Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's a one time thing, it just happens a lot...

Thirty years ago if you had predicted that at some point in my life I'd be actively hunting down Suzanne Vega bootlegs I would have laughed you out of the room.  Needless to a say a lot can happen in three whole decades, and indeed a lot did, including some much belated appreciation for the songstress in question.  Back in '87 it didn't take long for my cynical ears to get burned out on "Luka," and ditto for her acapella chestnut, "Tom's Diner."  So what prompted me to pick up a pre-owned cassette of her first album (self titled, 1985) somewhere in the late '00s?  Curiosity, and a sincere hope that pre-breakthrough Vega might hold a little something for me.

I wasn't scared off by the "folk" tag that was so ubiquitously doled out by the music press, and even if it were apropos I didn't take issue with it.  Turns out she was no heir to Joan Baez or the like, rather a humble singer-songwriter with integrity for miles and a solid grasp on human emotion.  Vega's delivery may have exuded surface-level quiet, but thematically, people and events in her realm were ostensibly disquieting.  Again, the tangible conveyance of her songs were subtle to a fault, yet under the surface a geyser lay in waiting.  I recall her commenting in an interview once that she was a fan of minor chords in songs.  That's relatively easy to concur with her early recordings, though I haven't heard enough about Vega's melody factor, which makes itself evident on "Cracking" and "Marlene on the Wall."  And her nimble guitar finagling?  Merely the icing on the cake.  In a nutshell, it only took twenty and some-odd years, but, I became a pretty big aficionado of that first Suzanne Vega record.

Presented here are five demos that were gently spruced up for Suzanne Vega.  They hold more charm to me than the album versions, even if the differences aren't particularly stark.  I've got a fantastic FM radio broadcast for you as well of her performance at the Speakeasy in New York, circa the spring of 1985.  She pulls off the "storyteller" thing quite well, no?  Whether you're new to Suzanne Vega or an an established customer comment as you see fit.

1984 demo
01. Straight Wells
02. Small Blue Thing
03. Marlene on the Wall
04. Cracking
05. Undertow

MP3  or  FLAC

4/17/85 @ The Speakeasy, NYC
01 intro
02 Tom's Diner
03 Small Blue Thing
04 Some Journey
05 Cracking
06 The Queen And The Soldier
07 song intro
08 Knight Moves
09 Freeze Tag
10 song intro
11 Marlene On The Wall
12 Undertow
13 Straight Lines
14 song intro
15 Neighborhood Girls
16 Gypsy (Encore)

MP3  or  FLAC

7 comments:

Eric said...

you never cease to surprise me and your writing is, as always, great fun. In a coincidence--or is it synchronicity?--three days ago in the care I heard her "Book & A Cover" for the first time in 30 years--no exaggeration--and was struck by how good it was and how I needed to relisten. Now i will. Thanks. And thanks for this blog.

Andrew said...

Thank you SO much for these treasures. And "tsk tsk" for letting the fact of overplayed radio tracks deter you from her treasures. She has so many great albums out (and still releases them...including a new one inspired by the author Carson McCullers). There's a lot out there for you to discover should you be inspired to do so. Based on what you often post I'd recommend the album 99.9F Degrees next. And thanks again!

Pernt said...

Suzanne Vega holds a special spot in my heart and mind. One of the great loves of my life had a cassette of her first album that she listened to quite a bit during the onset of our brief but passionate relationship. Her early music was not in my wheelhouse AT ALL, but the company of this young woman made the songs a perfect complement to the romance we were building. Many times, as the sun was coming up, Vega's soft voice would be drifting out of the boombox. Good times.

And then "Luka" became a dorm staple, thanks to my friend identifying with the abused boy in the song... despite my friend being an upper-middle class scion of New England tech money WASPs. Good times.

Geff said...

The flac link for the concert is non functioning. Thanks for the post!

Geff said...

It was a browser issue with Mega. My main browser is incompatible with them.

spavid said...

Thanks folks! I'm flattered, as I'm sure Suzanne would be herself. I was actually planning to go for 99.9F next Andrew. Kinda stoked.

Hope you were able to get the Mega link working on another browser Geff.

Geff said...

Andrew, I was, thank you! I'll look forward to the 99.9 post.