Close-Up Vol. 4: Songs of Family
I really enjoyed Suzanne Vega’s Close Up series; over four themed albums she re-recorded her songs, stripped back, acoustic. This meant new treatments for old favourites and in the thematic treatment of the tracklisting it made for a new listening experience, it wasn’t simply a desperation bid to reclaim some publishing. Sure, there was that element to this collection – but at least there was some thought, some art to it too.
Vol. 4: Songs of Family might be my favourite though I’ve enjoyed the other volumes too.
I feel this has the best run of strong songs – I’m a huge fan of Vega’s writing and here some of her best songwriting is on display (World Before Columbus, Bad Wisdom, Rosemary, Widow’s Walk) and I would say, too, some of the songs that were lost on the original albums really get a chance to stand out. The best example of that here is Soap And Water, an amazing song, slightly harrowing; it gains something from the stripped-back approach, perhaps because it is such an intense song the arrangement for the original, in creating a palpable breakdown, an emotional devastation, was in fact a bit much. Here the glory of the song is clear – it’s a marvel. And it’s just there – just obvious – for all to hear.
Tired of Sleeping works here too, moved down the batting order and, therefore, with less riding on it.
But again it’s about the themes and so here these great songs stand as her most personal, for these are the ones written about family. These are inspired by real events, real people and there’s something very powerful about it; also about going in knowing that.
In giving you a clue as to the songs’ secrets we are then on the lookout for more. And by stripping them back to – in most cases – acoustic guitar and voice, some bass, that gorgeous voice and a lead line from time to time Vega has, in offering less (so to speak) in fact given us more.
What I hope now is this project – this personal archiving/editing made public – goes on to inspire another new batch of songs. I still feel Vega is criminally underrated as a writer.