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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Tales From The Realm Of The Qu
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 13 March 2014
I never get tired of listening to Suzanne Vega. This album is a wonderful addition to my collection. Vegas voice has become even more haughting and mellow over the years and her experience as a song writer has reflected on the professional way her tracks are presented and played. Still is and will always will be my favourite female singer along with the wonderfully talented Joni Mitchell.
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 4 February 2014
I've been playing this album pretty continuously for a while now. Suzanne Vega's songs are complex, sophisticated pieces; it always takes a good while to get to know them properly so this review may still be slightly premature, but I think I can say confidently that I think this is a very good album. It's classic Vega in many ways: intelligent, allusive lyrics which often tell a story, set to often distinctively quirky tunes and beautifully sung in that haunting, slightly husky voice.

I find the album's title slightly off-putting and wasn't sure what to expect as a result, but in fact the Queen Of Pentacles features in the excellent Fool's Complaint as an archetype of a selfish, self-regarding and self-obsessed modern woman. It's a great, rocking, tuneful track. Others are also upbeat and rhythmically powerful but there's a good variety of moods here: Portrait Of The Knight Of Wands is much more atmospheric and haunting, for example.

Production is generally fairly full but beautifully judged, allowing each song to shine. (I'd be very interested to hear these given the Close Up treatment, by the way - I think they'd probably stand up very well.) It's often not easy to say what a Suzanne Vega song is "about" and that's true here, too, but they are rich in language and allusion and are challenging and thought-provoking in that typically Vega way. I found her re-telling of Jacob And The Angel quite remarkable, and it moves me and makes me think as much as the Epstein statue does - which is really saying something.

This is a fine collection of songs, every one of which stands on its merits; I don't think there's a genuinely weak track on the album, although personally I'm less keen on the opener, Crack In The Wall. (Mind you, over 25 years on I am still embarrassed that I thought Tom's Diner wasn't all that good when I first heard Solitude Standing. It took me quite a while to realise that it's an absolute classic, so what do I know?)

I think this will probably stand as a very good Suzanne Vega album - it may even be among her best. It's certainly very good and does full justice to one of the finest singer/songwriters of the last 30 years. Very warmly recommended.
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on 3 February 2014
This is a really great CD and will appeal to both fans of Suzanne's older work and also those who are into artists who are part of the recent new-folk movement.

As always with Suzanne, the lyrics are really fascinating and highly original. The melodies are also great with guitarist and producer Gerry Leonard giving a tougher texture to the sound.

Current favourites include Don't Cork What You Can't Contain, Fool's Complaint and I Never Wear White. Horizon also features a beautiful trumpet solo from Alison Balsom.

There is also the really moving Song Of The Stoic, which from what I understand, is a continuation of the character Luka, following him into adult life. It really took my breath away when I first heard that one.

A really memorable CD and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes her other work. Nearly 30yrs since her debut, I'd argue she is a really important artist who deserves serious acclaim both for her words and music.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 February 2014
The intriguingly titled Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles is Suzanne Vega's eighth studio album and her first collection of original material since 2007's Beauty and Crime.

Having parted company with her long-time label A&M after 2001's Songs in Red and Gray, she then signed with Blue Note who released her next album, Beauty and Crime. Although it garnered good reviews and sold over 100,000 copies she was later dropped by them, so Vega, like many other artists before her, decided the best way to secure her musical future was to form her own record label.

Her first releases on this label were four albums called Close Up, issued between 2010 and 2012. They contained re-recorded versions of a large part of her back catalogue (partly done, as she admits, to make some money from her songs which were originally recorded, and now owned by, the major labels).

Although it's been a long time coming, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, is classic Vega - full of her trademark lyrics and haunting vocals. But although there's plenty of typically introspective songs, there's also the odd echo of the harder edge from one of her earlier albums, present on the lead single from Germany and France - "I Never Wear White". It has a harsh guitar sound harking back to the style of some of her 1992 album 99.9 F°.

"Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain" - the lead single in the US - sees her first attempt at sampling (although DNA had great success by sampling her on "Tom's Diner") with a snippet taken from 50 Cent's "Candy Shop". Although the sampling has been somewhat newsworthy, it's still very much a Suzanne Vega song, the sample just adds a slightly different flavour to the soundscape.

"Fools Complaint" - the lead single in the UK - treads more familiar ground, indeed it bears more than a passing resemblance to "I'll Never Be Your Maggie May" from Songs in Red and Gray.

Other highlights include "Portrait of the Knight of Wands" which starts off as archetypal Vega - acoustic guitar and crisp vocals - to which subtle electronic effects are added in the middle of the track. "Silver Bridge" about the death of a friend has a sparse - but effective - production which, like most songs here, could comfortably sit on any of her previous albums. Song of the Stoic is another strong track, essentially it's Luka part 2, which continues his story (or someone similar) several decades after the original song.

