some beautiful lyrics, "Rusted Pipe" is catchy and poetic, and "50/50 Chance" (with Philip Glass backing up) is stone-beautiful. Still, I listen to this release less than any other Suzanne Vega CD. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Days of Open Hand is tied with 99.9 F° as my favorite Suzanne Vega album. I know this puts me in a minority as far as Suzanne Vega fans go, but oh, well. I used to listen to "Pilgrimage" just as I arrived at any new place I was moving to, and how anyone can dismiss an album with "Rusted Pipe" and "Those Whole Girls" is beyond me. (cinnamon@one.net)

At the record store this afternoon I was paging through an old issue of Q Magazine and the back page was an interview with Suzanne Vega, in which she stated that listening to this album now gives her hives. Apparently she hates it and thinks it's the worst thing she's ever done. I know a lot of people here seem to agree with that...it's not my favorite of her albums, but it's not on the bottom either. In fact, I pulled it out recently and were marveling at some of the forgotten gems on it ("Tired of Sleeping" and "Rusted Pipe" spring immediately to mind there). (meth@smoe.org)


99.9 F°

Release info:

1992—A&M Records—31454

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, acoustic guitar
Jerry Marotta—drums
Bruce Thomas—bass
Richard Pleasance—electric guitar
David Hidalgo—electric guitar
Mitchell Froom—keyboards
Tchad Blake—electric guitar
Marc Shulman—bazouki
and Michael Visceglia—fretless bass

Guest artists:

Richard Thompson—electric guitar solo in "As Girls Go"

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom

Comments:

Yeah, "Blood Makes Noise" really blew me away. I had gotten into a certain Trent Reznor, and I was thrilled that Suzanne was also dipping her musical pen into a little industrial noise. And I love the sensuousness of "99.9 F°." A truly chilling and haunting song. And "If You Were in my Movie," and "As Girls Go." A really terrific album. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

I'd say her best is 99.9 F°. It's a terrific mixture of sounds and textures, a neat blending of industrial and folk that blows me away. "Blood Makes Noise" is a standout, but great songs like the title track, "Blood Sings," "If You Were in My Movie," "When Heroes Go Down", etc., etc., etc., are also stellar. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I don't really hear *any* folkiness in "Blood Makes Noise" (an astonishing song; took me a long time to realize that the lead vocal appears twice, one on each side, one straight, one treated. Utterly, utterly brilliant.) (burka@jeffrey.net)

I pulled it out recently to see if my opinion of it had improved any. There had always been certain songs I liked ("Rock In This Pocket", "In Liverpool") individually, but it didn't really capture me as an album. I still don't think it does, but I realized that I like the individual songs a lot more than I remembered, and I will probably listen to it more often, but still not often. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Nine Objects of Desire

Release info:

1996—A&M Records—3145405832

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, guitars
Bruce Thomas—bass
Jerry Marotta—drums
Pete Thomas—percussion
Steve Donnelly—electric guitars
Mitchell Froom—keyboards
Tchad Blake—whistle sample, electric guitars
Don Byron—clarinets
Dave Douglass—muted trumpets
Cecilia Sparacio—flutes
Sebastian Steinberg—bass

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom

Comments:

I like it. Oddly enough, I can't point to a single song a say "hey, I really think that song is awesome." I can't even point to a song and say "hey, I know what that song's title is." With all of her previous albums, certain songs stuck in my brain because they were really cool, even after only one listen, but I can't do it with this one. I have the feeling that it will grow on me and eventually I will be able to identify all of the songs, even if played in random order;) It's kinda like K's Choice first album where almost all of the songs are perfect 3-minute pop tunes that you can't help but like...I do think that the album is a step back (but not a regression) from the industrial type sounds of 99.9 F°. It's somewhere between that last album and the other albums in sharing an acoustic-pop sound with the industrial layers. (paul2k@aol.com)

