Thursday, May 12, 2005

Suzanne Vega - Self-titled CD

I found this to be Suzanne Vega's most personal work. And I didn't realize this was her debut album until much later. Initially I was very underwhelmed. The songs were pretty, nice melodies, very folksy, soft ballads dominated. After going through each track I put it down and didn't pick it up again until several weeks later.

On the next listen, I must have been in the right mood, because I now understood the meaning of each song. This album is a piece of art, masterfully written and composed. The songs were rich, overflowing with beauty. It's about Knights, and Queens, and Dragons, and medieval times when travelling minstrels would wander from town to town entertaining people with their music and legends. To set the right atmosphere for listening to this, try an overcast day with a view of a garden or park. Prepare a cup of coffee or tea, take a deep breath, and flow with the the music.
The sequencing of the tracks is genius. Ms. Vega tells a story in each of the songs, and I can't help but feel that each tale is related to the next. The last three tracks are just perfect, they are the best songs in the CD. I had to listen to them over and over again.

'The Queen and the Soldier' is one of the best ballads ever written. It narrates the fable of a medieval soldier who tells his queen he no longer wants to fight wars, and questions her motives for fighting in the first place. There is high drama, the song builds up, and ends tragically in the soldier's death as the battle continues on.

'Knight Moves' immediately follows 'Queen and the Soldier'. On first listen, you might even think it's part of the previous song, but they are actually separate tracks. This is an extremely powerful, emotional song with some of the best verses ever: "Watch while the queen in one false move turns herself into a pawn... Do you love any.. do you love none.. do you love many.. can you love one.. do you love me?" It's a desperate plea of a scorned woman, acting irrational, losing control of her senses. The writer bargains for the object of her affection to return her love, but it ends up being futile, and you can sense the growing desperation and bitterness of her voice: "And if you wonder... What I am doing .. As I am heading .. For the sink .. I am spitting out all the bitterness.. Along with half of my last drink .. I am thinking of your woman .. Who is crying in the hall .. It's like drinking gasoline to quench a thirst .. Until there's nothing there left at all." It has such explosive impact, no wonder it's my favorite song in this compilation.

The album ends with 'Neighborhood Girls', a light-hearted song to sort of ease you out of all the imagery of Knights and Queens, and desperate love. I'm pretty sure this song is about a madame, offering her call girls for hire. Cute song, nice ending to cleanse the palette.

I'm still not tired of this CD. A musical masterpiece.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars * * * * *


roehl said...

very passionate review. very moving. makes me want to buy the cd.

rob said...

Surprisingly, 'Knight Moves' was never released as a single, nor has it appeared in any Suzanne Vega compilations. This is one of my favorite songs ever.