Clocking in at a shade under 37 minutes, produced by Gerry Leonard and featuring several well known guest players such as Gail Ann Dorsey, Zachary Alford, Sterling Campbell and Tony Levin, this is an album that will be sure to appeal to her fanbase. Whether there's anything here to attract new listeners in any numbers is debatable, but newcomers could do worse than to start here. Whilst she may increasingly be a hidden treasure, she is a treasure nonetheless - and this album has plenty of moments that showcase her strengths. Highly recommended.
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on 4 June 2014
Having known Suzanne Vega's music since the 1980's, I was a great fan of the early albums, the original untitled one and then "Solitude Standing". After buying a few more albums in the early 90's I had stopped thinking too much about Suzanne Vega's music. A bit of research convinced me that this album represented a return to form.

By most standards this album would be quite a reasonable listen. There are two or three striking tracks, but the overall impression is "Heard something similar before from Suzanne Vega". It is not that this is a bad album. It is just that it does not measure up to the quality and innovation of the early work. Sometimes it would be better to preserve fond memories, and move on.
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on 30 July 2015
This harks back a little bit to the Suzanne of the first couple of albums (and there's nothing wrong with that). I saw her in concert at the Royal Concert Hall , Nottingham the other year promoting this album and it has taken me a while to purchase it. It is lovely and intriguing and the guitar work of Gerry Leonard (who she toured with) is quite something. I particularly like I Never Wear White and Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain.
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on 3 February 2014
I'm a huge fan, own everything, seen her live several times. 'Crack in the wall' starts the album well, then I find it loses its way a little...there's little of the lushness of sound found in 'Nine Objects' or 'Songs in red and gray', and little in the way of strong melody. 'Don't uncork' is...slightly irritating, and there's a dated Simon & Garfunkel feel to much, but of *course* that's not a criticism!, just that it doesn't really advance like '99.9' does, or opt for simplicity like her Closeup series (which I highly recommend!! esp no.4)

EDITED 1 year later - Feb 2015

So disappointed with this album on release and her tour promoting it, I put it to one side. Completely. Found better things to do. But then I came back to it this week a year later, with a better listening device - in this case a High Res FiiO X3 portable music player. Sometimes this helps. Sometimes, like Kate Bush's Aerial, the production demands it...

And, I'm raising my review to 3.5 stars... there are some standout moments after all I guess:

Crack In The Wall - gerry's guitar
Fool's Complaint - like on of her older songs
I Never Wear White - like something from 99.9F album, perhaps my fav
Portrait Of The Knight Of Wands - again, the overall sound and BRILLIANT guitar saves it

Silver Bridge - slightly dull, but nice instrumentation & 12 string guitar
Horizon (There Is A Road) - turgid, but some pleasant melodic guitar, baaad trumpet&falsetto

Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain - still immensely grates, like my dad dancing
Jacob And The Angel - more terrible clapping again
Song Of The Stoic - banjo
Laying On Of Hands/Stoic 2 - the Motown backing vocals

I still love Suzanne's music such a lot, and this all looks like complaining. It isn't. She's amazing.
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I bought this album as I already own a number of Suzanne Vega albums which, to me, are full of intrigue and atmosphere. Even allowing for the evolution of an artist I haven't heard much about for a while I was left uninspired by this album. This CD is listenable but certainly not in the league of earlier works such as Solitude Standing and 99.9F. What is lacking to me in this album is atmosphere and depth, despite an enigmatic title, the tracks all sound rather bland and unmemorable. It might just be me or that the bar was set exceptionally high by Suzanne's previous albums but this album didn't deliver for me, although, I am open to the fact the fault might be mine!
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on 13 February 2014
I have always enjoyed Suzanne Vega's music, but was left cold by her last album (Beauty & Crime). There were one or two good songs, but I have only managed to listen to it all the way through twice.

I was therefore a little tentative before listening to this one. However, it is much more like the music I expect to hear from her. Some gorgeous melodies and arrangements and some very clever lyrics. Sure, there are two or three that I am not so keen on, but there are some absolutely gorgeous, trademark songs (Fool's Complaint, Silver Bridge and Horizon).

Sound-wise, the acoustic guitar is much more prevalent and this is mixed brilliantly with some great electric guitar work from the very well-respected and experienced Gerry Leonard.
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on 26 August 2014
I bought my first Suzanne Vega in vinyl and never went further. Not that I didn't love her wonderful, poetic songs, I just got on with other things. I am so glad I bought this, it is so much more than a revisit.
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