I would rank this somewhere in the middle of Vega's albums. I loved it at first, playing it constantly for days, but it hasn't had as long a shelf life as I would have hoped. Still, whenever I play it, I am still enamored with its beauty and eclecticism. Nine Objects sees her growing ever more as an artist, this time with a nice bass-y, jazzy feel to the album. My favorites are the raw, rock sound of "Birth-day (Love Made True)", the heavy bass line through "Headshots", the insanely catchy pop of "No Cheap Thrill," and the lovely poeticism of "Thin Man." "World Beyond Columbus" is utterly beautiful, my none-too-kind feelings about Mr. Columbus aside. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I think it's infectious and fun and I can't stop listening to it, even as I also think it's definitely not her best work. (That would be her debut—it must be hell to peak early.) How's that? I find it amazing that it took her four years to produce 12 3-minute songs, but I guess having a baby will cramp anyone's style. It's very much in the vein of "Blood Makes Noise" and "99.9 F°" from 99.9 F°, and in fact there is a lot less variety in musical style than I'm used to seeing from her (I wonder if that's her husband's fault or hers?), but it's still an engaging record, as evidenced by the fact that I listened to it three times in succession last night. :) I think my favorite song so far is "Honeymoon Suite", which tells a really neat story about ghosts in a hotel room in France. :) Musically, the first track, "Birth-Day (love made real)" has the most kick. And of course, the ubiquitous Jerry Marotta and Jane Scarpantoni appear thereon! Recommended to anyone who thought 99.9 F° was a good album, and of course to all Vega fans in general.
     Later: I think Nine Objects of Desire would win the distinction of being my least favorite of her albums even though I loved it when it first came out, I haven't had any desire whatsoever to listen to it since that time. (meth@smoe.org)

I have to confess to being a Johnny-come-lately Suzanne Vega fan with only 99.9 F° in the CD rack. Anyway nine objects of desire gave me what I wanted from it, funky songs in the vein of the hits from the previous album. I particularly like "Caramel" and "No Cheap Thrill". (dbucak@netaxs.com)

after experimenting with percussion and beats on 99.9 F° Suzanne seemed to pull in some of the reins and create a wonderfully mature percussion-based album that has big band undertones. or perhaps that is just me. it might just be that she is experimenting more with different instruments and sounds, but the album is a cracker. overlooked methinks. stand-out tracks for me are the second song ("headshots") and the one that actually ended up the lead single ("no cheap thrill"). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I LOVE this album! I'd put it right beside her first one in fact! I found 99.9 F° to be disappointing, which is why I didn't pick this up right away. If anyone has hesitated as I did, I think you'll be as pleasantly surprised at how good this is as I was! (cjmacs@micronet.net)

It's no where near the brilliance of her debut or 99.9 F°, but it's still a good album. "Birth-day" and "World Before Columbus" are really the only great tracks. But they are so good, they make up for the blandness of the rest. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

...pure suzanne, New York brainy swirling cool fun. soft slow raw and intelligent as usual. (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

Why can't this music stick in my head? I enjoy it when I listen to it, but it melts away in my memory as though it never existed. I can remember nearly every song on her first album. (Neile)

"Honeymoon Suite" (is) a track that I largely ignored until one day I paid attention to the lyrics...and now it's one of my favorites from Nine Objects. That one really shows Suzanne has a wry sense of humor. (moseley@tatrc.org)

I really enjoy Nine Objects of Desire. It had some real staying power with me. I would put it up there with Solitude Standing. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

"Honeymoon Suite," about the ghosts in the hotel room, is one of my favorite Suzanne Vega songs. (cinnamon@one.net)

truth be told i never got into Suzanne's work so much before about 99.9 F°, but that's me and not her, or maybe it was her, or me and her, and just noplace we both were together. there was, i mean. noplace. us. like a lover you never really *talked* to until suddenly one day....
     and i don't like every song on nine objects of desire, i even skip a few, which almost i never do. but i love "Caramel", oh yes, that's one place we *both* go for sure, who says to me there's noplace to get a good dessert at 3am on a wednesday has no idea, oh none at all. mmmmmmm. and it wonders me, what, or *who*, or what with whom, inspired, "Stockings", a breath espired deep, for sure, and shared, for doubly sure. and maybe it's a shore that i'll not see, an ocean i may never cross, but "World Before Columbus" is, and i am there, then, just the same, copper hair on golden shores, knowing i've been here before, here all along, hereforevermore. (winona@mildh.pair.com)

personally, aside from her two earlier works—which i feel are a class in and of themselves, i really do love her last studio album nine objects of desire. it is an excellent synthesis of her earlier "storytelling" folk-style music, with her more experimental percussion and electronic elements that can be found on 99.9 F° and Days Of Open Hand (both of which i love, but i view as transitional albums for her.... parts of the album are almost jazz-like, and quite fluid, despite the sheen and glossy production. quite different, but lovely in its own way. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


Sessions at West 54th

Release info:

