12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Nostalgic album coloured by the spirit of New York,
This review is from: Beauty & Crime (Audio CD)
Suzanne Vega's seventh album is intended as a loving testimony to her hometown, New York. The record opens with a tale of a New York Graffiti artist on West End Avenue and rambles through Ludlow Street, where Vega's deceased brother used to live, to the 27th floor of a skyscraper. Bettie Page and Edith Wharton appear, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner passionately fight and Olivia Goldsmith (a writer on natural beauty) lies under anesthesia on an operating table. There are some references to 9/11 ("smoke and ash still rising to the sky" in New York as a Woman and "the dust and the dirt and destruction" of Angel's Doorway). However, crime isn't allowed to crush the atmosphere of love and nostalgia here.
Although her music has long lacked the bite and edge of the 1985 album that made her famous, favouring instead the unfailingly polite style that she has developed since, her voice is as warm as ever and she is still a reliable live performer. Shafts of her songwriting brilliance shine through: Ludlow Street is "painted in nicotine"; "words / like darling and angel and dear / crowd my mouth / in a path to your ear" on Bound.
In spite of Vega saying she pushed herself out of her comfort zone in the making of the record - she does sing higher than usual - her sound will still be too run-of-the-mill for some. The two dangers of Suzanne Vega's music - excessive solipsism and an overly safe production style - can still be heard here. In the middle, where the New York concept is abandoned in favour of tracks which teeter close to sentimentality (As You Are Now, addressed to her teenage daughter) or which throb with out-of-place beat programming (Unbound), the album sags a bit. In interviews Vega has said that she intended to make a modern classic with 'Beauty & Crime'. This album falls short of that, but her faithful following and fans of coffee-shop literateness won't be disappointed.
Standouts: Edith Wharton's Figurines, New York is a Woman, Anniversary, Ludlow Street