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Suzanne Vega

4.8 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 24, 1986
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Suzanne Vega by Suzanne Vega

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Though not the songs that would put her on the pop music map--that would come with 1987's Solitude Standing--Vega's first album shows her folky songwriting origins and, song for song, may still be her best. Produced by Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, the sound is softly sculpted by Kaye's silvery guitar and an airy, occaisonal string section, matching the dream-like introspection of "Queen and the Soldier" and the surreal word play of "Small Blue Thing." Vega's philosophical, quiet, but confident approach would open the door for a second generation of female singer-songwriters like Dar Williams and Shawn Colvin. Her debut remains an unassuming sleeper for one of the '80s best folk or pop albums. --Roy Francis Kasten
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 24, 1986)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: A&M
  • Run Time: 35 minutes
  • ASIN: B000002GGY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,609 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Suzanne Vega's debut is one of the 80's most overlooked and underrated treasures. Remarkably assured for a debut, the almost ethereal melancholy of this album denies any real comparison; it is unfailingly unique. Opening with "Cracking", a semi-spoken word piece piercingly scored with acoustic guitar and airy synthesizer, a tone is set that is mesmerizingly maintained throughout. The tone is crystalline, and its brittle beauty is remarkable in its timelessness. There have been some who have criticized the lush production and "new age" synth work, this criticism now seems dated itself; the instrumentation is utterly true to the spirit of the music and lyrics. In "Freeze Tag" the contrast of folk guitar and synth continues, again with haunting effect. "Marlene on the Wall" is almost lighthearted (in contrast), and "Small Blue Thing" does the remarkable trick of turning self-absorbed bathos into a gorgeous elegy. The three highlights of the album (besides the chilling "Cracking") are "Some Journey", "Straight Lines" and "The Queen and the Soldier". "Some Journey" is as erotic as anything she has done, and features some great Darrell Anger violin at the end. "Straight Lines" is a smartly unsentimental tale of a woman's suicide, with lines like "She is streamlined, she is taking the shade down from the light, to see the straight lines."

Finally "The Queen and the Soldier" is a straight up folk ballad that neatly sums up the dangers of love, while being opaque enough to be adapted to anyone's pain; brilliant. Suzanne Vega, in my opinion, never again reached the pure lustre of this jewel. It is a work that deserves to be considered genius.
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Format: Audio CD
Whenever I talk about this first album, fellow fans are quick to point out that Suzanne's voice is not yet properly trained, and that the production values are bottom-of-the-barrel. I agree, but I don't care. These songs have a clean, piercing purity which I think is sometimes lost in her later work.
This is definitely her edgy-slightly-unhinged folk-singer face, so it may not be for people who prefer her more energetic or sound-oriented work.
I also believe that the entire album is an associative poem, but this is still an unverified quack theory.
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By A Customer on September 9, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Suzanne Vega personified the neo-folk revival with this beautifully crafted literate album. Vega carves out a niche that she alone occupies with her hushed and stacatto singing style that recalls beat poets and confessional singer songwriters of the Leonard Cohen variety. Vega's spare guitar accompaniment jars and cajoles the listener into ruminations on self, love, loss, uncertainty, destiny. Stand outs include "Marlene on the Wall" an urgent portrait of Vega's affairs of the heart, all conducted under the ironic gaze of the poster-sized Marlene Dietrich; "Small Blue Thing" self-examination in the palm of a hand; "Some Journey" a soaring reflection on missed opportunity; "The Queen and the Soldier" a picture of willful arrogance that recalls the rich storytelling tradition of the Child ballads; "Neighborhood Girls" hipsters who are gone gone gone. Tactile and visceral images are juxtaposed in a sensual lyricism that reveals Vega as a maturing self who is reflective, protean, and open. The production values underscore the quiet intensity and overall moodiness of the album. A stunning set of songs that still inspires and moves.
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Format: MP3 Music
I bought this the year it came out, hearing Marlene on the Wall at the great Chicago progressive rock station WXRT in Chicago. I agree on just about everything that has been said except on one major aspect: to my ears, this is not "folk" music and I would not classify her as a "folk" musician. Now I am not a professional music critic but if you listen to this particular album, it sounds almost anti-folk to me. I guess to me the genre "folk" evokes an almost country-pop music structure or formula, and this album does not evoke that. I think "folk" and I think Joan Baez, Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus and maybe even Jewel. But this album to me is so spare, stark, clean-lined, and precise that it's almost in it's own category and I know of no other album by a male or female artist that is close to the overall feel that this album creates.
When you think of folk, you think of the stereotypical country guitar twang, the granola-esqueness, the organic-ness, and emotional sentiments being song. This album is spare, ethereal, clean, sharp, dry, psychological, abstract, and Suzanne sings almost from a more emotionally detached state, observing, commenting poetically an abstractly. Her lyrics are definitely not folk-oriented but rather modern or post-modern, psychological as opposed to emotional, and texture musically is more contructed as opposed to organic. A good example is "Freeze Tag". It's like a poetry slam, rap, jazz song with its syncopated phrasing and crystaline guitarwork. Or listen to Small Blue Thing which musically and lyrically to me is so far removed from being a "folk" song - it's got more in common with Laurie Anderson than say Sheryl Crow.
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