September 1997—A&M Records (Japan)—POCM-9031

Availability:

Japanese import, tough to find (and expect it to be expensive)

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended
this recording of suzanne vega's appearance on the Sessions at West 54th, TV show, recorded June 16, 1997, is available on cd. it was released in japan by a&m. was it worth the outrageous import price paid? well...yes! it's an excellent performance in my opinion regardless of the out-of-tune guitar on the last two cuts. (cjmacs@micronet.net)

I think it's a great album, but also a little bit short (a shortage of which more of Suzanne's live recordings suffer, alas). (H.C.Ritzema@gmail.com)


Tried and True: The Best of Suzanne Vega

Release info:

1998—A&M Records (Japan)—POCM-1263

Availability:

Tough to find in the U.S. The release here was to be timed with Vega's book release in March 1998, but a merger of A&M Records (leaving Vega with Interscope) has delayed its release in the U.S. Can be ordered from various on-line sources.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

See above; all but two tracks are previously released

Produced by:

Lenny Kaye, Steve Addabbo, Anton Sanko, Suzanne Vega, and Mitchell Froom

Comments:

Don't know *how much* you like Suzanne, but as a die hard fan I feel I should mention that it's not *just two extra songs*! :-] Especially the song "Rosemary" is one of the best songs she's ever written & recorded, in my opinion. (H.C.Ritzema@gmail.com)

It's a nice collection, especially since it has two new songs, "Book and a Cover" and "Rosemary." (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

This is a compilation album, and as always I wonder at the selection, why some songs were included and especially why some songs were left out (like "Tired of sleeping"). All in all it's quite a good compilation of Suzanne Vega's songs, most of which pass the test of time wonderfully. The two new songs are okay, "Book and a cover" is a bit too straight forward for me, but "Rosemary" is a beautiful song that could be compared to "World before Columbus". I would have liked the booklet to be a bit more special (it's just the lyrics printed, no pictures, no 'stories' about the songs). (Marion)


Songs in Red and Gray

Release info:

2001—A&M—06949 3111-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—lead vocal, acoustic guitar, harmony vocals, distorted acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Rupert Hine—drum programming, bass, piano, strings, keyboard, woodwinds, orchestral percussion
Nick Pugh—drum programming, synth lead
Gerry Leonard—electric guitars, acoustic guitars, mandolin, zither, dulcimer
Elizabeth Taubman—harmony vocals
Matt Johnson—drums
Mike Visceglia—bass
Jay Bellerose—drums
Doug Vowell—drums, percussion
Pamela Sue Mann—backing vocals
Ollie W. Tayler—swirly carousel & mechanism

Produced by:

Rupert Hine

Comments:

This is Suzanne's first album in the post-Mitchell Froom era, and it subsequently sounds more like her first two albums than anything she's done since Days Of Open Hand. Her songwriting remains razor-sharp, and the production lets her words shine while placing more emphasis on the acoustic guitar than we've been treated to for a long while. It's the type of CD we automatically put on "repeat", and it's in the running for the title of "CD most played in the car on the way to and from musical events". :) I would highly recommend it. (meth@smoe.org)

I really like it. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

I think she'd automatically qualify for at least a mention in my list of top albums of 2001 just for still being around and releasing new album, but fortunately there is a bonus: the album is very good. Since her very first self-titled record remains the favourite, I happily welcome any new recordings in similar spirit. And this one is just that. (afries@zip.com.au)

Never liked much of her previous stuff, but this is a very enjoyable listen and grows on you more each time. (dlw@sympatico.ca)

I haven't loved Suzanne Vega this much since her debut album. This was a real surprise to me and continues to be a delight. (Neile)

I love Songs in Red and Gray. It's been in my "car rotation" since it was released, and I'm not sick of it yet. It's a very strong batch of songs, tuneful, spare, and so strong, lyrically. I have a lot of favorite songs, "Widow's Walk," "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May," "Soap and Water," "If I Were a Weapon..." but my current favorite is "Last Year's Troubles." Terrific lyrics, great tune... a good example of all the things Suzanne does so well.
     I have enjoyed all of Suzanne's albums to varying degrees. Songs in Red and Gray is definitely up there with the best for me. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

One wonderful song after the other—she is back to where she began and I don't blaim her for that at all. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

