Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles

Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles

by Suzanne VegaSuzanne Vega


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The four volumes in Suzanne Vega's Close-Up series revisited her catalog thematically with stripped-down charts. It appealed to her base of fans who patiently waited seven years for new material. The ten songs on Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles fits that bill. The set was produced by longtime associate and co-writer Gerry Leonard, and played by a weighty studio cast. The album isn't so much a change of musical direction as it is a classy revisioning of Vega's trademark sound. These tracks address many of humanity's big themes through Vega's canny, detailed gaze, sometimes with the added weight of the metaphorical wisdom from the tarot. "Crack in the Wall" is a Buddhist reflection on awareness with the songwriter's signature tight lines and vivid physical descriptions. Its martial snare and painterly electric guitars are countered by Larry Campbell's mandolin and banjo. "I Never Wear White" is a punchy rocker with Leonard's big fuzzy guitars up front, a whomping bassline by Tony Levin, and the loud drums of Jay Bellerose. Its lyric reveals Vega has lost none of her wry sense of humor. "Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain" samples 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" in an allegorical tale about caution, with Pandora as one of its muses. "Song of the Stoic" updates "Luka," in a sense. Written from a drifting, hardworking male's point of view, it uncovers the emotional cost that physical abuse can take on an adult life. Its musical vehicle is angular rockist Americana, with the Smichov Chamber Orchestra Prague providing windswept accompaniment, making the lyric's emotional impression indelible. "Laying on of Hands/Stoic 2" discusses the cost of repression -- physical and psychological -- with Mother Teresa and Epictetus its referent examples. The rumbling bassline and slippery backbeat feeds Vega's sung cadences as a psych-tinged six-string fills lines and codas; both feature the powerful backing vocals of Catherine Russell. Not everything here works, though. "Portrait of the Knight of Wands," despite its attractive melody, is marred by a very clunky refrain, and "Jacob and the Angel" feels more like a demo than a finished track. Closer "Horizon (There Is a Road)" is dedicated to Václav Havel's memory. It's a gentle acoustic rocker with an elegant trumpet solo in the bridge. It's the one place here where Vega's trademark detachment doesn't reign. Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles is a welcome return by an artist who has remained stubbornly true to herself and only records when she has something new to say.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/18/2014
Label: Super Ego Records
UPC: 0698519251022
catalogNumber: 2510

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Suzanne Vega   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Guitar (Nylon String)
Gail Ann Dorsey   Bass
Zachary Alford   Percussion,Drums
Larry Campbell   Banjo,Mandolin
Sterling Campbell   Percussion,Drums
Joji Hirota   taiko
Tony Levin   Bass
Catherine Russell   Background Vocals
Gerry Leonard   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Electric Guitar,Harmonium,Keyboards
Jay Bellerose   Percussion,Drums
Alison Balsom   Trumpet
Doug Yowell   Percussion,Drums
Mike Visceglia   Bass
Smichov Chamber Orchestra Prague   Strings
Josef Vondracek   Conductor

Technical Credits

Michael Harris   Engineer,Drum Engineering
Suzanne Vega   Composer
Karl Berger   Orchestration
Karel Holas   Executive Producer
Kevin Killen   Vocal Engineer
Gerry Leonard   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,String Arrangements,Trumpet Arrangement
Jeri Heiden   Art Direction
Héctor Castillo   Drum Engineering
Petr Tolar   Executive Producer
Michael Tudor   Engineer
Gary Thomas   Engineer
Ed McEntee   Engineer

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