Sunday, June 26, 2005

Suzanne Vega - Nine Objects of Desire

This is her fourth album. Her then husband, Mitchell Froom collaborated with her on some of the music. She also has a newborn daughter. Written on the CD booklet's inside cover are the words: "For Ruby, MF, Lolita, the figure of Death, 3 men, 1 woman and a plum." These are the nine objects of desire. See if you can identify them in each of the songs.

We start with the strangely titled 'Birth-day (love made real)'. Slightly different, kinda slow, abrupt change in tempo. The effect is startling. This is not your typical Suzanne Vega set list, a radical departure. By the way, this song will grow on you slowly and unexpectedly.

Next is 'Headshots' which for me is when the real album starts. Absolutely fantastic track. You can picture images of a woman wandering around city streets, seeing posters of a man she once knew. Sad and haunting. You get new instruments too, old fashioned drums, cymbals, a whistle, jazz guitar, deep throaty voice. We are transported to the 1930's big band and swing era with Ms. Vega on stage.

The sign says 'Headshots'
It's all I see
A boy becomes a picture
Of guilt and sympathy
And so I think of you
In memory
Of the days we were together
And I knew that you loved me
That was the difference
In what we see

By now you're fully immersed. And what comes next is my most favorite Suzanne Vega song of them all, 'Caramel'. It's her best singing to date. Great verses of pure passion and lust.

It won't do
to stir a deep desire
to fan a hidden fire
that can never burn true

I know your name
I know your skin
I know the way
These things begin
But I don't know

how I would live with myself
what I'd forgive of myself
if you don't go

I must have worn out track 3 from playing Caramel over and over. Now let me introduce to you the next song, 'Stockings'. Another fun track on this CD. By now you're caught up in this hypnotic trance of a different world where desires rule and there is no escape. This one I guess is about some sexual attraction a woman would have on a certain female acquaintance.

I don't care for tights, she says
and does not tell me why
She hikes her skirt above her knee
revealing one brown thigh
I see, I say, and wonder at

her slender little fingers
How cleverly they pull upon
the threads of recent slumbers

Do you know where friendship ends
and passion does begin
When she does not show you
the way out on the way in
It's between the binding
of her stockings and her skin

'Thin Man' is another one of my favorites. Somehow I picture casinos, gangsters, wealthy bigshots, and a Thin Man that controls them all. Quality of the singing and instruments is top notch, as with all the music.

He is not my friend, but he is with me
And he promises a peace I never knew
I cannot give in, no I must refuse him
But could I really be the one to resist that kiss so true

He's the thin man
With a date for me
To arrive at some point
I don't know when it will be

Now we slow the pace a bit with 'World Before Columbus', a love song Suzanne wrote for her daughter. I consider this one of her most inspired lyrics. This is a beautiful song and a classic. I like playing this when the sky is gray and all the leaves are dead, and I try to picture what a world before Columbus might have been like.

If your love were taken from me
Every color would be black and white
It would be as flat as the world before Columbus
That's the day that I lose half my sight

If your life were taken from me
All the trees would freeze in this cold ground
It would be as cruel as the world before Columbus
Sail to the edge and I'd be there looking down

Those men who lust for land
And for riches strange and new
Who love those trinkets of desire
Oh they never will have you
And they'll never know the gold

Or the copper in your hair
How could they weight the worth
Of you so rare

I sometimes think of this as her 'Greatest Hits' collection, an astounding collection of songs that you will never get tired of listening to. In my opinion, this is Suzanne Vega's best work yet and gets our highest possible recommendation.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars * * * * *
A treasure chest of songs.

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