I think she'd automatically qualify for at least a mention on my year's best just for still being around and releasing new album, but fortunately there is a bonus: the album is very good. Since her very first self-titled record remains the favourite, I happily welcome any new recordings in similar spirit. And this one is just that. (afries@zip.com.au)


Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega

Release info:

2003—A&M Records—069 493 670-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, acoustic guitar, riff guitar

Guest artists:

Michael Visceglia—bass (1, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17)
Anton Sanko—synthesizers (1, 12, 13, 15, 17), Hammond B3 (6)
Marc Shulman—electric guitars (1, 6, 13, 15, 17), tible (6), 12-string electric guitar (13)
Stephen Ferrera—drums, percussion (1, 12, 15, 17)
Jon Gordon—guitar solo (1), electric guitar (3, 7), guitars (9)
Shawn Colvin—background vocals (1, 13)
Frank Gravis—bass (3)
Sue Evans—drums (3, 9), percussion (7)
C.P. Roth—synthesizers (3, 7)
Steve Donnelly—electric guitar (4, 14, 16)
Pete Thomas—drums, percussion (4, 14, 16), drum loop (21)
Jerry Marotta—drums (4, 5, 11, 14, 19, 21), percussion (4, 5, 11, 14, 21)
Bruce Thomas—bass (4, 5, 8, 11, 14, 16, 19)
Don Byron—clarinets (4, 14), bass clarinet (14)
Dave Douglass—muted trumpets (4), trumpets (14)
Cecilia Sparacio—flutes (4, 14)
Mitchell Froom—keyboards (4, 5, 8, 11, 14, 16, 19, 21), horn arrangements (4)
David Hidalgo—electric guitar (5, 8, 11)
Tchad Blake—electric guitar (e-bow, wah-wah) (5, 11, 14), bass (21)
Frank Vilardi—drums (6, 13)
John Linnell—accordion (6)
Paul Dugan—bass (7)
Steve Addabbo—background vocals (7), guitar solo (12)
Joe Jackson—piano (9)
Jay Bellerose—drums (10)
Gerry Leonard—acoustic guitar, mandolin, zither, dulcimer (10), electric guitar (10, 18)
Rupert Hine—piano, strings, keyboards (10, 18), drum programming, bass (18)
Elizabeth Taubman—harmony vocals (10)
Richard Pleasance—electric guitar (11)
Frank Christian—electric guitar (12)
Mitch Easter—rhythm guitar (12)
Michael Blair—tambourines, cymbal, whip (13)
Sebastian Steinberg—bass (14, 16)
Jane Scarpantoni—cellos (14)
Nick Pugh—drum programming (18)

Produced by:

Compilation produced by Mike Ragogna & Suzanne Vega; Songs produced by Steve Addabbo, Lenny Kaye, Mitchell Froom, Mitch Easter, Anton Sanko, Suzanne Vega, Arthur Baker, Rupert Hine, Tchad Blake

Comments:

Note: Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega is the US release of Tried and True: The Best of Suzanne Vega (1998) with a different cover and slightly different track listing. The original song "Book & a Cover" is only available on Tried and True: The Best of Suzanne Vega.

More than just a collection of hits, this is an excellent career retrospective and a model for what the genre can be. The song order is well chosen, and even though I'm familiar with most of the songs, I find myself listening to them in a new way. The extras here are good too (DNA's version of "Tom's Diner," featuring Suzanne's vocals; songs from the Pretty in Pink and Dead Man Walking soundtracks and one from a previous retrospective; and a live solo version of "The Queen and the Soldier"). It's also nice that they included the lyrics for all the songs. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Beauty & Crime

Release info:

2007—Blue Note Records—0946 3 68270 2 5

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—lead vocals, acoustic guitar (all tracks)

Guest artists:

Martin Slattery—flute (9), reeds (3), brass (3), piano (3, 4, 7, 10)
Matthew Ward—violin (1, 7)
Philip Shepard—cello (1, 6, 7)
London Studio Orchestra (led by Perry Montague-Mason)—strings (2, 4, 7, 9)
Will Malone—string arrangements and conducting (2, 4, 7, 9)
Jimmy Hogarth—electric guitar (1), acoustic guitar (11), percussion (1-5, 10, 11)
Gerry Leonard—electric guitar (1, 2, 5-11), acoustic guitar (4, 5, 10)
Lee Ranaldo—electric guitar (1, 2, 10)
Pete Davis—programming (2, 4, 7, 8, 10)
Tony Shanahan—bass (1, 5, 9, 10)
Sam Dixon—bass (2, 3, 6, 11), live bass (8)
Mike Visceglia—bass (4)
Graham Hawthorne—drums (1, 3, 5, 6, 9-11), live drums (2, 7, 8)
Doug Yowell—drums and percussion (4, 6,)
Beccy Byrne—background vocals (8)
Ruby Froom—background vocals (2, 8)
Anthony Genn—background vocals (11)
Emily Singer—background vocals (8)
KT Tunstall—background vocals (1, 5)

Produced by:

Jimmy Hogarth

Comments:

A tasteful, well-written collection of songs with enough texture and variation to command attention throughout. Still, I've never seen Suzanne's icon status as anything other than an accident of timing (no one else sounded like her in 1986). I think she's a strong singer-songwriter, just not singular or unforgettable. This collection doesn't really change my mind. Take "Ludlow Street"—a lovely song, but I feel like a dedication to a dead brother should dig deeper emotionally, or somehow leave behind more of a residue. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)

It's got some great stuff on it, but it's not like her last album, which I couldn't stop listening to for weeks after it came out (and I will still find myself listening to it when I want to listen to some Suzanne Vega and am not in a particularly nostalgic mood). (meth@smoe.org)

I really enjoy Beauty & Crime. I think it's fair to say that it's not as powerful an album as her last, Songs in Red and Gray, but it definitely stands on its own. The sound is lighter, brighter, even fun. It harkens back to her early sound as well as something retro/vintage (though I can't place the era). The album is a love song to New York (but not in a sentimental, post-9/11 way), and the city is very much a character in the songs. I also really like the photos and CD booklet. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Close-Up, Vol. 1: Love Songs

Release info:

2010—Amanuensis Productions—2501

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocal and acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Gerry Leonard—electric guitar
Michael Visceglia—bass
Zak Soulam—acoustic guitar on "Caramel"

Produced by:

Suzanne Vega

Comments:

The first of several planned albums revisiting her catalog, this volume comprises songs Vega "consider[s] love songs, although they are also songs of attraction, flirtation, and confrontation." The interpretations are not particularly inventive (songs from her first two albums are especially close to the originals), but I like it as an acoustic retrospective. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Close-Up, Vol. 2: People & Places

Release info:

2010—Amanuensis Productions—2502

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

I really like this second volume of the close-up series. It's like sitting and listening to Suzanne tell stories. And the new recordings differ more from the originals, making this volume feel less superfluous. (JJoAnn Whetsell)

Close-Up, Vol. 3: States of Being

Release info:

2011—Amanuensis Productions

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Vol. 2 is my favorite so far in the Close-Up series, but Vol. 3 gets a lot of points for having the most original reinventions. "50-50 Chance," a song I never really noticed on Days of Open Hand comes alive for me here. Experiences like that are what make this whole project so valuable. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Close-Up, Vol. 4: Songs of Family

Release info:

2012—Amanuensis Productions

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

I really appreciate the different instrumentation on these versions, particularly the mandolin (throughout the album) and horns (on "Blood Sings"). The most striking song to me is "Pilgrimage," a song I was unfamiliar with as I have barely listened to Days of Open Hand. There are also 3 "new" songs (two are more than 30 years old and one was written in 2007) that are pretty good. Overall a strong collection and a fine way to end the close-up series. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I suspect the original versions are better but I don't know a lot of them (am trying to, though). (raschee@gmail.com)


Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles

Release info:

2014—Amanuensis Productions—2510

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Suzanne Vega—vocals, background vocals, acoustic guitar, nylon string guitar

Guest artists:

Gerry Leonard—acoustic and electric guitars, harmonium, bass, textures, keyboards
Zachary Alford—drums (1, 2, 6, 8); percussion (1, 2, 8)
Doug Yowell—drums (1, 7, 9, 10); 1/2-speed drums (4); percussion (7, 9)
Gail Ann Dorsey—bass (1, 2, 6, 8)
Catherine Russell—background vocals (1, 2, 8, 9)
Larry Campbell—banjo (1, 8); mandolin (1, 2); cimbal (10)
Jay Bellerose—drums, percussion (3)
Tony Levin—bass (3, 5)
Sterling Campbell—drums, percussion (5)
Smichov Chamber Orchestra Prague, conducted by Josef Vondracek—strings (5, 6, 8)
Joji Hirota—taiko drums (5, 6); Shakuhachi flute (6)
Mike Visceglia—bass (9, 10); Taurus pedals (10)
Alison Balsom—trumpet (10)

Produced by:

Gerry Leonard

Comments:

I've been to a Suzanne Vega concert recently and she performed some of her new songs, which I happened to like a lot. When the album came, I was a bit disappointed at first as the studio versions were not as good as I had remembered the live songs, but they have since grown on me, especially the songs "I Never Wear White" and "Portrait of the King of Wands." (raschee@gmail.com)

I'm really enjoying it. The combination of her quiet and understated voice and intelligent lyrics has always been compelling for me. It's a voice that isn't hiding anything, a voice that always speaks truth. (brni @ kappamaki . com)

I really, really like this album, more so than Beauty & Crime. It has both her folky and rock sides. And now I know that the Queen of Pentacles is a tarot card (I had to Google it). (JoAnn Whetsell)


Further info:

COMPILATIONS

Suzanne Vega has contributed to numerous compilations including:

  • "Left of Center" on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack (1986)
  • "Marlene on the Wall" on The Prince's Trust 10th Anniversary Birthday Party (1987)
  • "Solitude Standing" on The Heart of Rock (1988)
  • "Stay Awake"* on Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (1988)
  • "One World, One Voice"* on the charity album of the same name (1990)
  • "Cassidy"* and "China Doll"* on Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead (1991)
  • a live version of "Blood Sings"* on Fast Folk, the 10th Anniversary: Live at the Bottom Line: February 20, 21, 22, 1992 (1992)
  • a live version of "In Liverpool"* on the album Pavarotti & Friends (1993)
  • "Story of Isaac"* on the tribute album Tower Of Song: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1995)
  • "Woman on the Tier (I'll See You Through)"* on Dead Man Walking: Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture (1995)
  • "Buy and Sell"* on the tribute album Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro (1997)
  • "Coventry Carol"* on Celebrate the Season (1998)
  • a live version of "Rock in This Pocket (Song of David)"* on Lilith Fair, Volume 1: A Celebration of Women in Music (1998)
  • a live version of "Luka"* on Lilith Fair, Volume 3: A Celebration of Women in Music (1999)
  • a live version of "Caramel"* on The Best of Sessions at West 54th (2001)
  • a live version of "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May"* on =WYEP Live and Direct: Volume 4—On Air Performances (2002)
  • an alternate version of "Gypsy"* on Fast Folk: A Community of Singers & Songwriters (2002)
  • "Tombstone" on Haunted Mansion: The Haunted Hits (2003)
  • "Luka" on Respond II (2003)
  • "Blood Makes Noise" on '90s Rock Number 1's (2007)
  • "Song of Sand (Great City Version)"* on Songs for Tibet—The Art of Peace (2008)
  • "The Man Who Played God"* on Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul (2009)
COLLABORATIONS

Collaborations include:

  • "Gypsy"* with John Caulfield and Mark Dann on Traditional Music Revisited (1982)
  • lyrics for "Lightning"* and "Freezing"* on Philip Glass' Songs from Liquid Days (1986)
  • The Long Voyage"* with John Cale on Hector Zazou's Songs from the Cold Seas (1994)
  • "In a Lonely Place"* with the Smithereens on their album Blown to Smithereens (1995)
  • "Angel (Lust)"* with Dawn Upshaw and Joe Jackson on Joe Jackson & Friends' Heaven & Hell (1997)
  • "Dopamine"* with Mitchell Froom on his album Dopamine (1999)
  • an edited version of "Angel (Lust)"* with Mary Rowell, Allison Cornell, Sue Hadjopoulos, Dawn Upshaw and Joe Jackson on Sony Classical—Great Performances, 1903–1998 (1999)
  • a cover of Leonard Cohen's "So Long, Marianne"* with John Cale on Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the 60's (1999)
  • "Erie Canal"* with Dan Zanes on his album Rocket Ship Beach (2000) and on the compilation Freedom: Songs from the Heart of America (2002)
  • "Go to the Woods"* with Dar Williams on Williams' album Promised Land (2008)
  • "Ignorant Sky"* with Philip Glass on his album Jenipapo: From the Philip Glass Recording Archive, Vol. III (2008)
  • "Juste quelqu'un de bien"* with Kent on his album Panorama (2009)
  • "Pablo Neruda"* with Patty Larkin on Larkin's album 25 (2010)
*Track not available on Suzanne Vega's own recordings.

COVERS OF HER WORK

  • "Luka" has been covered by artists including:
    • April Moon on their album Suddenly September (2004)
    • Sugarhack on the compilation Acoustic Night Live 2 (2006)
    • Laith Al-Deen on his album Session (2009)
    • Erwin Bros on Summer Love Songs, Vol. 2, Help With Music, Vol. 1, Baggermann Hits, Vol. 8, and 33 Schlager Schlager Schlager (all 2010)
    • Abacay on a single (2010)
Tom's Album is a 1991 release from A&M that contains thirteen versions of Vega's hit "Tom's Diner" from various artists. Included is Vega's original version, the hit remix by DNA, and versions by nine other artists. Most notably, R.E.M. appears as Bingo Hand Job, performing "Tom's ?", and DNA remixes another of Vega's songs, "Rusted Pipe." The CD is widely available. Incidentally, the coffee shop that inspired the song "Tom's Diner" still exists, called Tom's Restaurant. It was used for the exterior shots of Jerry's favorite diner on Seinfeld.

More recent covers of "Tom's Diner" include versions by:

  • Larry Schneider on his album So Easy (1996) and on the compilation Happy Blue Years (2008)
  • the girl & i on their album hymn: an evening with the girl & i live (1998)
  • Maja Christina on her album Romance (2003)
  • Dehconte on his album Liberian Libation (2005)
  • Kitchie Nadal on the compilation Acoustic Night Live 2 (2006)
  • Jens Christian Mayer on his album Steppin' Up (2008)
  • Miki Hahn on her album Intimately Acoustic (2009)
  • Nicole on the children's music compilation Alles Banane Die Kinderhitparade Folge 1 (2009)
  • Giana Viscardi & Michi Ruzitschka on their album Coffee & Music (2009)
  • Yusuke Shima on the compilation Wired Café Music Recommendations: Feel (2010)
  • The Hit Co. on their album A Tribute to the Best of Lilith Fair: Past Festivals (2010)
  • Royal XTC and Luca Grandioso on a single (2010)
  • Skam-Impaired on their album The Brown School: The Complete Skam-Impaired Discography (2010)
"Tom's Diner" has been remixed by numerous artists including Bingo Players; Karmah; Pollyn; Alex Kidd & Kidd Kaos; Dirty Impact & Royal XTC; NDA Project; and Daniel Soave.

Felt's album A Tribute to Christina Ricci (2005) includes a song called "Suzanne Vega" which reworks part of the melody and lyrics of "Luka."

Other covers of Vega's songs include:

  • "Gypsy" by Nancy Zeltsman on her album Woodcuts (1993)
  • "Tombstone" by Nicki Gonzalez, Jamieson Tobey, and Wayne Wilentz on their album Chiclete com banana (ca 2002)
  • "Caramel" by Chiara Civello on her album Last Quarter Moon (2005)
  • "When Heroes Go Down" and "Tired of Sleeping" by Jarret on the album Jarret sobe (2008)
  • "In Liverpool" by Valerio Piccolo on his album Manhattan Sessions (2009)
  • "The Queen and the Soldier" and "Gypsy" by Caroline Waters on her album Exposed (2010)
BOOKS

Suzanne Vega's book, The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writing of Suzanne Vega, was published in 1998. She is featured in Gillian G. Gaar's book She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (Seal Press, 2002) and in Carrie Havranek's book Women Icons of Popular Music: The Rebels, Rockers, and Renegades (Greenwood Press, 2009)

INTERVIEWS

Interviews with Vega are included on the CD Przy mikrofonie by Piotr Kaczkowski (2005) and in the book Everything Is Just a Bet (Czech, 2006).

VIDEOS

She has released the following DVDs: The Videos: Gold Collection (2007); Live at duo MUSIC EXCHANGE (2005); Retrospective: The Videos of Suzanne Vega (2005); Live at Montreux 2004 (2005/6). She also appears on Best of Sessions at West 54th—Vol. 1 (1997) and The Old Grey Whistle Test, Vol. 2 (2006).

VHS releases include: The Video Singles (1990) and Live at the Royal Albert Hall (1987). She performs "Cracking" on Folk City, the 25 Anniversary Concert and gives commentary on The History of Rock 'n' Roll 1: Rock 'n' Roll Explodes (1995).


Thanks to Mark Miazga and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2014-07-09 17:53:57.
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